THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Canada Goose, Dune, John Lewis, Kering, Matalan, Pentland Brands, Quiz, Schuh, Skechers, and White Stuff (predicting what’s ahead for 2019, including – sometimes – sustainability), Mammut (signing onto the Sustainable Apparel Coalition), Saks Fifth Avenue (targeted by animal rights activists in San Francisco as new law banning fur sales comes into effect), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • ISPCA calls on Irish government to immediately ban ‘cruel’ practice of fur farming

  • Negative analysis of social compliance audits in garment factories

  • Can the fashion industry ever really be sustainable?

  • NUS study finds that severe air pollution affects the productivity of workers (with a focus on textile mills in China)

  • Can a circular fashion system save us all?

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: more worker protests over wages, with BGMEA reportedly set to take hard line

  • Cambodia: W&D factory fires more than 1,000 workers; 50 workers injured in truck crash; workers from Prestige take case to Labour Ministry

  • Honduras: 38 percent salary increase over five years for maquila workers

  • India: national strike

Manufacturers in this issue include: Hyosung and Lenzing (new sustainable fabric collection), Modern Meadow (scaling up), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “No one will give any more than that mentioned in the wage board. We will deal with this unrest strongly. We can’t let the workers demonstrate and win.” Mohammad Hatem, vice president of the Bangladesh Exporters’ Association and owner of MB Knit Fashions, on worker unrest over wages in Bangladesh (07 Jan).

  • “The [social compliance audit] process is neither transparent nor accountable in the enforcement of the code of conduct.” Archana Prasad, Department of Sociology, Kamala Nehru College, New Delhi (05 Jan).

  • “[T]he complexity of human behavior and the fundamental nature of fashion implies that ethical consumption may not be an attainable goal.” Mark Sumner, lecturer in Sustainablity, Fashion and Retail at the University of Leeds (04 Jan).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Mammut joins SAC and implements Higg Index: Mammut has announced is has joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and integrated the Higg Index to its sustainability targets (07 Jan).

Success is sustainable for designer turning waste into fashion statement: “When the lights go up at Christopher Raeburn’s 10th anniversary show at London fashion week men’s on Sunday, the world can expect to be presented not just with a clothing collection but – as the designer puts it – “a manifesto for change”” (05 Jan).

Fashion industry leaders’ predictions for 2019: “With Brexit looming, consumer confidence dwindling and retailers seeking new ways to offer the best experience for shoppers, Drapers speaks to fashion leaders across the industry to see what they predict for the year ahead” (03 Jan). [Ed’s note: brands cited include Canada Goose, Dune, John Lewis, Kering, Matalan, Pentland Brands, Quiz, Schuh, Skechers, and White Stuff. Some, but not all, see sustainability as a key element of the fashion business in 2019.]

Activists push for enforcement of new fur sales ban: “Animal rights activists rallied outside Saks Fifth Avenue near Union Square on Tuesday, demanding that the luxury department store prove it is in compliance with a new city law banning the sale of fur clothing” (03 Jan).

8 fashion entrepreneurs shortlisted for sustainability award in India: “Eight fashion entrepreneurs have been shortlisted for a first-of-its-kind sustainability award in fashion … The finalists include Pozruh by Aiman Sabri, Bareek by Aman Singh, IRO IRO by Bhaavya Goenka, I Was A Sari by Poornima Pande & Stefano Funari, Lifaffa by Kanika Ahuja, Saltpetre by Pooja Monga, Miesu by Seerat Virdi and Doodlage by Kriti Tula” (03 Jan).

NEWS & REPORTS 

ISPCA calls on Irish government to immediately ban ‘cruel’ practice of fur farming: “The ISPCA has called on the Irish Government to introduce an immediate ban on the ‘cruel’ and ‘inhumane’ practice of fur farming in Ireland. It follows the introduction of a ban in Serbia on January 1 and a recent Veterinary Ireland report that criticised the lack of welfare standards for animals farmed for fur” (05 Jan).

Social compliance audits in garment factories: “The violent clashes between workers and employers in India during the recent decade are testimony to a new terrain of labour struggle unleashed by the neo-liberal economic system. These clashes speak of the demise of the workers’ freedom of association and consequent waning of collective bargaining in the context of the phenomenal growth of private regulation of labour. Various private voluntary regulations introduced in the name of corporate social responsibility, potentially to protect workers from capitalist exploitation, have actually yielded contrary outcomes. By examining the example of social compliance audits, this paper brings out the trade-off between capital and labour in the global supply chains, and the corroborating demise of workers’ rights, which CSR initiatives do not mitigate” (05 Jan).

Can the fashion industry ever really be sustainable? “The fashion industry has some truly major sustainability problems in its midst. By 2030, it is predicted that the industry’s water consumption will grow by 50 percent to 118 billion cubic meters (or 31.17 trillion gallons), its carbon footprint will increase to 2,791 million tons and the amount of waste it creates will hit 148 million tons” (04 Jan).

NUS study finds that severe air pollution affects the productivity of workers: “Prolonged exposure to pollutant particles was shown to reduce the output of workers in China. Economists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have completed an extensive study which reveals that exposure to air pollution over several weeks is not just unhealthy, it can also reduce employee productivity … The factories were textile mills, and workers were paid according to each piece of fabric they made. This meant that daily records of productivity for specific workers on particular shifts could be examined. Hence, the researchers compared how many pieces each worker produced each day to measures of the concentration of particulate matter that the worker was exposed to over time” (03 Jan). [Ed’s note: an academic study, the results of which are available in full here, including full data set.]

Can a circular fashion system save us all? “Everybody’s talking about the circular fashion system. But what is it, and can it work?” (03 Jan).

The top trends for womenswear in 2019 according to Pinterest: [Ed’s note: ten trends, of which one – recycled materials – could be termed sustainable.] (03 Jan).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

Bangladesh apparel makers will deal labour unrest ‘hard-handedly’: “Bangladesh’s apparel manufacturers have decided to handle the prevailing labour unrest “hard-handedly” in purview of a non-accepting and “discriminatory” wage board. According what Bangladesh Apparel News has gathered after talking to high officials within Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Exporters Association (BEA) to ascertain that they have decided to handle things strongly” (07 Jan).

Apparel workers block road, demand wage hike: “Thousands of apparel workers from factories at Uttara, Abdullahpur, Azampur and the adjacent areas blockaded the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway from Airport to Abdullahpur in the capital from Sunday morning to press the demand of wage hike.” (07 Jan). [Ed’s note: numerous stories on this; see here, here, here, and here. Protests occurred on Sunday 6 Jan and again on Monday 7 Jan, resulting in police firing rubber bullets and tear gas, and injuries.]

BGMEA says no benefits to workers beyond wage order: “Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association has instructed its members not to provide any benefits to the workers beyond the new wage structure set by the government for the garment workers” (06 Jan).

As international factory safety group ordered to leave Bangladesh, garment workers fear return to deadly work conditions: “In an interview via email, Global Voices discussed the issue with labor activist Kalpona Akter, who is the founder and executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, a labor rights group” (05 Jan).

Cambodia

Cambodian garment factories improve conditions but rights violations continue: “A recent survey by UN initiative Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) shows that conditions in the country’s garment factories are improving. But the sheer number of rights violations that still occur make it clear that garment companies need to build new mechanisms for accountability and transparency” (07 Jan).

Factory sacks striking garment workers: “W&D factory in Phnom Penh has fired more than 1,000 garment workers who were on strike to demand unpaid benefits. Last week, the company, with the backing of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, issued an ultimatum to the workers saying that if they did not return to work within 48 hours, they would be fired” (07 Jan).

Protest dead tribute broken up: “Sen Sok district police in Phnom Penh on Thursday broke up a memorial ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of a crackdown on a protest [marking the day of the crackdown on a protest by Yakjin garment workers outside the factory] on the capital’s Veng Sreng Boulevard in 2014 that ended in violence” (04 Jan).

Fifty garment workers injured in truck crash: “Fifty garment workers were injured in a traffic accident yesterday in Svay Rieng province’s Svay Teap district. Police said the driver of a truck carrying the workers crashed into the back of a gasoline truck … there were 815 traffic accidents involving garment workers in the first six months of 2018, a 28 percent decrease when compared to the same period in 2017” (04 Jan).

Kandal garment factory workers on strike to demand healthcare: “Hundreds of garment workers from a Prestige factory in Kandal province yesterday descended upon the Labour Ministry in Phnom Penh to demand better working conditions. Last week, the workers went on strike and demanded that Prestige agree to provide social security cards, allow emergency leave days and pay their employees equally” (04 Jan).

Honduras

President Hernández announces 38 percent salary increase over five years for maquila workers: “In December, President Juan Orlando Hernandez announced an agreement on the new minimum wage for maquila workers over the next five years, which will total 38.05 percent ... In 2019, the salary increase will be 8 per cent; 7.5 per cent for 2020; 7.5 per cent for 2021, 7.5 per cent for 2022 and eight per cent for 2023” (13 Dec – in Spanish).

India

#WorkersStrikeBack: The longstanding struggle of garment and textile workers in Karnataka: “The workers will still go ahead with the strike on January 8 and 9 even though the managements are granting them a leave on both the days” (07 Jan).

MANUFACTURERS

Zuckerberg-backed company develops vegan-friendly leather: “A US company backed by Mark Zuckerberg and Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-Shing, is developing lab-grown cow skin in a bid to disrupt the $100bn global leather industry. Andras Forgacs, founder and chief executive of the US-based company, Modern Meadow, said the new technology would allow real leather to be produced at scale in a factory without having to raise or slaughter livestock” (05 Jan).

In Indonesia, cleaning up the Citarum, ‘the world’s dirtiest river’, is now a military operation: “President launched a seven-year clean up of the Citarum River, but critics believe the move more political than ecological. Activists say that by supplying jobs and occasionally bribes, polluting textile industry unlikely to be tamed” (05 Jan).

Lenzing and Hyosung launch new sustainable fabric collection: “Textile fibre specialists Hyosung and Lenzing have embarked on a new collaboration to launch a sustainable fabric collection for the Active Sportswear and Intimate Apparel markets. The new collection will be launched at the upcoming ISPO exhibition in Munich in February” (03 Jan).

How a seaweed-eating microbe could help fight plastic pollution: “Commercially available bioplastics are made of a fully degradable polymer called polyhydroxyalkanoate that is naturally produced by bacteria or other microorganisms by fermenting sugar or fats … The team [from Tel Aviv University] used seaweed as a feedstock instead. They fed seven different species of seaweed to the microbe. The microbes produced the most PHA when fed the Ulva lactuca, also known as sea lettuce” (03 Jan).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

15 – 17 January, Berlin: Neonyt Fashionsustain: The Neonyt Trade Show is the world’s biggest exhibition for sustainable fashion.

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 Honey Kochphon Onshawee, 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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