THIS ISSUE

There are more articles in this issue on chemicals than I’ve ever seen in an entire month previously. Three major reports were released on chemicals (two by ChemSec – of which the one about chemicals in the circular economy should be required reading, and one by the UNEP – which concludes the global goal to minimise adverse impacts of chemicals and waste will not be achieved by 2020), all of which share a common theme: chemical management is not receiving the attention it deserves. Other than this, Danwatch released an investigative study on tanneries and clothing factories in India supplying to fashion brands in Denmark, the major themes of which are i) how hazardous the chemicals used in the tanning process are to workers and ii) the inability of fashion brands to mitigate that risk (it’s in Danish, but Google Translate is your friend – it’s well worth reading). On top of that, the Competition Bureau of Canada released a report warning consumers bamboo clothing comes at a cost to the environment as a result of harmful chemicals, and stakeholders in Bangladesh are calling for more administrative pressure to prevent illegal storage of textile chemicals in Old Dhaka (where 71 people died in a fire last month, allegedly fanned in part by textile chemicals).

Brands in this issue include: DeFacto (promoting gender equality), DK, Ganni, Samsøe & Samsøe, Depeche, Bestseller, Urban Outfitters, Zara (Inditex), H&M, Noa Noa, Deichmann, Levi Strauss, and Steve Madden (in a new Danish study on leather production in India), Ecoalf (vegan certification), H&M (signatory to new plastics commitment; textile innovation), Inditex (eco-efficient stores), Nike (eco-conscious sneakers), Outerknown (most sustainable women’s brand... ever?), Outland Denim (future for vulnerable women), Primark (100% sustainable denim), Stella McCartney, Raeburn, Bottletop and Outland Denim (winners in 2019 CO10), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Playing for keeps: Is designing emotional durability the key to a circular economy?

  • Fashion industry sourced record amount of sustainable cotton in 2018

  • Bamboo-labelled textile items may not be as green: Canada

  • Fabric’s green frontier: sustainable textile innovations

  • Fashion’s tiny hidden secret:

  • Beyond social auditing (new series of blog posts)

  • Can fashion brands survive the transition from sale to rental?

  • The environmental impact of wool

  • UNECE, partners developing traceability tool for garment supply chains

  • Searching for sustainability (sustainable fashion searches way up)

  • ‘Balance for Better’ does little to address issues facing women

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: RMG workers protest colleague’s death; Int’l bodies launch scheme in Bangladesh to lift up female garment workers; administrative pressure needed to stop storing chemicals in Old Dhaka

  • Ethiopia: new study on wages and conditions in garment sector

  • Myanmar: workers demand compensation

  • Tunisia: ‘Made in Tunisia’: the worker-casualties of the globalisation of the textile industry

Manufacturers in this issue include: Garmon (international workshops on sustainability), Jeanologia (Carlyle buys minority stake), Proklean Technologies (using microbes to save water), and more.

Sustainable fashion jobs: 5 new jobs listed (at BSR, Columbia Sportswear, Fashion Revolution, Lululemon, and IKEA).

Quotes of the week:

  • “Brands have to be forced to produce more sustainably.” Katherine Hamnett, speaking at Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2019 (14 Mar).

  • “By now, you're probably aware there's a 50/50 chance that brands who tout their sustainability efforts aren't actually telling the truth.” Landon Peoples (14 Mar).

  • “Only 15 per cent of textile workers have a permanent contract. Many of those on a fixed-term contract are laid off or simply not hired because of their age or occupational illness, considered to be damaging to their productivity.” Abdeljelil Bédoui, economist and advisor to the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) on a lack of permanent contracts in the Tunisian apparel industry (14 Mar).

  • “We’re the world’s most humanitarian denim brand. Though it sounds haughty!” James Bartle, founder and CEO of Outland Denim (12 Mar).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Ecoalf furthers feather-free focus with vegan certification: “Spanish apparel firm Ecoalf, which has made its name through incorporating recycled materials into its product portfolio, has received PETA-approved vegan certification for a new range of apparel” (14 Mar).

H&M Group signatory of the new plastics economy global commitment: “[H&M is] proud to be one of the signatories of the new initiative from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, bringing together businesses and governments to address the root causes of plastic waste and pollution” (14 Mar).

Could this be the most sustainable women’s brand... Ever? “But there are some brands out there, however, that are radically transparent with their supply chains and wear their ethics on their sleeve, so to speak. Outerknown, the fashion brand co-founded by surf legend Kelly Slater and John Moore, has everyone beat. And the mid-range label is fêting the launch of its women’s line” (14 Mar).

Turkish clothing brand DeFacto presents project at UN: “DeFacto introduces ‘Dreams Made of Fabric’ to promote gender equality, empowerment of women” (13 Mar).

Disruptive sustainable fashion businesses win industry leadership award, judged by leaders from Farfetch, British Fashion Council, Kering, Vivienne Westwood, and more: Stella McCartney, Raeburn, Bottletop and Outland Denim have been declared by Caroline Rush (Chief Exec, British Fashion Council), Brigitte Stepputtis (Head of Couture, Vivienne Westwood), Dylan Jones (Editor of GQ and Head of London’s Men’s Fashion week) and others, as the sustainable innovators to watch in the fashion industry. They are amongst 10 fashion businesses to gain a place on the prestigious 2019 CO10 - a first-of-its-kind awards campaign run by Common Objective (CO), designed to recognise the leaders and disruptors in the sustainable fashion space (13 Mar).

Zara owner Inditex has another good year, e-tail and eco help: “All Inditex stores will also be eco-efficient in 2020, with 86% already there at the end of last year. In China, all of the group’s stores are already eco-efficient” (13 Mar).

Nike’s Plant Color Collection Is every eco-conscious sneakerhead’s dream: “Nike’s Plant Color Collection is an awesome step towards a more sustainable fashion industry and proves that going green doesn't have to mean sacrificing style. The four piece collection is inspired by alternative ways to color textiles and uses only plant-based dye in its designs” (13 Mar).

Primark releases 100% sustainable denim collection: “Primark has launched its first-ever sustainable denim collection as it aims to shift towards sustainably-sourced products. The new women’s jeans are made with 100 per cent sustainable cotton which is purchased from Primark’s Sustainable Cotton Programme. They are priced from £13 and will be available in the value retailer’s UK and EU stores” (12 Mar).

Outland Denim: Building a future for vulnerable women: “Outland Denim was built to provide an avenue for training, employment and career progression for women who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing human trafficking and other social injustices” (12 Mar).

H&M’S latest sustainable collection is all about innovative textiles: ““We can't continue to do business like we have for the past 30 years,” says Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M’s creative adviser, at the launch of the brand’s latest Conscious Exclusive collection (out April 11) in Berlin” (12 Mar).

Danish fashion and toxic tanneries: “Indian workers who make leather for Danish clothing brands' factories in India work with toxic chemicals and under dangerous conditions. Noa Noa has temporarily suspended her orders from India after Danwatch’s revelations, while H&M says they do not supervise tanneries. H&M cannot confirm whether leather from the tanneries does not end up in their products” (04 Mar – in Danish). [Ed’s note: a long investigative piece from Danwatch on tanneries and clothing factories using leather in India supplying to 12 fashion brands operating in Denmark, including also DK, Ganni, Samsøe & Samsøe, Depeche, Bestseller, Urban Outfitters, Zara (Inditex), Deichmann, Levi Strauss, and Steve Madden.]

NEWS & REPORTS

Playing for keeps: Is designing emotional durability the key to a circular economy? “Consumerism in a more circular system will require a shift from consumption to conscious use, keeping products at their highest and best state through repair, refurbishment, upgrade and reuse. The challenge? Actually getting people to value existing things over new ones, then to take the steps necessary to keep them in usable condition. One piece of this equation is the physical durability of an item: Is it built to last or planned for obsolescence? Is it cheaper to fix than buying new? Can it be refurbished at all? (And is it even legal to do so?) There’s also a less tangible, personal side to our relationship with things. It’s called “emotional durability”” (14 Mar).

Fashion industry sourced record amount of sustainable cotton in 2018: “Fashion brands and retailers collectively sourced more than one million metric tonnes of sustainably certified cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) last year, breaking the industry standard operator's record” (14 Mar).

The Missing Piece – Chemicals in circular economy: “One crucial, but often overlooked part of a circular economy is the role of chemicals. As the progressives of the world seem intent on solving the problems of pollution and depletion of the earth’s resources by simply increas­ing recycling, little attention is paid to the contents of the old products that we turn into new ones” (14 Mar). [Ed’s note: summary of a report released by ChemSec; see full report here, which includes case studies on H&M, IKEA, and Coop Denmark.]

Lost at SEA: The information policymakers actually need from applicants and SEAC opinions: “In this report we [ChemSec] analyse the socio-economic analysis [SEA] that forms part of the REACH Authorisation process and argue that the current practices in preparing them do not yield satisfying results. In some cases, the procedure even threatens the aim of REACH” (14 Mar). [Ed’s note: see full report here.]

Bamboo-labelled textile items may not be as green: Canada: “The Competition Bureau of Canada recently issued an advisory, cautioning customers that bamboo-labelled sheets, T-shirts and other textile products found in stores and online may not be as ‘green’ as they seem, as transforming bamboo fibre into soft fabrics for clothing, towels or bedding involves the use of a lot of environmentally harmful chemicals” (13 Mar).

Fabric’s green frontier: sustainable textile innovations: “As brands seek sustainable textiles to use in their collections, a new wave of innovative fibres and fabrics is emerging –  some with unexpected origins” (13 Mar).

The human cost of fast fashion: “The fast-fashion industry exploits people in far-flung, often Eastern, developing countries, using cheap labour to quickly mass-produce clothing that keeps up with trends. These trends are quick-evolving, and as soon as something’s outdated, people simply don’t want to buy it anymore” (13 Mar).

Fashion’s tiny hidden secret: “Fashion today is about obsession with outward image and appearance. Rarely do we as consumers consider what’s on the inside: the hundreds of thousands of fibres that make up our clothing which have led to an estimated 1.4 million trillion plastic fibres in the ocean” (13 Mar).

Beyond social auditing: “In this blog series on 'Beyond Social Auditing', expert authors discuss and reflect on solutions and what improved and accountable due diligence beyond social auditing should look like.” [Ed’s note: his blog series and the portal are the result of a collaboration between BHRRC and Clean Clothes Campaign and was made possible thanks to funding from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).]

  • New buzzword, same problem: how ‘worker voice’ initiatives are perpetuating the shortcomings of traditional social auditing: “Research from the past two decades has demonstrated the perpetual failure of social auditing programs to detect and remedy labor rights abuses in global supply chains. Yet the industry of compliance monitoring has shown incredible resilience to these critiques: multinational corporations are expanding their use of social audits; civil society actors are legitimizing audits as a path towards corporate accountability; and social auditing companies are growing their suite of services to retain clients and attract new ones in an increasingly competitive market” (12 Mar).

  • Social audit reform options: towards auditor liability and multi-stakeholder oversight: “The social auditing regime has increasingly become a tool used by companies to enforce and verify standards in global supply chains and fulfill their human rights due diligence (HRDD) obligations. However, experiences and studies suggest that audits often fail to detect, report, and resolve serious labor and environmental problems. Flaws include problematic incentive structures (or conflict of interest), a checklist approach to labor issues, a tendency for corporations to commission lenient audits, and confidentiality of audit reports” (12 Mar).

  • Social audits in the textile industry: How to control the controllers? “The collapse of the Rana Plaza building complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 24th 2013 is one of the most well-known disasters in the textile industry. What not as many people know is that two factories in the building went through the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI, now Amfori) auditing process, the largest labour standard compliance initiative, before the collapse, and that no possible workplace safety risks were identified” (04 Feb).

Global goal for chemicals will not be achieved, says UN report: “The global goal to minimise adverse impacts of chemicals and waste will not be achieved by 2020, according to a major UN report” (12 Mar). [Ed’s note: see summary of report from the UNEP here, and report synthesis here. Full report will be available in April.]

Can fashion brands survive the transition from sale to rental? “However, persuading brands that their products should be rented, not owned, is going to be a little trickier. Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann, CEO of fashion house Derek Lam, hesitated before putting his label on Rent the Runway, saying: “Do you cheapen the brand, do you make it too available? Yes, maybe, to a certain extent. But I think to counter fast fashion is enough to take those risks”” (12 Mar).

The environmental impact of wool: “Far from being an eco-friendly material, wool is a nightmare for the living planet” (12 Mar).

UNECE, partners developing traceability tool for garment supply chains: “The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the European Commission (EC), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and private sector partners are developing a ‘Decent Work and Transparency and Traceability Tool,’ UNECE announced during the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Due Diligence Forum. This collaboration is part of efforts to advance sustainable production patterns and a circular economy approach, in line with SDG 12” (12 Mar).

Searching for sustainability: “This year, 80 million shoppers from 120 countries started their fashion search on Lyst. We tracked more than 100 million searches across 5 million fashion products from 12,000 designers and stores to see how this new wave of eco-consciousness is affecting the fashion world” (11 Mar).

‘Balance for Better’ does little to address issues facing women: “The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Balance for Better.’ Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. Calling for representation in the boardroom and gender balance in the workplace is something to be celebrated – but it’s a radical shift in power dynamic that is most needed [but] Women garment workers throughout Asia remain at the bottom of the supply chain. They are consistently being denied their basic human rights: working up to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, while receiving poverty pay”  (08 Mar).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

RMG workers protest colleague’s death: “Police yesterday dispersed workers of [Four H Apparels] garment factory ... when they barricaded a road protesting a female worker's death by suicide, allegedly after being insulted by management” (14 Mar).

Int’l bodies launch scheme in Bangladesh to lift up female garment workers: “To mark 2019 International Women's Day, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have launched an innovative training scheme to get more women in supervisory roles in Bangladesh's garment sector. The “Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR)” initiative was launched at a high-level International Women's Day reception Monday, ILO said in a press release in Dhaka” (12 Mar).

  • Female workers boost efficiency by 5% in Bangla RMG sector: “Female supervisors have boosted efficiency by five per cent in the garment sector in Bangladesh, says an initiative by Better Work Bangladesh. The Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) initiative jointly implemented by International Labour Organisation and International Finance Corporation promoted more women in supervisory roles in the garment sector” (13 Mar).

Administrative pressure needed to stop storing chemicals in Old Dhaka: “Textile colorants dominate the markets for textile chemicals owing to their properties of imparting aesthetic appearance and value to the finished textile products … The more the garment manufacturers purchase the local fabrics, the more chemicals are sold for washing and dyeing purposes. Another important reason for the growth in chemical consumption is the rise of the denim industry in Bangladesh. Usually, denim fabrics require more chemicals for washing and dyeing compared to that needed by other fabrics” (13 Mar). [Ed’s note: this is part of an ongoing discussion since the fire last month in Old Dhaka that took 71 lives.]

Ethiopia

Improving working conditions in the garment sector: New research on living wages in Ethiopia garment sector based on a survey of 1,062 workers in 52 textile factories. 92.5% of workers surveyed earn less than 4,130 Birr ($144)/month; the minimum required for an individual to live. 97% earn less than 5,450 Birr ($193)/month; the minimum one working parent needs to earn to support a family. 8% earn less than 1,000 ($35)/month. 57% earn less than 2,000 ($71)/month (30 Jan).

Myanmar

Blue Moon Garment Factory workers make third demand for compensation: “Workers from Blue Moon Garment Factory in Kyansittha Street in Shwelinban Industrial Zone in Hlinethaya Township, Yangon Region, came to the region government office for the third time on March 12 to demand that the chief minister mediate in the labour dispute as they receive no salary and compensation for factory shutdown” (13 Mar).

Tunisia

‘Made in Tunisia’: the worker-casualties of the globalisation of the textile industry: “According to Abdeljelil Bédoui, economist and advisor to the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), unemployed textile workers are “a prime example of the failure of the neoliberal development model followed by Tunisia for more than 40 years””(14 Mar).

MANUFACTURERS

Garmon introduces the greenofchange® Days to strengthen the debate on sustainability: Garmon has committed to the continuation of its greenofchange® platform, a system dedicated to the improvement of environmental safety and performance of textile chemistry, with a series of upcoming international workshops in New Delhi (India – in April), and in the third/fourth quarter 2019 in Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Shanghai (China).

Carlyle buys minority stake in Jeanologia: “American private equity company Carlyle has acquired a minority stake in Jeanologia, a Spanish maker of manufacturing equipment for the textile sector, particularly for denim” (13 Mar).

Natural & non-toxic: Chennai startup’s army of microbes cleans & saves water!Proklean Technologies is in the business of researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing non-toxic, biodegradable formulations which can replace chemical surfactants and sequestering agents” (12 Mar).

SUSTAINABLE FASHION JOBS

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

Ascena Retail Group: Director, Supply Chain Sustainability (Hong Kong)

Bestseller: Sustainability Reporting & Communications Manager (Copenhagen / Aarhus / Brande / Amsterdam, Denmark)

BSR: Manager, Supply Chain Sustainability (New York)

* BSR: Human Rights Director (Paris or San Francisco)

* Columbia Sportswear: Product Sustainability Manager (Happy Valley, OR)

Common Objective: Content Editor/Writer (London)

Common Objective: Product Designer (UX/UI) (London)

Common Objective: Office Manager (London)

Fashion Revolution: Global Network Manager (London or nearby)

* Fashion Revolution: Digital Marketing Intern (Amsterdam)

* IKEA: Stakeholder Engagement Leader, Public Affairs (Leiden)

Impactt: Marketing Manager (London)

Lululemon: Director, Product Sustainability (Vancouver)

* Lululemon: Director, Product and Materials Sustainability (Vancouver)

Patagonia: Head of Supply Chain Environmental Responsibility (Ventura, California)

Redress: Sustainable Fashion Associate (Hong Kong)

Redress: Creative Media Designer (Hong Kong)

Ted Baker: Sustainability Coordinator (London)

Ted Baker: Ethical and Sustainability Assistant (London)

Ted Baker: Ethical Specialist (London)

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

18 March, Melbourne, Australia: Future of Sustainable Fashion Workshop by SAC: “event hosted by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC).

18 -19 March, New York: 7th Responsible Business Summit: Lead the change to a new sustainable future: Invest, Collaborate and Innovate (hosted by Ethical Corporation).

* 21 March: The Economist’s Sustainability Summit: London: Facing the facts.

21 – 22 March, Melbourne, Australia: The Australian Circular Fashion Conference.

* 26 – 27 March, Brussels: Global Business Summit 2019: Annual summit by Chemical Watch on the cutting edge of sustainable development in the chemicals world.

08 – 11 April, Budapest: 4th Global Sustainable Fashion Week: “press conference, international conferences, workshops, eco fashion shows and cultural programs.”

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.”

17 April, Northampton, UK: Half Day Understanding REACH Training Course: “Understanding the differences between the Candidate List, Annex XVII and Annex XIV.”

23 – 26 April, Northampton, UK: 4 Day Practical Leather Technology Training Course: “Ideal for those who are heavily involved with leather, such as supply chain staff, tannery staff, leather buyers, footwear technologists or those who need to top up their leather technology knowledge.”

24 – 25 April, Brussels: Circular - Bio-based - Digital: the Keys to Europe's Textile Future: Annual Textile ETP Conference and General Assembly.

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

08 May, Manchester, UK: Time for Change – Facing up to fashion’s sustainability and ethical challenges: ASBCI’s 2019 Spring Conference.

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.”

12 June, Northampton, UK: 1 Day Chemical Compliance and Product Safety Training Course: “On this chemical course, our in-house chemical expert will guide you through the various legislations and chemicals in a simple step-by-step process, ensuring that you are aware of your obligation and how to comply.” (For the leather industry.)

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.”

08 September, Dhaka, Bangladesh: GOTS Bangladesh Seminar 2019: For sponsorship or speaking opportunities Sumit Gupta at the link.

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

(Photo image, 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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