THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Adidas (Myanmar supplier closes, 700 lose jobs), Asos, M&S, Tesco, Primark, Burberry, Next, Debenhams, Arcadia Group, Asda, JD Sports, Sports Direct, TK Maxx, Amazon, Boohoo, Missguided (categorised by levels of sustainability engagement), Chanel, Vivienne WestwoodDiane Von Furstenberg, Kering (in article on snake skins), Cortazu (wins ISPO Gold Award), VF (circular supply chain vision), Victoria Beckham (under attack over Chinese workers’ wages), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • What Will it Take to Prevent the Next Rana Plaza?

  • Fashion’s slippery conscience (on exotic skins)

  • Meghnad Desai on Bangladesh apparel sector wages

  • Cambodia vs Vietnam: winners and losers of the global tensions

  • How fashion brands can create a more sustainable end-to-end retail economy

  • Major western brands pay Indian garment workers 11p an hour

  • Cost of sustainability in the apparel industry

  • A black legacy, wrapped up in fur

  • We reveal the guilty secret about vegan fashion

  • Brazil’s fight against urban slavery is getting harder

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: government seeks ILO’s help in raising RMG prices; demonstrations after abrupt closure of Luman Fashions; government and BGMEA may accept 6-month timeframe for Accord’s departure; 5,000 workers fired over protests; government opens helpline after unrest; factory owners want government support over wage increase

  • Cambodia: 70 workers faint after finger prick; garment exports rise by 24%

  • Mexico: strikes at the border cause jitters for business community

  • Myanmar: workers left jobless after Adidas supplier shuts; worker protests at two companies

  • Uzbekistan: accusations of forced labour in cotton sector

  • Vietnam: footwear factory announces plans to sack 10,000 workers

Manufacturers in this issue include: PrimaLoft (why European outdoor brands work with them), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “Brands and retailers should be encouraged to produce a cost/supply chain data index with respect to sustainability, both in specific countries and across different countries.” Mostafiz Uddin, managing director of Denim Expert Limited, on the cost of sustainability in the apparel industry (01 Feb).

  • “Every major brand, every boutique retailer and everyone in between who sources garments form India is touched by this issue.” Siddharth Kara, author of a new report released this week on the exploitation of women and girls in India’s home-based garment sector (01 Feb).

  • “As soon as black women could afford to buy mink coats, white society and white women said fur was all wrong, verboten, passé.” Paula Marie Seniors, professor of Africana studies, quoting her mother (31 Jan).

By Stephen Frost, CUHK Business School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Outdoor start-up Cortazu wins ISPO Gold Award: “The young brand from the Netherlands reaps the coveted prize for its Recycled Nylon 3-layer jacket and shows how the concept of sustainability can be realized without being just an empty phrase” (03 Feb).

Chinese workers get £1.60 an hour to make Victoria Beckham’s new sportswear range: “The ex-Spice Girl is under attack from labour rights campaigners who have accused her of taking advantage of low wages in overseas factories to boost her own profit” (02 Feb).

In-depth: what’s we’ve learned from MPs’ interim report on the sustainability of the UK fashion industry: [Ed’s note: article categorises brands into: Most engaged: Asos, M&S, Tesco, Primark, Burberry;  Moderately engaged: Next, Debenhams, Arcadia Group, Asda; Least engaged: JD Sports, Sports Direct, TK Maxx, Amazon, Boohoo, Missguided.] (01 Feb).

VF has a vision for circular supply chains – it just needs them to scale up: “More than a year into its new global sustainability and responsibility strategy, apparel giant VF Corp is helping to drive efforts to lead large scale commercialisation of circular business models. As Anna Maria Rugarli, senior director of sustainability and responsibility for EMEA at VF International, explains, there are opportunities ahead to make circularity work” (01 Feb).

NEWS & REPORTS 

What Will it Take to Prevent the Next Rana Plaza? “Almost six years on from a sweatshop building collapse that killed over 1,100 people in Bangladesh, VOICES Salon attendees discuss why the fashion supply chain is still plagued with worker abuses and what action could be taken to make conditions better” (04 Feb).

Fashion’s slippery conscience: “The booming sales of snakeskin items as campaigners warn victims of the cruel trade take two agonising days to die” (03 Feb). [Ed’s note: article mentions PETA, Chanel, Vivienne WestwoodDiane Von Furstenberg (all disavowing exotic skins), and Kering (“heading fast in the other direction”).]

Meghnad Desai on Bangladesh apparel sector wages: “British economist and a Labour Party member of the House of Lords, Lord Meghnad Desai on January 23 wrote a letter to the Guardian, as a rebuttal to Simon Murphy’s investigative op-ed, posted from Gazipur, Bangladesh, ‘Inhuman conditions: life in factory making Spice Girls T-shirts’, published on January 20 in the same paper. Lord Desai’s letter is simply a pathetic one, at most could be considered a by-product of his ignorance about the cost of living in Bangladesh and the deplorable condition of the garment factory workers there” (03 Feb).

Cambodia vs Vietnam: winners and losers of the global tensions: “The trade war between China and the United States, the pressure from the European Union on Cambodia and the protests over wages in Bangladesh destabilize three of the largest global hubs in the fashion industry” (01 Feb).

How fashion brands can create a more sustainable end-to-end retail economy: “With the realization that today's shoppers quite literally wear their values on their sleeves, the fashion industry spent 2018 getting more serious about sustainability. From real fur becoming a fashion faux pas to the rise of the luxury rental and resale market, we've entered 2019 with a marketplace hungry to create a more environmentally-conscious fashion landscape and, ultimately, to design a sustainable end-to-end retail economy” (01 Feb).

Ghana: influx of second-hand Western fashion undermines economies and local industry in developing nations: “Britain is the second-largest used clothing exporter behind the US, shipping more than £380million ($612million) or 351,000 tonnes worth of discarded fashion overseas in 2013, according to a United Nations Comtrade Database. Four African nations represent key markets for our used clothes: Benin, Kenya and Togo take in £40.2million, £32.5million and £19.3million respectively each year. However Ghana tops them all, receiving £50.5million of hand-me-downs, the report said” (01 Feb).

ACT labelled “important global initiative” by UK Parliamentary report: “A Parliamentary enquiry into UK’s fashion industry highlights ACT as a positive initiative towards living wages in the textile and garment industry. Governments around the world are increasingly recognising that ACT is the initiative most likely to deliver living wages to garment workers. The interim report of the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee on the sustainability of UK’s fashion industry is the result of written submissions and a series of public hearings in November last year” (01 Feb).

Major western brands pay Indian garment workers 11p an hour: “Study reveals ‘unchecked’ exploitation of women and girls from marginalised communities” (01 Feb). [Ed’s note: study is Tainted Garments: The Exploitation of Women and Girls in India’s Home-based Garment Sector, by Siddharth Kara, which you can see in full here.]

Cost of sustainability in the apparel industry: “The apparel retail landscape has changed rapidly in recent years. While there are still some laggards in the industry, most brands want to do the right thing when it comes to sustainability, with smart brands now recognising that operating in a sustainable manner goes hand in hand with business success” (01 Feb).

Understanding the Swedish market for pre-owned apparel: “Prolonging the active lifespan of a garment is the most sustainable action as of today, but in order to do so we need an established market for pre-owned apparel. In a new Mistra Future Fashion report the Swedish market for pre-owned apparel is investigated and its possibilities of contributing to a more sustainable fashion industry” (01 Feb). [Ed’s note: see full report here.]

Copenhagen Fashion Week delivers charm – and a green focus: “Danish brands are growing faster than ever, offering recycled materials, tightly edited collections and honest pricing” (01 Feb).

A black legacy, wrapped up in fur: “These days there are plenty of other materials available to cover one’s nakedness, a point that anti-fur activists readily make. The past few decades have seen a humanitarian backlash to animal fur clothing. Major fashion designers, including Gucci, Stella McCartney and, most recently, Chanel, have forsaken it; several cities in California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have banned sales of the material. But there is a sense among many black women that this broader, cultural disavowal of fur has coincided with our increased ability to purchase it” (31 Jan).

We reveal the guilty secret about vegan fashion: “[Vegan fashion is] all well and good in theory, but how ‘guilt free’ are the vegan materials being used in place of traditional, animal-sourced ones? Take fake fur, for example. Last month, the head of a parliamentary inquiry into the fashion industry called for it to be relabelled ‘plastic fur’ to make consumers aware of what they are buying” (31 Jan).

Brazil’s fight against urban slavery is getting harder: “Last year 523 workers were found in slavery-like conditions during labor inspections in Brazilian cities, about 225 more than in 2017 … The country has the world's fourth-largest garment production industry, with 1.5 million direct employees. In Brazil, the textile industry is fragmented and informal, with thousands of immigrant subcontractors from Bolivia and Paraguay sewing clothes in small shops - some of them sweatshops - for well-known national retailers” (30 Jan).

Future Thinking Episode 1: Mainstreaming sustainability: “How can the fashion world respond to sustainability’s challenges and opportunities, in a year when it will finally go mainstream? This is the topic of discussion in the very first episode of our Future Thinking podcast, which features Emily Gordon-Smith, our director of product, in conversation with journalist and author Tamsin Blanchard” (29 Jan – 23:39-minute podcast).

Global week of solidarity with Bangladeshi garment workers: “On this edition of Your Call, we’ll discuss the weeklong solidarity campaign with garment workers in Bangladesh. They’re demanding safe factories, freedom of association, and fair wages. Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garment exporter, but the four million workers, who are the backbone of the global apparel industry, are among the worst-paid in the world. How are workers in Bangladesh organizing for fair wages and better working conditions?” (29 Jan – 53:02-minute podcast). [Ed’s note: guests are Sarah Newell from ILRF and journalist/author Elizabeth Cline.]

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

Tipu seeks ILO’s role for fair RMG prices: “Commerce minister Tipu Munshi on Sunday urged the International Labour Organisation to play a role in the logical price hike of readymade garment items from Bangladesh” (04 Feb).

Garment workers demonstrate for dues: “A group of workers of a jacket exporter [Luman Fashions Ltd] have been staging demonstrations inside their workplace for the past five days demanding unpaid salaries and service benefits after its owner shut it abruptly” (03 Feb). [Ed’s note: see also Garment workers continue demo for arrears in Dhaka: “More than a hundred workers [Luman Fashions Ltd] at Malibagh in Dhaka on Sunday continued demonstration they started five days ago for arrears and other benefits” (04 Feb).]

Govt, owners may accept six-month timeframe: “The government and readymade garment factory owners are willing to set a six-month transition plan for the European brands and buyers group for handing over its factory safety responsibility to a national body in the face of continues pressure from the global stakeholders, industry insiders have said …  on January 28, BGMEA representative presented a proposed plan for handing over the factories under Accord to the remediation coordination cell within six months” (02 Feb).

5,000 workers protesting low wages in Bangladeshi garment factories have been fired: “Bangladesh’s giant garment industry, which supplies a number of brands including H&M, Walmart, Gap, and others, is notorious for its low wages. But for countless workers who rely on those jobs to survive – even with the low wages – it has been a lifeline”  (02 Feb).

Factory worker shot in Savar: “Unidentified gunmen reportedly shot a worker of a sweater factory in Jamgora area of Ashulia on Thursday, police said” (02 Feb).

4 cotton warehouses burnt in Tongi: “A fire burnt down 4 cotton warehouses, 12 houses of a slum at Maddoachirpur area of Tongi. The fire broke out at a cotton warehouse on Friday night” (February 2)” (02 Feb).

Bangladesh opens ‘helpline’ after labour unrest in apparel sector: “Bangladesh has opened a ‘helpline’ for anyone to connect with issues of labour situation in the follow through of the biggest labour unrest witnessed in its apparel sector in recent times. The helpline 16357, launched on January 31, 2019 will be managed by Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments (DIFE). The line will be open 24-hours and is toll-free” (01 Feb).

Factory owners want govt support for short period: “Apparel sector leaders have demanded of the government to provide policy support, including cash incentive, to facilitate implementation of the recently revised wage structure for the readymade garment (RMG) workers” (01 Feb).

RMG worker’s death stirs protest in N’ganj: “Agitated garment workers have blocked the Narayanganj-Adamjee-Demra road and vandalised vehicles to protest the death of a fellow worker in a road accident” (01 Feb).

Apparel workers mustn’t be treated harshly: “Labour rights groups, as New Age reported on Tuesday, claimed that more than 7,000 workers have so far been dismissed from their jobs while more than 30 cases were filed with the police against about 3,500 named and unnamed workers. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association said that factory owners had every right to terminate the job of workers keeping to labour laws but the owners must remember that it has to be under due process and for legally valid reasons” (01 Feb).

Vigilante justice or what? “On January 17, police in Khagan, Savar recovered the bullet-hit body of a man who was later identified as Ripon. Ripon, a line chief at a local garment factory, was the prime accused in a gang-rape case involving a female worker from his factory. There was a note attached around his neck, which read: “I’m the main culprit behind the rape”” (01 Feb).

Cambodia

Nearly 70 workers faint after woman pricks finger in factory: “Nearly 70 workers at the QMI Garment Factory yesterday fainted after a worker accidental pricked her finger, drawing blood, in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district” (31 Jan).

Garment exports increase 24%: “Cambodia’s garment and footwear exports last year increased 24 per cent in 2017 as the global economy performed well, driving demand higher in export destinations, according to a National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) report. The NBC’s 2018 report said the Kingdom’s garments and footwear exports were valued at $10 billion, up 24 per cent from $8 billion in 2017. The growth rate in 2017 was just 7.6 per cent” (30 Jan).

Mexico

Mexican president unleashes labor unrest at border plants: “A mass strike at 48 “maquiladora,” or manufacturer, plants in Mexico’s border city of Matamoros is heading for victory, bringing pay raises for laborers who make less than $1 an hour, or about 100 pesos a day, assembling auto components and TV sets for export to the United States – and causing jitters for the business community” (02 Feb).

Myanmar

Hundreds jobless as Adidas supplier shuts down amid dispute: “More than 700 workers have been left jobless after the closure of a Yangon shoe factory [Shyang Jhuo Yue Co Ltd] that had defied an order to reinstate a sacked workplace labour union member” (01 Feb).

Over 500 workers protest at garment factory: “About 500 workers belonging to unions at over 30 factories protested at the Dishang Kenny garment factory in Hlaing Tharyar township to demand that it rehire seven union members on Wednesday” (31 Jan).

Workers strike over closing of S. Korean-owned plant: “About 300 workers went on a 24-hour strike at the CMF Myanmar Factory 2 in Hlaing Tharyar township, Yangon, after it was closed in violation of labour laws, the workers said on Tuesday. “We are asking for stable jobs and not to fire workers. We are not asking for more money,’’ said one of the workers, Ko Aung Thu”” (23 Jan).

Uzbekistan

UGF letter re systemic use of forced labour by Maxam-Chirchiq & Ammofos-Maxam: “On behalf of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (UGF), I am writing to draw your attention to the systemic use of forced labour by the Uzbek-Spanish joint ventures Maxam-Chirchiq and Ammofos-Maxam, located respectively in the cities of Chirchiq and Almalyk in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan” (28 Jan).

Vietnam

Over 10,000 footwear workers in Tra Vinh sacked before Tet: “[My Phong Shoes Ltd. Co.,] a Taiwanese footwear company in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh, has announced plans to fire more than 10,000 workers just days ahead of the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, the provincial Labour Union reported. (01 Feb).

MANUFACTURERS

Better recycling through chemistry: “While it's true that any type of recycling reduces the need for fossil fuels and reduces the amount of waste that continues to taint our landscapes and our oceans, not all recycling is the same” (01 Feb). [Ed’s note: article discusses Aquafil, Loop Industries and Indorama Ventures Ltd.]

Why European outdoor brands work with PrimaLoft for sustainable innovation: “Leading the way in synthetic insulation performance and sustainability, PrimaLoft launched PrimaLoft Bio performance fabric last month as the first fabric made from 100% recycled, biodegradable synthetic fiber. It joins the recently-launched PrimaLoft Bio Insulation, also the first technology of its kind. PrimaLoft Bio fibers break down when exposed to specific environments, such as landfill or the ocean, as they have been enhanced to be more attractive to naturally-occurring microbes in these environments. However, the fibers remain durable throughout its usable lifecycle in a garment” (01 Feb).

Pollution in Bandi river: NGT slaps Rs 20 cr fine on Rajasthan govt for inaction: “The National Green Tribunal cracked the whip on the Rajasthan government Thursday by slapping a fine of Rs 20 crore for not performing its function properly to control pollution in the Bandi river by local textile industries” (31 Jan).

Sustainability dominates Texworld USA and Apparel Sourcing USA: “Sustainability and ethical production were key themes at Texworld USA, held alongside Apparel Sourcing USA, at the Javits Center” (31 Jan).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

05 February, Barcelona: Barcelona Fashion Summit: “What can fashion do to stop the loss of consumers?”

12 February, webinar: The State of Anti-Corruption in the Supply Chain: Highlights of the EcoVadis Study on 20,000 Companies.

13 February, Mumbai: ZDHC Regional Conference: “Signatory Brands, other stakeholders and industry captains of the textile & leather value chain will meet and deliberate on how to integrate sustainable chemistry in business strategies, implement best practices in textile manufacturing and encourage innovations in the chemical industry.”

15 February, Amsterdam: Circular Textiles Ready to Market – ECAP Event: “Sharing the results and learnings of the European Clothing Action Plan after more than 3 years of work.”

18 February, Izmir, Turkey: GOTS Regional Seminar Turkey: “Through focused and challenging discussions, this one-day seminar shall address pressing issues relevant to the organic textiles industry.” 

25 February, Tempe, Arizona: GRI Reporters’ Summit: North America: “3rd Annual GRI Reporters’ Summit: Practical Solutions to Improve your Sustainability Reporting.”

* 26 February, London, Fashion’s Big Fix: “How do we fix the mess of the fashion industry?”

26 – 28 February, Phoenix, AZ: GreenBiz 19: “Premier annual event for sustainable business leaders.”

28 February, London: The Nature of Fashion: “The panel, which will include Edwina Ehrman and Kate Fletcher, will explore how to use fashion as a pro-environmental force.”

14 March, London: Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2019: “Brings together the most sustainable brands and retailers, trailblazers and unicorns, disruptors, progressive thinkers and pioneers.”

14 March, Hong Kong: Sustainability in the Leather Supply Chain Hong Kong Conference 2019: “Focus on emerging risks to the leather industry and how these may be addressed through innovation and sustainable solutions.”

21 March, Melbourne, Australia: The Australian Circular Fashion Conference.

09 – 10 April, Amsterdam: Sustainable Apparel and Textiles Conference: “How brands can transform factories, increase transparency and implement circularity in fashion and textile supply chains.”

02 May, Dhaka: Bangladesh Fashionology Summit: Transparency through technology, technology for decent work and environment, future skills development.

15 – 16 May, Copenhagen: Copenhagen Fashion Summit: “Join us this May when fashion’s most visionary and innovative minds gather to discuss the most critical issues facing our industry and planet.”

03 – 06 June: Detroit: SB’19 Detroit: “Navigate your brand’s sustainability journey to deliver business success,” by Sustainable Brands.

10 – 12 June, London: Ethical Corporation’s 18th Responsible Business Summit Europe: “It’s time to Lead: Innovate, Engage and Collaborate.”

18 – 20 June, Minneapolis, USA: Circularity 19: “Circularity 19 will bring together more than 500 thought leaders and practitioners to define and accelerate the circular economy.”

22 June, Barcelona: Planet Textiles 2019: “The 10th edition of Planet Textiles will be a seminal event on sustainability in the textile manufacturing sector and will see an unrivalled gathering of experts from the entire fashion value chain.”

* 15 – 18 October: Vancouver: Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference: Textile Exchange call for breakout presentations.

(Photo Frank McKenna, CCO)

Disclaimer: The Fashion Sustainability Week in Review (FSWIR) is a twice-weekly roundup of sustainability news items relevant to the fashion, apparel, textile and related industries. The views and opinions expressed in the FSWIR by individual authors and/or media outlets cited do not necessarily reflect the position of GoBlu International or any individual associated with the company.

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