THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Brooks Brothers (flunks sustainability test), H&M (facing ‘turn around’ resolution at 07 May AGM), Nike, Adidas, and Levi Strauss (among companies requesting Cambodia’s Hun Sen to listen to EU concerns on labour and human rights), Riot (saving the planet through fashion), and more.

In general news:

  • Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion statement on 2019 Copenhagen Fashion Summit

  • Less is more: Can sustainability and profit co-exist?

  • The degree teaching fashion students how to work sustainably

  • Why your CSR Policy is not enough to tackle Modern Slavery

  • Collective bargaining agreements: an effective tool for worker led action

  • GOTS new figures show continued significant growth

  • Baroness Sugg speech at Fair Fashion in Africa event

  • The real cost of fast fashion: An essay exploring the fashion industry’s social and environmental issues

  • ‘Big Closets, Small Planet’ podcast

  • Can leather go green?

  • Greenpeace is going to trial a new standard for merchandising T-shirts and other textiles

  • The material consequences of choosing sustainable fashion

In the supply chain:                                                         

  • Bangladesh: Australia, ILO to support RMG workplace safety programme; ActionAid Bangladesh starts three-year campaign “Women Friendly Safe Workplace”; the issue of prices paid to factories stays in the news; new study says automation would throw 60% of RMG workers out of work

  • Cambodia: Nike, Adidas, and Levi Strauss among companies signing letter to Cambodian leader on rights; new accident statistics out

  • Ethiopia: growth coming at environmental cost

  • India: another garment factory fire; a traffic awareness program for garment workers; workers demand $269 million in arrears

  • Indonesia: home-based workers vulnerable

  • Mexico: new labour bill

  • Uzbekistan: is it time to end the boycott on cotton?

Manufacturers in this issue include: Applied DNA (ensuring authentication of Egyptian cotton), DyStar (intensified interaction with brands), and more.

Sustainable fashion jobs: five new jobs listed (at Gant, One Jeans Group, Textile Exchange, Vestiaire Collective, and Wearable Collections).

Quotes of the week:

  • “The [Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion] would like to challenge the industry to admit finally that it is not capable of making this overly complex [supply chain] system traceable in a way that truly matters on a systemic level.” From the UCRF’s statement on 2019 Copenhagen Fashion Summit (05 May).

  • “But what exactly is sustainable fashion? As much as it has become a buzz word throughout the industry today, there seems to be a gap between what consumers think it is [and] what business actually needs to do to make it happen.” Ruonan Zheng (05 May).

  • “[T]here is only one way to make the fashion industry truly sustainable: consume less. Whereas economists and policymakers are fully fixated on growth, the panelists believe society needs to move away from consumerism and reevaluate where human happiness comes from.” Ming Chun Tang in an article on a panel discussion with Christian Smith and Kavita Parma (29 Apr).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Luxury retailers flunk the sustainability test: “In this case, what provoked me recently was an order of dress shirts I received from Brooks Brothers. First, there is a box inside the box—a quality, branded shirt box with the lid held on by a satin ribbon. Inside, the shirts are bundled in tissue that is held in place with three gold foil stickers bearing the Brooks Brothers logo. Rip that open and each shirt is wrapped in a plastic bag. Inside each bag the shirt is strapped across the chest with a band of bias tape embroidered with the logo” (02 May).

Can H&M’s sustainable clothing line make up for the damage fast fashion has already caused?H&M announced recently that it’s created a sustainable clothing line in an effort to become more eco-friendly. In the world of fast fashion, though—is that enough?” (02 May).

Riot founders Maya Talih and Tima Hamadeh on saving the planet through fashion: “More than simply an online fashion destination, online boutique store Riot was launched out of a need to put circular fashion into the limelight in a bid to encourage consumers to gear up and change the rules of the shopping game” (02 May).

#TurnAroundHM at H&M’s shareholder meeting: “[Clean Clothes Campaign] video to support our resolution that H&M shareholders will vote on at the 2019 annual meeting (7 May). We want all the profits to go into a living wage fund for the workers! H&M promised a living wage by 2018, yet not a single worker is actually being paid enough to live a decent life” (30 Apr – 1:11-minute video).

NEWS & REPORTS

Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion statement on 2019 Copenhagen Fashion Summit: “As the programme for the 2019 Copenhagen Fashion Summit has now been published, the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion issues the following public comments on the programme. In particular, the Union wishes to highlight the paradoxical or even misleading use of language in describing “sustainable fashion” activity” (05 May).

Less is more: Can sustainability and profit co-exist? “According to a report commissioned by the financial services corporation ING, entitled, ‘From Sustainability to Business Value Finance,’ the top three reasons for implementing sustainability targets in business today are driven by the desire to grow revenue (39%), reduce costs (35%), and/or protect their brand (30%). While consumers choose to buy sustainable goods primarily for “safety and health” reason, according to a report released by the China Chain Store & Franchise Association (CCFA), in August last year, “environmental protection” and “quality” reasons closely followed” (05 May).

The degree teaching fashion students how to work sustainably: “Central Saint Martins has been offering a Masters Degree in Material Futures – a course dedicated to discussing how we will live in the future with craft, science and technology – for many years. Vogue spoke to two students, past and present, to find out more” (05 May).

Why your next car seats may be vegan: “Toyota makes seat cushion material that uses glycol from renewable sugar cane rather than glycol derived from petroleum … Ford developed a seat foam from soybeans; and Faraday Future has toyed with using rock fibers and cotton from discarded garments to line its cars” (04 May).

Why your CSR Policy is not enough to tackle Modern Slavery: “The terms Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Business and Human Rights (BHR) are often used interchangeably. However, the aim and implication of these two concepts are fundamentally distinct. If you are not aware of these differences your company may be falling short in meeting statutory and/or best practice reporting requirements … Using the example of modern slavery, this short article outlines the key differences between CSR and BHR and sets out why, although most organizations have a serious commitment to CSR, they often do not address human rights risks and as a result may not be complying with new BHR reporting laws and best practice” (03 May).

Collective bargaining agreements: an effective tool for worker led action: “C&A Foundation [has] commissioned a consultant to develop a process document- key lessons on collective bargaining from Bangladesh’s apparel sector, that captures the effectiveness of CBAs as a tool for worker empowerment and a responsible supply chain resulting in a more sustainable fashion industry. We recognise the importance of strengthening the knowledge base for stakeholders in the apparel industry to follow a transparent process of negotiation and representation of workers across the world” (03 May).

GOTS New Figures show continued significant growth: “In 2018, the number of GOTS certified facilities showed an increase of 14,6% from 5,024 to 5,760 facilities. Certified facilities are now located in 64 countries around the globe. GOTS certification covers the processing of certified organic fibres along the entire supply chain from field to finished product.” (03 May).

Baroness Sugg speech at Fair Fashion in Africa event: “Baroness Sugg discusses how the fashion industry can be a force for good in women's economic empowerment” (03 May). [Ed’s note: numerous initiatives and companies cited, including Urmi Garments, Sudokkho, Marks & Spencer, Hela Clothing, Shahi, Ethical Apparel Africa, and Ethical Trade Initiative.]

The real cost of fast fashion: An essay exploring the fashion industry’s social and environmental issues: “This essay argues that Australia has a responsibility to ensure companies manufacturing their products in developing countries conduct business in a fair and sustainable way and it is the Australian Commonwealth’s role to mandate that any product sold in Australia has been produced ethically. This essay will address that fast fashion is detrimental to the health of the environment and humans, leads to the importance of regulating fairer and more sustainable working conditions and presents a case study explaining how to recognise an ethical brand” (02 May).

‘Big Closets, Small Planet’ podcast: “Do you get excited when hearing about breakthrough sustainability apparel innovations - such as fibers made from fruit waste or blockchain technology being used to track and trace the origin and content of your clothing? Do you sometimes wonder if these breakthroughs are too good to be true?” (02 May – 45:14-minute podcast).

Can leather go green? “As interest in vegan leather reaches an all-time high, the leather industry is improving its production processes and marketing itself as the sustainable alternative” (02 May).

Greenpeace is going to trial a new standard for merchandising T-shirts and other textiles: “from April 2019 Greenpeace will be trialling a new standard for start making t-shirts, bags and other merchandise” (01 May). [Ed’s note: see standard here.]

The material consequences of choosing sustainable fashion: “The textile industry - primarily the business of cloth and clothing - produces close to 100 million tonnes of fibres every year. This number is only set to grow as purchasing power in emerging markets rises” (29 Apr).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

Australia, ILO to support RMG workplace safety programme: “Australia has forged a partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to support a work safety programme in the readymade garments sector in Bangladesh. Dubbed as ‘Better Work Bangladesh’, the programme aims to improve working conditions, advance women’s economic potential and boost the competitiveness of the country’s readymade garment industry” (06 May).

Sexual Abuse at Workplace: Legal framework inadequate: “The overall legal framework for addressing sexual harassment at workplace is not equipped to effectively deal with the issue as many women still face the abuse, said women’s rights activists. There is a serious lack of proper enforcement of the existing law, they said at the launching of ActionAid Bangladesh’s three-year campaign “Women Friendly Safe Workplace”” (05 May).

Buyers more concerned about prices than factory conditions: ““The HRW report rightly identifies speed to market as a concept that reduces lead times for us,” said Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)” (05 May).

Worker well-being is still nobody’s concern: “Labour rights activists and experts blame the overall attitude of the government and lawmakers for the prevailing situation as they think that workers in Bangladesh are largely considered expendable. The fact that about 61 per cent of the lawmakers in the 11th parliament have direct and indirect investment in various labour sectors become impediment to any real change in the policy and its effective implementation” (03 May).

Rising cost to take toll on apparel: “The sustainability and competitiveness of readymade garment industry may be hampered due to rising production cost driven by wage and energy cost hikes, compliance costs and declining international market prices, a business leader said yesterday” (03 May).

“They don’t give us” - Garments workers’ rights in Bangladesh: “In the course of conducting a study amongst garments workers in Dhaka and Chittagong, we came to understand how instrumentalities related to some of the newly installed regulatory mechanisms have made workers aware of whether their factory is compliant or not—but not changed much else. Workers did not show any hope that they will get anything even if entitled by the law. “They simply don’t give” is the phrase through which workers commonly describe their dismal situation in the workplace” (03 May).

Dreadful statistics: “Will it not be a chilling story if someone quoting a research study findings tells you that in a decade's time, automation would throw 60 per cent of the RMG workers, 35 per cent of leather sector workers and substantial number of workers in tourism and furniture industries in Bangladesh out of their jobs” (03 May).

Cambodia

Nike, Adidas, and Levi Strauss concern over Cambodia labour and human rights: “On Thursday, the group – which includes Nike, Adidas, and Levi Strauss – sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen pleading with his government to listen to the concerns of the European Union regarding labour and human rights setbacks in the country. “We are concerned that the labour and human rights situation in Cambodia is posing a risk to trade preferences for Cambodia,” the letter said, adding that “many of the signatories to this letter have previously raised these concerns through multiple channels with your government” (06 May). [Ed’s note: see letter here.]

Some 2,000 workers in crashes: “Nearly two thousand factory workers were injured in almost 1,700 traffic accidents across the Kingdom last year, a report by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training’s National Social Security Fund (NSSF) revealed” (02 May).

Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s economic miracle is an environmental tragedy: “Ethiopia, a landlocked state, is doing all it can to attract foreign investors, with water and electricity almost free and rents at 10 percent of market rate, especially in the textile sector. The rural population and the environment are the biggest losers” (01 May).

India

Fire engulfs factory in Ludhiana, no casualty: “People of the areas said that they had heard screams of children in Saurav Knitwear at around 3.30am. The owner of the factory, Vikas Gupta said, “We were sleeping and suddenly we started feeling suffocated . When we woke up it was thick smoke all around”” (06 May).

Traffic awareness programmes for Bengaluru garment workers: “The traffic police on Saturday conducted awareness programmes in the premises of garment factories to educate employees on road safety. This followed a study conducted by the city traffic police that had revealed that a majority of fatal accidents occurred at three places — Nelamangala, Bannerghatta and Hosur Road — where many garment factories are situated. “The study also revealed that 30% of the road accidents involved garment factory workers,” said P. Harishekaran, Additional Commissioner of Police” (04 May).

Struggling to meet living expenses, garment workers demand wage arrears of Rs 1862 crores ($269.16 million): “Supplying clothing to some of the major global brands, many garment factories have been paying a pittance to their workers. On May Day, Bengaluru’s garment factory workers, 90 percent of whom are women, demanded that companies pay them arrears as per the state government’s draft notification on wage hike last year” (02 May).

Indonesia

Home-based workers: One pay check for entire family: “Irham Saifuddin, program officer at the Indonesia Office of the International Labor Organization (ILO), explained that in Indonesia, the phenomenon of home-based work is widespread and the number of homeworkers likely to rise. “With labor market flexibility and the global supply chains, there will be more homeworkers in the future. Financially it’s more effective for companies as they have no direct responsibilities to the workers and the return from their investment is higher,” said Irham” (03 May).

Mexico

Mexican Senate passes labor bill, key to approving new NAFTA: “Mexico’s Senate approved a bill to strengthen the rights of trade unions on Monday, one of the final steps toward enacting a law that Democratic U.S. lawmakers have insisted must pass before they can proceed to a vote on the revamped North American trade pact. (30 Apr).

Uzbekistan

Is it time to end the boycott on Uzbek cotton? “Two prominent human rights activists from Uzbekistan who monitor the country’s cotton sector recently traveled to Washington to lobby and meet with various U.S. officials,  agencies and international organizations” (06 May – 19:27-minute video).

Is progress enough? Forced labor risk persists in cotton supply chains: “The government of Uzbekistan wants the boycott against its cotton industry to be over. But it might be hard to convince international brands to begin sourcing from the country as forced labor was still prevalent in the most recent harvest, Eric Gottwald, the deputy director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said Monday during a panel at the National Press Club in Washington” (29 Apr).

MANUFACTURERS

Louhajang River, Bangladesh: Palette of pollution: “Before 1995, when Alauddin Textile Mills was built on the bank of the river, the water was fresh and used for bathing, washing, and irrigating farms. Ever since then, the factory has been continuously releasing untreated waste into it. Now the water is unfit for any use, say local villagers” (05 May).

DyStar intensifies interaction with brands: “DyStar, a leading dyestuff and solution provider, for the first time will use the Performance Days trade fair in Munich, which takes place next week, as a platform to showcase its innovative new products and processes, partly developed in collaboration with selected partners” (03 May).

Applied DNA’s molecular tagging technology to ensure authenticity of Egyptian cotton: “Applied DNA Sciences Inc. … announced today it received an order for the implementation of its SigNature T cotton traceability system in Egypt to indelibly mark two varietals of high-value Egyptian cotton” (02 May).

Peruvian manufacturing in focus: Manufacturers in Arequipa produce garments for the likes of Prada, Mara Hoffman and Kate Spade (02 May).

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)

BSR: HERproject Associate (Hong Kong)

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 (London)

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)

* Gant: Sustainability Internship (Stockholm)

G-Star RAW: Intern GSRD Foundation (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)

W.L. Gore & Associates: APAC Sustainability Communication Leader - Fabrics Division (Hong Kong)

Gucci: Corporate Social Responsibility Internship (Scandicci)

Gymshark: Sustainability Manager (Solihull)

H&M: Chemical Compliance Specialist (Stockholm)

Hop Lun: Sustainability Manager (Hong Kong)

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

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 Jeans Group: Social Compliance Specialist (New York)

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

Primark: Product Compliance Coordinator (Dublin)

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

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

REI: Senior Administrative Assistant, Brand Stewardship & Impact (Kent, WA)

Ross Stores: Director, Sustainability (Hacienda, CA)

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)

* Textile Exchange: Standards Coordinator

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

Under Armour: Environmental Sustainability Analyst (Baltimore, MD)

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

* Vestiaire Collective: Chief Sustainability Officer (Paris)

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

* Wearable Collections: drivers, route helpers and market coordinators (New York)

Whistles: CSR and Sustainability Assistant (London)

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

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: Driving impact through integrity and preferred fiber & materials.

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 Winterseitler, 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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