THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Asos (recycled plastic for underwear), Badger Sportswear (alleged forced labour in China), H&M (wrestling with living wage), Maggie Marilyn (using excess fabric), Norden (new vegan brand in Canada), Schijvens (establishes living wage in Turkey), Veja and Kering (taking sustainability seriously), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • New face of capitalism sees business put planet before profit

  • Report: Fashion’s future entails AI, inclusivity and environmentalism

  • Labour abuses a ‘risk worth taking’ for fashion firms, UK lawmakers say

  • Will 2019 be the year fashion finally cleans up its act?

  • Three key findings from the Environmental Audit Committee

  • Sustainable cotton is turning Britain’s clothes green

  • Consumers are ready for full sustainability, brands aren’t

  • The biggest fake news in fashion

  • Modern slavery bill targets Canadian imports of goods made by slaves

  • Fashion or faux pas: the conversation about fur became far more nuanced in 2018

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: more protests shut factories; Accord hands over 80 more factories; Accord fate postponed to Jan 21

  • Cambodia: footwear workers stage protest over low severance payments

  • Hungary: Hungarians protest draconian ‘slave law’ as Orban cracks down on dissent

  • Mexico: Minimum wage to go up 16% to 103 pesos and will double in northern border region

  • Myanmar: Myanmar appeals to the EU to reconsider GSP withdrawal

  • Turkey: How Schijvens established a living wage in Turkey

Manufacturers in this issue include: Ananas Anam (vegan alternative to leather), Pacific Eurotex (executives jailed over money laundering), Spinnova (completion of new pilot line), Stahl (sustainability seminars in Indian leather supply chain), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “It’s clear that modern slavery is happening in plain sight and potentially in garment factories in the UK.” MP Mary Creagh, chair of the U.K. parliaments environmental audit committee, after a hearing about sustainability in fashion (18 Dec).

  • “I’ve spoken with a number of brands over the years who are doing really good work on sustainability behind the scenes but who do not talk about it publicly for the fear of being judged for the things they haven’t got to yet.” Timo Rissanen, associate dean at Parsons School of Design (18 Dec).

  • “I’m increasingly becoming convinced that certification and audit schemes are the greatest threat to [business and human rights] progress.” Dr Tara Van Ho, University of Essex (18 Dec).

  • “Looking at many of the company names behind the campaign, they don’t immediately strike me as companies known for their MacGyverism.” Anne-Sofie Andersson, Executive Director, ChemSec, on the so-called Innovation Principle and what it might mean for toxic chemicals (18 Dec).

  • “Our salary does not allow us to save money – it’s barely enough to live.” Yim Srey Neang, factory worker, Cambodia (18 Dec).

  • “Fashion companies can save a lot of money and increase their profit margins by making faux fur coats and selling them at a similar price to real fur coats.” Alden Wicker on faux versus real fur (17 Dec).

  • “We have created a glossary of the circular economy for the denim industry, because no one understands it. There are so many different certifications, and so many arguments between some of them, that labels and retailers are confused.” Pascaline Wilhelm, creative director of Première Vision trade shows (17 Dec).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Ones to Watch: Maggie Marilyn: “Working with suppliers to turn excess Maggie Marilyn fabric and unsold garments back into new fabric is one of the company's initiatives” (20 Dec).

US probes claims that American brand Badger Sportswear sells clothes made by ‘forced labour’ in China's Muslim internment camps: “The workers are allegedly Chinese Muslims in a detention centre in Xinjiang. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday it is reviewing the reports. Badger [Sportswear] said it had suspended business with the supplier in western China. Around one million people are detained in such camps, according to UN” (19 Dec).

Why these fashion companies are taking sustainability seriously: “The enduring appeal of fashion is that it can be whatever consumers want it to be—a means of self-expression, a celebration of originality and fine craftsmanship, or a temporary pleasure. But today, there’s no escaping that it comes with the burden of knowing it’s among the world’s most polluting and wasteful industries” (19 Dec). [Ed’s note: brands noted are Veja and Kering.]

Stitched up? Fashion workers urge H&M to deliver living wage: “In 2013, H&M pledged to overhaul its supply chain - seven months after poor conditions in the textile industry grabbed global attention when Rana Plaza, a seven-story commercial building in Bangladesh, collapsed - killing 1,130-odd people. Consumers and campaigners demanded action, but five years on the Swedish retailer - which reported a profit after tax of about $1.8 billion for 2017 - is still wrestling with how to ensure a greater share goes to the workers making its clothes” (18 Dec).

Meet Canada’s new eco-friendly outerwear player: Norden: “New labels launching amid such fierce competition would need to have a special something – and that’s where Norden comes in, a new vegan outerwear line made out of recycled plastic that has the environment top of mind” (17 Dec).

US sportswear traced to factory in China’s internment camps: “Chinese men and women locked in a mass detention camp where authorities are “re-educating” ethnic minorities are sewing clothes that have been imported all year by a U.S. sportswear company” (17 Dec). [Ed’s note: the company in question is Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina, and the Chinese supplier is Hetian Taida Apparel.]

Did ‘SLAVE LABOR’ make your designer bag? New report finds luxury brands like Prada, Fendi and Dior rank among the worst retailers for protecting workers from exploitation: “KnowTheChain is a nonprofit that grades companies based on the supply chain they use to make their products. Luxury brands like Prada, Fendi, and Christian Dior received low marks for relying on factory laborers that are vulnerable to exploitation Apparel brands like Adidas, Lululemon, and Gap received high grades for making an effort to ensure fair labor practices” (16 Dec).

ASOS launches recycled underwear range made of plastic bottles and old fishing nets: “The bras and briefs feature the usual elastane and polyester fabric, but the majority is made from recycled polyamide, a material that reuses waste such as plastic bottles, old fishing nets and carpets” (16 Dec).

NEWS & REPORTS 

New face of capitalism sees business put planet before profit: “In the United States, nearly half of all shoppers said they would change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental footprint, according to a survey this month by data research group Nielsen” (19 Dec).

Report: Fashion’s future entails AI, inclusivity and environmentalism: “While Muji gets into transportation with a driverless shuttle bus and scientists are engineering plastic-eating enzymes, fashion brands are exploring new avenues to appeal to consumers on a wider scale” (19 Dec). [Ed’s note: see also here. The report, Fjord Trends 2019, can be seen here.]

Labour abuses a ‘risk worth taking’ for fashion firms, UK lawmakers say: “Fashion workers in Britain are being cheated of fair wages as lack of tough action make abuses “a risk worth taking” for factory owners, lawmakers said on Tuesday. Ministers were accused of failing to act following reports of some workers being paid as little as 3.50 pounds ($4.43) per hour, less than half the minimum wage” (18 Dec).

Will 2019 be the year fashion finally cleans up its act? “Sustainability has been an industry buzzword for years, but fashion still has a long way to go” (18 Dec).

Three key findings from the Environmental Audit Committee: “1. The current system is very new; we can still remember a time when it was different; 2. There is currently no standardised framework regarding sustainable practices; 3. Supply chains can be very difficult to track” (18 Dec).

Sustainable cotton is turning Britain’s clothes green: “Changes in the fibre composition of clothing sold in the UK by retailer and brand signatories to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 (SCAP 2020), and the purchasing of more sustainably-produced fibres (notably from the Better Cotton Initiative), are two of the main reasons for the improved footprint of UK clothing, WRAP’s latest clothing report concludes” (18 Dec). [Ed’s note: see full report here.]

Consumers are ready for full sustainability, brands aren’t: “Sustainability advancements are generally welcomed by shoppers, so why aren’t more companies changing to capitalize?” (18 Dec).

The biggest fake news in fashion: How many times have you heard the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world? It’s not true and there is no credible, verifiable source that will accept responsibility for the whole “second biggest” idea. “Cement and steel have two of the largest industrial carbon footprints” (18 Dec).

Influence peddler: The sustainability bunch: “A burgeoning pack of stylish women — whether their following is mega or micro — are peddling their influence into sustainability. Here are five notable ones from across the globe using their platforms to promote ethical fashion brands, spread eco-conscious messages and encourage users to create a positive impact on the planet” (18 Dec).

Modern slavery bill targets Canadian imports of goods made by slaves: “A proposed federal bill is hoping to crack down on Canadian companies that import products tainted by child and forced labour. The Modern Slavery Bill, tabled in the House of Commons Thursday by Liberal MP John McKay, would require companies to publicly release a report every year, detailing what they've done to ensure their supply chains are transparent and free of goods and materials fully or partially produced by children and forced labourers” (17 Dec).

The rise and rise of the ethical consumer: UK ethical markets worth over £83bn: “Last year, the UK spent over £83bn on ethical goods with the continued growth driven by increased environmental concern, showing that more consumers than ever are looking for ways to shop that help people and planet … the number of people opting for a vegetarian diet has risen 52% and the number of vegans by 153%. And last year, the market for second-hand clothes grew 22.5%, amidst a growing number of reports about the serious climate impacts of fast fashion” (17 Dec). [Ed’s note: for full report on which this story is based, see here.]

Fashion or faux pas: the conversation about fur became far more nuanced in 2018: “Beginning in 2017 (en masse) and continuing full steam in 2018, many fashion brands and retailers announced one by one that they would stop using animal fur in their collections and in the case of retailers, offering up fur products for sale” (17 Dec).

Denim sourcing increasingly focused on environmental issues: “At the latest edition of the Denim Première Vision show, held in London on December 5-6, the event’s Smart section, dedicated to eco-responsible initiatives, was a big success” (17 Dec).

Was 2018 the year of the influential sustainable consumer? “Nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. And these consumers are putting their dollars where their values are, spending $128.5 billion on sustainable fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) products this year*. Since 2014, these influential shoppers have grown sustainable product sales by nearly 20%, with a compound average growth rate (CAGR) that’s four times larger than conventional products (3.5% vs -1.0%** comparatively). By 2021, we expect these sustainably minded shoppers to spend up to $150 billion on sustainable FMCG goods an increase of $14 billion - $22 billion” (17 Dec).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh 

Fresh unrest hits Bangladesh’s apparel industry, 55 units shut: “A fresh swathe of unrest has taken over Bangladesh’s apparel industry following a week’s relapse – signalling that the unrest over the latest wage hike is likely to linger. At least 15 manufacturing units were shut across Hemayetpur, Savar, in purview of workers’ protests. Additional police were deployed in the area throughout December 20, 2018” (20 Dec).

Accord hands over 80 more factories: “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh on Tuesday handed over the safety activities of 80 more readymade garment factories to the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments. With the 80, the total number of RMG factories which have been transferred to the DIFE from Accord reached 100” (19 Dec).

It was long overdue: “Improving workers’ health in the biggest sector of the economy, i.e. readymade garments (RMG) has been on the cards for some time now. This has been made possible under a project that has been piloted by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation that has been giving technical support to cover cost of health care services for garment workers and create awareness about the need for health insurance. According to a report published in this paper on December 17, the team leader of the project ‘Working With Women-II’ stated, “In 2015-16, we piloted the Health Insurance Plus in three factories and after the initial responses, we are now scaling it up for adoption across the garment sector”” (18 Dec).

SC adjourns Accord hearing till Jan 21: “The Supreme Court today adjourned the hearing on a leave-to-appeal petition filed by a European agency for factory inspection and remediation, till January 21” (18 Dec).

UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights sends letter to Government in support of Accord: “[The UN] Working Group is concerned that the Accord may lose its licence to continue to operate in Bangladesh before being able to complete ongoing remediation work, with negative impact on the oversight of health and safety of workers of the factories covered by the initiative still in need of substantial safety upgrades. For example, we understand that a significant number of those factories still do not have fire alarm systems in place” (17 Dec).

Cambodia

Cambodian footwear workers stage protest over low severance payments: “More than 1,000 Cambodian workers from a footwear factory in the capital Phnom Penh staged a protest on Friday after they failed to reach an agreement with management over the amount of severance pay they will receive for refusing to relocate to a new facility, those involved in the matter said” (14 Dec).

Unjust sentencing of Cambodian union leaders must be quashed: “Six prominent trade union leaders in Cambodia have been given suspended jail sentences following a trial riddled with irregularities and lacking in evidence. IndustriALL Global Union demands that the sentencing be immediately overturned” (14 Dec).

Hungary

Hungarians protest draconian ‘slave law’ as Orban cracks down on dissent: “Hungary is seeing its largest protests in years, triggered by an employee-hostile law. But for the protesters, it's about a lot more. Meanwhile, the government, led by strongman PM Viktor Orban, smells a conspiracy” (17 Dec).

Mexico

Minimum wage to go up 16% to 103 pesos and will double in northern border region: “The daily minimum wage will increase by 16% on January 1 to 102.68 pesos (US $5.10), the federal labor secretary announced today. Luisa María Alcalde also announced an even bigger hike in the northern border area, where a free zone with lower taxes will be implemented at the start of next year. There, the minimum wage will double from its current level to 176.72 pesos (US $8.80) per day” (17 Dec).

Myanmar

Myanmar appeals to the EU to reconsider GSP withdrawal: “Myanmar appealed to the European Union (EU) not to withdraw the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) rights granted to garment and fishery industries in Myanmar as tens and thousands of workers may lose their jobs, sources said” (18 Dec).

Turkey

How Schijvens established a living wage in Turkey: “Dutch workwear brand Schijvens managed to establish a living wage at their supplier in Turkey. They learned some valuable lessons during the process, including figuring out the needs of local workers and the importance of raising all salaries (not just the lowest ones) to maintain wage” (20 Dec – 2:34-minute video).

MANUFACTURERS

‘Pineapple leather’ offers vegan fashion alternative: “Carmen Hijosa has created Piñatex, a textile woven from the long fibres in the fruit's discarded leaves that she hopes will give the fashion industry a sustainable alternative to leather … Hijosa, who founded the company Ananas Anam to market Piñatex, works with pineapple farmers in the Philippines who harvest and strip the fibres, which are finished into Piñatex in Spain” (19 Dec).

Fashion forward: fabrics of the future: “Fashion’s future is getting brighter. And as consumers become even more conscious about the clothing they wear, brands, designers and engineers alike are responding by creating new and emerging technologies that can meet — or exceed — shoppers’ greater expectations. Here, WWD lists the top 10 innovations across fabrics such as denim, nylon, silk and synthetics, all designed with a greener future in mind” (19 Dec). [Ed’s note: the ten are: Evrnu, Zoa, PrimaLoft Bio, Econyl, Polylana, Microsilk, Mylo, Certain T, Piñatex, and ChroMorphous.]

Spinnova’s pilot factory line successfully completed: “The sustainable fibre company Spinnova has successfully completed building its new pilot factory line in Jyväskylä, Finland. The pilot is an important step on Spinnova’s journey towards large volume commercial production of the world’s most sustainable fibre in the future” (19 Dec).

MacGyver wouldn’t approve of the so-called Innovation Principle: “At a glance – the Innovation Principle looks great. I mean, who doesn’t like innovation? It’s only when you look a bit closer at it – just like Corporate Europe Observatory have done – that the cracks start to appear. Long story short: Behind the campaign pushing to introduce the Innovation Principle is a Brussels based lobby group called ERF which was funded by the likes of Chevron, BASF, Philip Morris, Bayer to name a few – basically companies whose product portfolios are often targeted by environmental legislation” (18 Dec).

L.A. textiles executives sentenced to prison for laundering Mexican cartel drug money: “The owners of Pacific Eurotex Corp., a textile company in Los Angeles, were sentenced to federal prison after they pleaded guilty last year to federal money-laundering and tax-evasion charges” (18 Dec).

Stahl continues sustainability seminars to contribute to transparency in leather supply chain in India: “Stahl resumed its commitment to putting transparency into action with sustainability seminars in India. Michael Costello, Director Sustainability at Stahl, led the leather seminars in Chennai, Kanpur, Kolkata and Ranipet. With these seminars Stahl aims to familiarize local professionals with its sustainability philosophy for the industry and related sustainable solutions” (17 Dec).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

21 – 23 January, New York City: Texworld USA: The winter show will focus on sustainability.

22 – 24 January, Medellin, Columbia: Colombiatex 2019: includes highlighting the best practices of 25 companies that are committed to this subject with innovation, social and environmental responsibility.

24 January, London: 8th Future Fabrics Expo: “Source from 5000+ fabrics, yarns, leathers, trims with a reduced environmental impact from over 150 mills and suppliers.”

29 January – 07 February, Various locations in India/Pakistan: 1 Day Leather Processing Course: “Do you source from India or Pakistan? Get your supply chain trained in leather processing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 June, Barcelona: Plante 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.”

(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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