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Note from the Editor: As you may have noticed, in order to connect businesses with job seekers and vice versa, this newsletter now includes job postings for openings in sustainable fashion. Posting is free and reaches sustainability professionals in key fashion brands and stakeholder organisations. Since kicking off this initiative, we have witnessed substantial growth in the number of listings and would now like to invite companies and other organisations in the sustainable fashion space to please contact us if you have a sustainability-related job opening (at stephen (at) goblu (dot) net).

THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Allbirds (new carbon fund), H&M (interview with CEO Karl-Johan Persson), Primark (if sustainability is really the future of fashion, why are Primark’s profits soaring), Vans (recycling shoes into park benches, phone cases and more), and more.

In general news:

  • 6 years after Rana Plaza, what’s changed?

  • The paradox of fast fashion business models and ethical practices

  • Can cheap fashion ever be ethical?

  • Why I started a sustainable fashion conference series (by Céline Semaan)

  • How Miroslava Duma’s Future Tech Lab is creating a greener China

  • Are these ‘sustainable’ clothing brands the real deal?

  • Fashionista’s complete beginner’s guide to ethical fashion certifications

In the supply chain:

  • Africa: African textile, leather and garment unions meeting strategizes on AGOA

  • Bangladesh: continued push for US to pay fair prices for apparel; Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies says violence against labourers increasing; 24 companies to get ‘OSH Good Practice Award’; Ashulia workers who went on a hunger strike over sexual harassment have been fired; Rana Plaza factory collapse hero commits suicide; new BGMEA president Rubana Huq sits with Accord officials

  • Cambodia: China to help Cambodia if EBA removed; government prohibits May Day marches

  • India: women in Karnataka’s garment sector stuck in cycle of poor working conditions

  • North Korea: forced labour used to subcontract for Chinese apparel factories

  • South Africa: crackdown on creation of bogus co-ops which exploit workers

  • Uzbekistan: Uzbek government continues to consider the cotton sector as its “cash cow”

  • Vietnam: union battles to protect workers’ rights

Manufacturers in this issue include: Bristol Cloth (making ultra-sustainable compostable material), Evolved By Nature (developing a silkworm-based coating to replace toxic chemicals on our clothes), Life Cykel (Australian firm making mushroom leather), Mango Materials, Algalife, Nature Coatings and Sonovia (joined the Fashion for Good Scaling Programme), Stahl (releases CSR report), and more.

Sustainable fashion jobs: 3 new jobs listed (at TAL Apparel, thegreenlabels, and VF).

Quotes of the week:

  • “The future’s transparent, and those that have yet to address it have a lot of catching up to do.” Clare Press (29 Apr).

  • “The government of Bangladesh—and many of the countries that host the global garment industry—considers low wages to be a comparable advantage and … cheap labor to be something that is their right to kind of exploit.” Sarah Fox, the former special representative for international labor affairs at the US Department of State (28 Apr).

  • “[Bangladesh is] doing the same basic garments that they did 10 years ago, most of them at least. Then it’s difficult to pay higher classes and higher wages, and so they’re pretty much stuck.” Dorothée Baumann-Pauly, research director at NYU’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights (28 Apr).

  • “They said, Madam, [female apparel workers] don’t want to become supervisors because it’s a lot of responsibility. So, I went down to the factory floor and said how many of you want to be supervisors and nearly all of them raised their hands.” Rubana Huq, new BGMEA president, when she asked where the female supervisors were in a Bangladesh factory (23 Apr).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

If sustainability is really the future of fashion, why are Primark’s profits soaring? Primark’s parent company recently announced that Primark’s profits for the past six months had increased by 25 percent, taking them to £426 million for just half a year. This article examines how that fits with the narrative that we are in a retail-apocalypse and the growing interest in sustainable fashion (26 Apr).

15 minutes with H&M Group CEO Karl-Johan Persson: “One of the most important things we’re working on is to become more transparent about our sustainability efforts, to make things clearer for the consumer. I believe everyone benefits when consumers are informed, at the moment of purchase, about how products are made and what their social and environmental impact is. This information is a crucial part of the decision making process” (26 Apr).

The Allbirds Carbon Fund: We’re changing, so the climate doesn’t: “Beginning this year, for every tonne of carbon we emit as a business — from the sheep on our farms to the lights in our headquarters — the Allbirds Carbon Fund will support verified emissions-reduction projects, such as planting trees that capture and store carbon, and building wind energy to replace dirty fossil fuel energy. And beginning on Earth Day (April 22), Allbirds customers will be able to help us decide which projects we support with each new purchase — land, energy or air” (23 Apr).

Vans lets you recycle your shoes and turn them into park benches, phone cases and more: “Vans began a pilot program across 24 SoCal retail locations this month wherein customers can drop off old or unwearable shoes. The turned-in footwear will be repurposed into park benches, phone cases, skateboard decks and more through a partnership with innovative recycling company TerraCycle” (23 Apr).

NEWS & REPORTS

6 years after Rana Plaza, what’s changed? “Things are happening with sustainable fashion. Big things. There have been rumblings for years, and pockets of serious action from certain brands, but it finally feels like it’s gone mainstream. Turn on the news, and it’s there. Pick up Vogue; it’s there. Instagram brims with influencers and designers talking about fashion’s social and environmental responsibility” (29 Apr). [Ed’s note: article by Clare Press.]

The paradox of fast fashion business models and ethical practices: “The fast fashion business model in 2019 hasn’t changed much in the era of sustainability. At retail level we still see rails full of 5 euro t-shirts, piles of jeans costing less than 10 euros, and printed dresses advertised at 8.99 pounds. Even cheaper goods can easily be googled and purchased online. Fast fashion and ethical trading standards seem to paradoxically lie at polar ends of the sustainability scale, yet retailers of household-named brands are having consumers believe their factories, manufacturing processes and workers are adhering to the standards we expect, but are afraid to challenge or delve into for accuracy” (29 Apr).

Can cheap fashion ever be ethical? “Just over two decades ago, a small collection of workers’ rights groups, trade unions, British retailers, and others joined together to take action on the poor pay and labor conditions that countless workers in global supply chains endure. The organization they ultimately formed, the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), has since founded programs in countries around the world, partnered with other advocacy groups, and elicited commitments from brands large and small—including some of the world’s biggest fashion labels—to try to improve workers’ lives” (28 Apr).

Why I started a sustainable fashion conference series: “In this op-ed, Céline Semaan talks about why she started her fashion sustainability conference, Study Hall, and how the mainstream idea of sustainability has roots in colonialism and white supremacy” (26 Apr).

How Miroslava Duma’s Future Tech Lab is creating a greener China: “FTL has been working closely with sustainable and high-tech Chinese companies. For example, our local partners include companies developing coffee grounds into yarn, creating natural dyes, fabrics from blended waste oyster shell, and more. We’ve also worked with Tencent and Alibaba Group on how to energize the fashion industry with sustainable technologies. We not only view China as a market with great potential for sustainable products, but also as one of the biggest contributors to global environmental protection. We are amazed by how innovative and green the Chinese market has become, and we will continue exploring sustainable technologies with our Chinese partners for green synergies” (25 Apr).

Are these ‘sustainable’ clothing brands the real deal? “I’ve been seeing a lot of ads for “environmentally friendly” or sustainable fashion brands that have cute designs, but it almost seems too good to be true. Is buying “eco-friendly” fashion actually good for the planet?” (25 Apr).

Fashionista’s complete beginner’s guide to ethical fashion certifications: “A handy cheat sheet for keeping straight what labels like Fair Trade, Bluesign and B Corp mean” (25 Apr).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

 Africa

African textile, leather and garment unions meeting strategizes on AGOA: “A strategy workshop organized by the Solidarity Centre Kenya in Nairobi 16-17 April, attended by 27 participants that included IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from Ethiopia, Eswatini, Kenya and Lesotho, confederations from the four countries, and regional bodies, EATUC and SATUCC, discussed how workers’ rights can be protected using the US trade law, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)” (29 Apr).

Bangladesh  

Munshi presses US for fair prices of apparel: “Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi yesterday urged the United States Trade Representative to ensure fair prices for Bangladeshi garment items in the US as the cost of production has increased manifold … “The factories are now more modern and workplace safety is ensured. As a result, the garment manufacturers’ production costs have soared. However, the retailers are not increasing the prices for purchasing the apparel items accordingly, the minister said” (29 Apr).

Violence against labourers increasing: “Labour rights situation of Bangladesh is deteriorating gradually, as both violence against them and the number of accidents at workplace have increased remarkably, according to a report of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS)” (29 Apr).

24 companies to get ‘OSH Good Practice Award’ today: “A total of 24 local companies from five sectors will be awarded today (Sunday) for their outstanding contribution in ensuring occupational safety and health (OSH) in respective workplaces” (28 Apr). [Ed’s note: most companies awarded are in apparel; all companies awarded are listed in article.]

Ashulia RMG workers on hunger strike: “Workers of a garment factory, who were terminated allegedly for protesting sexual harassment of a fellow worker, started an indefinite hunger strike in Jamgor area of Ashulia today. The seventeen workers, who used to work for Unit-1 of Donglian Fashion BD Ltd, began their hunger strike in front of the factory at 8:00am, our Savar correspondent reports from the spot” (27 Apr).

  • RMG worker fired for reporting official over sexual harassment: “On March 18, an RMG worker in Ashulia was allegedly sexually harassed by an official of the factory she used to work for. When the 18-year-old and her 16 co-workers protested the incident, they were terminated. Yesterday, her co-workers started an indefinite hunger in front of the factory, Donglian Fashion BD Ltd (unit-1)…” (28 Apr).

Bangladesh factory collapse hero commits suicide: “A Bangladeshi activist who rescued dozens of people when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in 2013 has committed suicide after suffering years of trauma-related depression, the police said yesterday” (27 Apr).

New BGMEA president Rubana Huq sits with Accord officials: “New president of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Rubana Huq has met with officials of Bangladesh Accord, the European agency for factory remediation” (26 Apr).

Supply chain should be under accountability: Taslima Akhter: “To improve safety and rights issues of the garment workers in Bangladesh, the government should adopt laws which would bring the entire supply chain of garment production under accountability, said Bangladesh Garment Workers Solidarity president Taslima Akhter” (26 Apr).

Cambodia

China to help Cambodia if EBA removed: “China on Saturday pledged to support Cambodia if the European Union removes the Kingdom’s special trade status under the Everything-but-arms (EBA) scheme” (29 Apr).

Effective factory policies and procedures key to worker safety, Better Factories Cambodia shows: “A challenging issue across the global garment industry, OSH also continues to be a stumbling block for Cambodia’s garment manufacturing industry. A lack of proper policies and division of management roles and responsibilities on OSH affect many factories” (27 Apr).

Cambodia prohibits May Day marches: “Phnom Penh Municipal Hall rejected the requests of eight major labour unions to march in celebration of International Labour Day, according to Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union president Ath Thorn on Thursday” (26 Apr).

India

Women in Karnataka’s garment sector stuck in cycle of poor working conditions: “over the last few years, a new recruiting trend has emerged. Large numbers of women workers in their late teens and early twenties are being brought to the garment factories from northern and eastern states like Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam and Madhya Pradesh under government-sponsored schemes like Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana or Skill India. For women at these workplaces, the struggle is real, even for local women who have the advantages of language and mobility. So migrant women from the north and east of the country are doubly vulnerable to exploitation in an industry that is plagued with low or delayed salaries as well as physical and mental harassment at work. With barely 3 percent of the workforce unionised, thanks to strict rules in the companies against joining unions, bringing companies to task for violating labour laws remains an uphill task” (29 Apr).

North Korea

North Korean workers and forced labor: “Experts estimate that as many as 50,000 North Koreans are working outside North Korea in many different industry sectors around the world. In most cases the workers are not working of their own free will and a large percentage of their pay is presumably confiscated by the North Korean government. Media reports have cited sub-contracting by Chinese apparel factories to factories in North Korea, and the use of North Korean workers in Chinese factories” (10 Apr).

South Africa

South Africa cracks down on creation of bogus co-ops which exploit workers: “New laws have been introduced in South Africa to combat the proliferation of bogus co-operatives that exploit workers … “In the clothing industry alone, there are estimated to be around 15,000 workers abused by bogus co-operatives”” (29 Apr).

Uzbekistan

Uzbek expert: The Uzbek government continues to consider the cotton sector as its “cash cow”: “The Uzbek government has previously considered, and still continues to consider agriculture, and especially the cotton sector, as its “cash cow”, which should supply the government with export currency earnings. The basis of this approach is almost the same paradigm that Stalin followed, when he pursued a policy of accelerated industrialization in the 1930s. This paradigm was to siphon resources from the rural economy and redirect them for industrial development. Karimov also followed this course of redistribution of resources whereby farmers would earn only a minimum subsistence living while the state would accumulate export revenues in hard currency” (29 Apr).

Vietnam

Trade union battles to protect workers’ rights: “In 2017, the Vietnam Fatherland Front, the Government Inspectorate, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and the Vietnam Social Insurance jointly conducted a supervisory mission on the implementation of the Social Insurance Law in five random provinces and cities nationwide. During their mission, they detected a total of  VND28 billion (US$) in social insurance had not been paid by these provinces” (23 Apr).

MANUFACTURERS

UK firm making ultra-sustainable compostable material: “[Bristol Cloth] has created an ultra-sustainable material for clothing which is produced within a 15-mile radius of the city from start to finish – and is even compostable” (29 Apr).

Bio-based fashion revolution: “Four new innovators have joined the Fashion for Good (FFG) Scaling Programme. All graduates of the FFG-Plug and Play Accelerator Programme, they will now get the chance to ‘run pilots with Fashion for Good’s corporate partners and expand their operations’. This is a big deal, as these partners have the power to shape the future of the sustainable fashion industry: the C&A Foundation, Adidas, C&A, Galeries Lafayette, Kering, Otto Group, PVH Corp., Target, Stella McCartney and Zalando. Mango Materials, Algalife, Nature Coatings and Sonovia (previously Nano Textile) are the four” (26 Apr).

This silkworm-based coating is a replacement for the toxic chemicals on our clothes: “The stuff that coats our textiles can include everything from carcinogens to allergens. Evolved By Nature has a replacement” (26 Apr).

Xeros takes a step closer to domestic machine: “Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), Xeros is a Leeds University spin-out that has developed a patented system using a unique method of special polymer beads rather than the usual large amounts of fresh water to clean clothes” (26 Apr).

Mushroom leather could be the key to sustainable fashion: “Fremantle biotechnology company Life Cykel has been finding new uses for mushrooms since 2015” (26 Apr).

Cone Denim unveils 100 percent organic cotton denim: “The cotton used in the collection is grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers, according to Cone, and it’s grown using methods and materials with a lower environmental impact” (25 Apr).

Stahl releases 2018 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Report: “The Dutch chemical manufacturer has released its 2018 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Report, highlighting the activities towards achieving a more transparent supply chain” (24 Apr).

Unsung hero: What Jeanologia’s sustainable R&D manager brings to the table: “The greatest achievement of Begoña has been to provide the industry with the E.I.M., the measurement standard that allows us to measure the progress in eco-sustainability. Her greatest treasure is to keep that smile that accompanies her and that already caught my attention the first day I interviewed her 20 years ago” (17 Apr).

SUSTAINABLE FASHION JOBS

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

Adidas: Manager Sustainability Materials FW (Ho Chi Minh City)

Amazon: Fashion Sustainability Program Manager (London)

Amazon: Social Responsibility, Senior Program Manager (Shenzhen, China)

Amazon: Japan Environmental Manager (Tokyo)

Blackberrys Menswear: Sr. HR Executive-Employee Engagement & CSR (Gurgoan)

BSR: Manager, Supply Chain Sustainability (New York)

C&A Foundation: Programme Manager, Circular Fashion (Amsterdam)

Canada Goose: Sr. Manager, Corporate Sustainability (Toronto)

Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CCR CSR): Social Worker (Shenzhen)

Columbia: Corporate Responsibility Manager (Jakarta)

Columbia: Corporate Responsibility Specialist, Japan Direct Sources (Zhuhai)

Common Objective: Global Community Manager

Cotton made in Africa: Project Manager for Verification Management (Hamburg)

END.: Head of Facilities and Health & Safety (Washington, England)

Fair Labor Association: Social Compliance Program Manager (Washington DC)

Fair Wear Foundation: Brand Liaison and Member Community Officer (Amsterdam)

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): GOTS Public Procurement Specialist (EU) (Stuttgart)

GMS: Manager/Associate Manager, CSR (Hong Kong)

GoodWeave: Director of Communications (Washington DC)

GoodWeave: Senior Program Officer (Washington DC)

Gucci: Corporate Social Responsibility Internship (Scandicci)

Gymshark: Sustainability Manager (Solihull)

Hop Lun: Sustainability Manager (Hong Kong)

Herschel Supply Company: Product Quality & Compliance Manager (Vancouver)

Levi Strauss: Sr. Analyst, Global Product Sustainability (San Francisco)

Lululemon: Director, Product and Materials Sustainability (Vancouver)

Macy’s: Facility Management Energy Manager (Woodbridge, NJ)

Macy’s: Environmental Services Intern/Co-op (Cincinnati, OH)

Macy’s: Manager, Corporate Giving (New York)

Moncler: Sustainability Project Specialist (Milan)

Nakd: CSR Coordinator (Gothenburg)

Nakd: Corporate Social Responsibility Internship (Gothenburg)

Nike: Director of Supplier Relationship Management – Supply Chain (Beaverton, OR)

Nike: Senior Director Labor, Health & Safety, Sustainable Manufacturing & Sourcing (Beaverton, OR)

Nike: Environmental Deployment Director (Singapore)

Nike: Sustainability Professional II (Jakarta)

One Jeanswear Group: Social Compliance Specialist (New York)

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

Primark: Product Compliance Coordinator (Dublin)

PVH: Corporate Responsibility Specialist, Programs & Operations (New York)

PVH: Sr Manager, Corporate Responsibility (Transparency & Engagement) (New York)

s.Oliver: Senior Global Sustainability Manager Environment & Chemical Compliance (Rottendorf)

Sustainable Apparel Coalition: Senior Manager, Public Affairs (Amsterdam)

Sustainable Apparel Coalition: Senior Manager of Verification (San Francisco, New York, Amsterdam, or Hong Kong)

Sustainable Apparel Coalition: Senior Manager of Higg Facility Tools (San Francisco, New York, Amsterdam, or Hong Kong)

* TAL Apparel: Environmental Sustainability Executive (Hong Kong)

Ted Baker: Sustainability Coordinator (London)

Ted Baker: Ethical and Sustainability Assistant (London)

Ted Baker: Ethical Specialist (London)

* thegreenlabels: Internship right-hand of founder (Amsterdam)

The North Face: Director, Global Sustainability (Denver, CO)

Tommy Hilfiger: Communications Manager Sustainability (Amsterdam)

Under Armour: Environmental Sustainability Analyst (Baltimore, MD)

University of Leeds: Research Fellow in Sustainable Materials and Renewable Fibres (Leeds)

Vantage Apparel: QA/Compliance Specialist (Avenel, NJ)

* VF: Director, Corporate Sustainability (Denver, CO)

VF: Manager, Sustainable Products Data (Denver, CO)

Whistles: CSR and Sustainability Assistant (London)

Wolverine: Product Sustainability Manager (Rockford, Michigan)

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

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.

08 May, Hong Kong: Sourcing Summit: Hong Kong: Accelerating Change: What's New, Now & Next: “Sourcing Journal’s Sourcing Summit: Hong Kong is a unique forum that invites supply chain executives to challenge the status quo and welcome new ideas.”

13 – 17 May, Iceland: Textile Academy Bootcamp 2019: “An amazing week full of Workshops + Guided tours + Social events”

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.)

13 – 13 June, Bangkok: Responsible Business & Human Rights Forum 2019: “[A] multi-stakeholder event addressing an array of priority issues under the Responsible Business Conduct and Business and Human Rights Agendas.”

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.

23 – 24 October: Amsterdam: European Textile Polyester Summit 2019: “an insight into the European polyester market and its drivers and developments, as well as focus on feedstock availability and sustainability challenges.”

05 November: Dhaka, Bangladesh: Sustainable Apparel Forum: 2nd edition of a forum facilitated by the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange.

12 – 14 November, San Jose, California: BSR Conference: Note: this link is only to sign up for updates; registration will begin in May.

(Photo Kiril Dobrev, 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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