THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Asket (fooled by a textile mill), Canada Goose (criticism from Bill Maher over coyote fur), H&M, Sports Direct, and New Look (accused of still using child labour), Kidiliz (drops fur), Tonle (San Francisco’s only zero waste clothing boutique), Uniqlo (accused of toxic bullying culture in Australia),and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Blockchain startup partners with fashion giants to make organic cotton traceable

  • EU Commission delivers on circular economy action plan

  • Call to protect female workers from workplace harassment:

  • Stella McCartney leverages star power to save the rainforests

  • What fashion can learn from other industries promoting a circular economy

  • Future of work round table: do ethical consumerism and investment work?

  • How guilty should you feel about wearing leather?

  • ‘Girl power’ T-shirts removed from sale amid claims of exploitation in Bangladeshi factory (see also Three ways to ensure charities’ promotional merchandise is ethical)

  • Bangladesh’s apparel makers push Germany for fair pricing

  • France’s ‘Rana Plaza’ law delivers few results

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: government starts to clear chemical warehouses from Old Dhaka but meets resistance; workers protest factory closure; and demand outstanding wages

  • Cambodia: Hun Sen promises legal aid for ‘vulnerable women’; workers blocked on way to PM’s home; US Lawmakers in threat to review Cambodia trade privileges Over Hun Sen’s crackdown

  • India: boiler blast kills worker

  • Mexico: a Labor Spring for Mexico’s Maquilas?

  • Myanmar: don’t blame Europe if trade preferences are withdrawn

Manufacturers in this issue include: 3M (introduces new recycled insulation), Smartrac (Green Tag Program), Sole (joins hands with UBB to design sustainable shoe), Worn Again, Mycoworks, Bolt Threads, and Orange Fiber (lab-made fashion changing landscapes), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “The pressure really trickles down...They produce more quickly, they cut incorrectly and the factories are forced to order a lot of extra fabric.” Tonle CEO Rachel Faller on the impact fast fashion has on factories (04 Mar).

  • “Sustainable living is ‘out of reach’.” NYC fashion model Renee Elizabeth Peters (04 Mar).

  • “New rule: No more douches. I mean the hipster douches who piss away $1,000 on a Canada Goose parka and the hipsterazzi who max out their credit cards to look like them … See, what they don’t realize—or may not care about—is that Canada Goose trims its coats with the fur of coyotes who’ve been crushed and mangled in steel traps so painful and indiscriminate that they’ve been outlawed in over 85 countries.” Bill Maher (01 Mar).

Job openings: I’m going to start including a separate section in the newsletter for sustainability jobs in fashion, but today I’m including them here. If you’re recruiting, send me a link and I’ll include it in my list. You can contact me via the ‘contact’ tab above.

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

‘Everyone has some form of PTSD’: Former Uniqlo employees describe toxic bullying culture: “Seven shirts folded per minute, “shouting rooms” and 18-hour days. Former Australian Uniqlo employees have spoken out about the retailer” (04 Mar).

Kidiliz says no to animal fur: “The Kidiliz group has confirmed its commitment not to use animal fur” (04 Mar – in French).

Inside Tonle: San Francisco’s only zero waste clothing boutique: “In just the past five years [CEO Rachel Faller] estimates her company has diverted 35,000 pounds of fabrics that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill, or worse” (04 Mar).

The mill that fooled us, and how full traceability started: “It’s almost a year since we [Asket] introduced The Denim Shirt. A garment that shook our perception of honesty, integrity and traceability in the apparel industry and ended up becoming one of the triggers to our Full Traceability mission” (03 Mar).

Bill Maher’s graphic new rule delivers PETA message on coyote cruelty: “The Real Time star weighs in on “hipster douches” who wear Canada Goose parkas, in a new PSA for PETA” (01 Mar).

10 companies that still use child labor: “Despite global efforts and petitions from humanitarian groups, there are still many major companies around the world that employ child labour – knowingly or otherwise - in order to make a profit” (27 Feb). [Ed’s note: fashion companies cited are H&M, Sports Direct, and New Look.]

NEWS & REPORTS

This blockchain startup is partnering with fashion giants to make organic cotton traceable: “Bext360, an agricultural blockchain startup, is partnering with fashion giants, nonprofits and other tech companies for a pilot test to see if blockchain can be utilized to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the organic cotton supply chain” (04 Mar).

Closing the loop: Commission delivers on circular economy action plan: “All 54 actions under the plan launched in 2015 have now been delivered or are being implemented. This will contribute to boost Europe's competitiveness, modernise its economy and industry to create jobs, protect the environment and generate sustainable growth” (04 Mar).

#HerToo: call to protect female workers from workplace harassment: “Ahead of International Women’s Day, CARE Australia and other organisations around the world including Human Rights Watch are lobbying to ensure that a proposed International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention to end violence and harassment at work won’t be watered down” (04 Mar).

  • Care to act - #ThisIsNotWorking: CARE Australia has launched a petition “urging the public to pressure the Australian government to reject any attempt by employers and others to water down the convention” (04 Mar).

  • This is Not Working: A global opportunity for change: A new report from CARE Australia focusing on workplace sexual harassment in garment industry in Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Australia (04 Mar).

Stella McCartney leverages star power to save the rainforests: “McCartney’s focus this season is on a beautiful environment of a very different nature: the ancient and endangered Leuser ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia. The designer is backing a campaign to protect the 6.5m acres of endangered rainforest” (04 Mar).

What fashion can learn from other industries promoting a circular economy: “Sustainability in fashion is growing, but several other industries have been pioneering a push towards a circular economy, as well — and the fashion community may be able to take notes” (04 Mar).

Business models and  labour standards: Making the connection: “Despite retailers spending significant sums on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and other related initiatives, little progress is being made in terms of developing substantive improvements in working conditions for production workers. Commissioned by ETI and in partnership with Kings College London and University of Warwick, this report explores two key weaknesses in current business models” (04 Mar). See also Improving company business models: “A report commissioned by ETI has investigated how business models are at the forefront of creating pressures on labour standards in global supply chains” (04 Mar).

Future of work round table: do ethical consumerism and investment work? “‘Fair trade’-style programmes exist to reassure individuals that the products they buy or the investments they make are responsibly created. Do they work? And if not, is there a better way?” (01 Mar). [Ed’s note: Contributions from Alejandra Ancheita, Shawna Bader-Blau, Anannya Bhattacharjee, Han Dongfang, and Luis C.deBaca.]

How guilty should you feel about wearing leather? “Brands are ditching fur like it’s a wedge-heeled sneaker. There’s a vegan fashion week in Los Angeles. Chanel even announced that it would no longer use exotic skins in its products. But although the fashion industry is (slowly) becoming more ethical, there’s no shortage of leather, even though it’s just as bad as fur – isn’t it?” (01 Mar).

‘Girl power’ charity T-shirts made at exploitative Bangladeshi factory: “Charity “girl power” T-shirts sold in the UK are made at a Bangladeshi factory where more than 100 impoverished workers claim to have been sacked after striking in protest at low wages, it can be revealed” (01 Mar).

What exactly is fast fashion and why is it such a problem? “Fast fashion are cheap, trend-driven clothes and accessories that often reference major designers collections or celebrity culture, they are made in high volumes and at low cost which makes them readily available for a fraction of the price of the original. But how does this impact not only the fashion industry but also the consumers and the environment in which we live?” (01 Mar).

Bangladesh’s apparel makers push Germany for fair pricing: “Bangladesh’s apparel manufacturers have pushed German policymakers to take steps to ensure fair pricing policies. The message was conveyed by Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Siddiqur Rahman while meeting a top level visiting delegation of Germany at a city hotel on February 26, 2017, says a press release” (01 Mar).

Investing in a sustainable supply chain now could save brands’ future: “The shopping habits of millennials and Gen Z have changed the way brands sell their products; experiences, e-commerce pop-ups and personalization are dominating retail. But these consumers also value sustainability and ethical business practices, which many brands have been slower to address at the risk of lowering margins” (28 Feb).

France’s ‘Rana Plaza’ law delivers few results: “France wants to be at the forefront of efforts to regulate multinationals’ responsibility towards workers in developing countries, but is having difficulty enforcing its own law on duty of care” (25 Feb).

Exports to Jobs: Boosting the Gains from Trade in South Asia: “South Asia’s economy has grown rapidly, and the region has made a significant reduction in poverty. However, the available jobs for the growing working population remain limited. Policy makers are contending with lingering concerns about jobless growth and poor job quality” (24 Feb).

Three ways to ensure charities’ promotional merchandise is ethical: “Reputation is everything. Unfortunately, for today’s fundraisers, it can also be a precarious concept” (20 Feb).

Circular textiles: Ready to market: “On 15th February we held our Circular Textiles – Ready to Market event in Amsterdam.  It was attended by over 120 participants across the textiles industry. Participants from our 9 fibre to fibre trials each did a short presentation on their experience from the project, their learnings and their plans for the future” (15 Feb). [Ed’s note: see report here.]

Estranged Labour on the Global Assembly Line? ‘Sewing Girls’ of Post-colonial Garment Factories in Sri Lanka: “Inspired by the Marxian conceptualization of ‘estranged labour’, this paper seeks to explore the phenomenon of ‘sewing girls’ of global garment factories in Sri Lanka leaving waged work after a relatively short span of time, drawing on this trend of thought. Even though issues surrounding female labour in the global garment industry are widely researched, there is little or no evidence of existing literature attempting to place the empirical issues within a Marxist conceptual framework” (Jan 2019).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

Bangladesh workers targeted with gender-based violence: “Even as 11,000 Bangladesh garment workers were fired in the wake of strikes they waged in December and January to protest low wages, many seeking to form unions or take collective action also have been physically threatened, attacked and arrested on trumped-up charges. And union leaders say these employer-directed assaults often take the form of gender-based violence at work” (04 Mar).

BGMEA disputes figures on sacked workers: “Citing the statistics of labour organisations, the ambassador wanted to know about the recent labour unrest in the readymade garment sector and the termination procedure of more than 11,000 workers from their jobs. The BGMEA president told the ambassador that the claim of labour organisations was ‘not correct’ and the number of terminated workers would be less than 4,000. ‘We also informed him that the factory owners terminated their workers complying with the relevant sections of Bangladesh Labour Act,’ Siddiq said” (04 Mar).

Government starts to clear chemical warehouses from Old Dhaka but meets resistance: Two weeks after a fire resulting (so far) in 71 deaths, the government has yet to make inroads into removing chemicals from the area. The storage of chemicals used in textiles and apparel in illegal warehouses is a significant risk for any brand sourcing from the country:

  • Drive barred again: “For the second consecutive day, a section of Old Dhaka traders created obstacles to the drive against illegal chemical warehouses yesterday. They even confined the government team conducting the drive to a house for around two hours and vandalised the car of an executive engineer of Dhaka Power Distribution Company” (04 Mar).

  • Traders fume at chemical drive: “And when the government is going for tough action against such hazardous establishments after the deadly Chawkbazar fire, a section of them are creating obstacles to the move. A taskforce comprising officials of 14 government agencies was forced to suspend their operation in the face of angry protests from local traders in Bakshibazar, on the second day of the month-long crackdown” (03 Mar).

  • Mayor Khokon at spot after protest foils chemical warehouse drive: “After a mobile court was forced to stop its drive against chemical warehouse by local businessmen, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mayor Sayeed Khokon visited Bakshibazar in old town this afternoon” (02 Mar – 1:39-minute video).

  • Protest foils 1 mobile court drive on chemical warehouses in Old Dhaka: “On the second day of the month-long crackdown on chemical warehouses and factories in Old Dhaka, a team of mobile court was forced to leave the area today after local businessmen protested against the drive.” (01 Mar – 0:32-minute video).

Deadly Dhaka: Govt ‘ignored warnings’ of industrial fires: ““Unscrupulous businessmen frequently store and use hazardous chemicals in residential areas, and government agencies have turned a blind eye to this for years,” he told ucanews.com. “It doesn't matter how many fires and deaths there are, nothing changes. Greed and negligence have destroyed many people's lives and dreams,” he said” (02 Mar).

Bangladesh garment workers protest factory closure: “Minar Industry garment workers demonstrated last Sunday in protest against the shutdown of the factory and for full payment of outstanding wages. They formed a human chain outside the National Press Club in Dhaka” (02 Mar).

Garment workers demand outstanding wages: “The workers of Garib and Garib Sweater Factory in Gazipur have held a rally at the National Press Club, demanding unpaid wages … The workers claimed the factory authorities have threatened to file cases against them. They workers sought the intervention of the government and BGMEA authorities” (28 Feb).

Cambodia

Cambodia’s Hun Sen promises legal aid for ‘vulnerable women’: “Cambodian union leaders say Prime Minister Hun Sen’s promise of free legal benefits to vulnerable women, including garment factory workers, was prompted by the European Union threatening to withdraw the Everything But Arms agreement” (01 Mar).

Workers blocked on way to PM’s home: “Hundreds of security forces yesterday prevented almost a thousand garment factory workers from marching to the residence of Prime Minister Hun Sen in order to seek intervention” (01 Mar). [Ed’s note:  this story concerns W&D garment factory.]

US Lawmakers in threat to review Cambodia trade privileges Over Hun Sen’s crackdown: “Citing human rights violations, two U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday that would require the Trump Administration to review the preferential trade terms under which Cambodia exports $180 million of goods to the United States each year” (27 Feb).

India

The march out of the sweatshop: on work and life after the garment factory: What happens when women garment workers in Bangalore, India, leave factories? 1. Exit without savings; 2. Exit with debt (and poorer health); and 3. Return to the informal sector. Interestingly, research in Sri Lanka suggests a more positive outcome” (01 Mar).

Boiler blast at garment factory kills 45-yr-old woman: “A 45-year-old woman died in a suspected boiler explosion at a garment factory in Peenya II stage last Saturday” (01 Mar).

Mexico

A Labor Spring for Mexico’s Maquilas? “In Matamoros, wildcat strikes propelled by AMLO’s election and social media were victorious in improving conditions for 30,000 maquiladora workers. Will it mark a new era for union organizing in Mexico?” (01 Mar).

Myanmar

Don’t blame Europe if trade preferences are withdrawn: “When the European Union sent an emergency mission to Yangon last October, this newspaper argued that pulling Myanmar’s Everything But Arms (EBA) status would not improve Rakhine’s situation but instead derail the country’s hard-won economic progress. It also goes against the recommendations of the UN-mandated Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar. These arguments still stand. Yet the EU is within its rights to remove such market access” (01 Mar).

MANUFACTURERS

Sole joins hands with UBB to design sustainable shoe: “Canadian footwear manufacturer Sole has joined hands with responsible apparel company United By Blue to design a shoe which uses sustainable materials in every aspect, from tongue to tread, without compromising on quality, comfort or durability” (03 Mar).

EPA’s plan to regulate chemical contaminants in drinking water is a drop in the bucket: “The chemicals at issue, PFOA and PFOS, have contaminated drinking water supplies across the country affecting millions of Americans. They belong to a class of synthetic chemicals called PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, that are widely used in products including … waterproof apparel” (02 Mar).

Recycled rubber bags by India’s Chamar community: “How the leather-proficient community have gone from being shunned as ‘untouchables’, to inspiring an eco-friendly fashion company” (02 Mar).

Savar leather park: CETP conundrum : “The country's leather export encounters environmental concerns. Quite some time ago, the signals were very much there. The major importing bloc, the European Union had made it known a few years ago that unless processing of leather and leather products conform to compliance norms, especially in respect of environment, shipments would be refused at all EU ports. Newspaper reports confirm that the sharp slump in export of leather and leather goods in this fiscal is largely due to environmental concerns” (01 Mar).

3M introduces new recycled insulation: “3M introduced new sustainable insulation materials for application in the fashion and clothing industry at ISPO (3rd – 6th of February) in Munich, Germany. With up to 100% recycled plastics and fabrics, 3M’s Thinsulate™ Insulation offers a sustainable alternative to natural materials such as cotton or down, thus reducing the fashion industry’s carbon footprint”  (01 Mar).

How lab-made fashion is changing landscapes: “Haute couture made out of orange peels. ‘Leather’ shoes and handbags grown from mushrooms … These are just some of the ways that innovators are clothing, accessorizing and adorning global consumers, while working to keep ecological and social costs firmly in check” (28 Feb). [Ed’s note: companies cited include Worn Again, Mycoworks, Bolt Threads, and Orange Fiber.]

Smartrac brings its Green Tag Program initiative to LogiMAT: “Smartrac revealed that it is dedicated to bringing to market RFID products constructed to be less harmful to the environment. Each of its products that receives a Green Tag will include a published Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), according to ISO 14040/44” (28 Feb).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                          

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

07 March: Los Angeles: Sustainable Fashion Forum: “A one-day conference focused on sharing digital and tech-based solutions so fashion designers, manufacturers, factories, and retailers.”

* 13 – 14 March: Sydney, Australia: Responsible Fashion Summit: “circular economy, sustainable fibres, worker empowerment, legislation and new business models”

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.”

14 March, The Hague, Netherlands: Learning Seminar for Garment and Textile Brands: ‘Sourcing responsibly in Turkey. How to do due diligence?’: “Organised by the Dutch Agreement for Sustainable Garments & Textile (AGT) in cooperation with Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), supported by the AGT Turkey Taskforce.”

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

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.”

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 Jeremy Bishop, 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.

Comment