THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Amazon UK, Asos, Boohoo, M&S, Missguided, JD Sports, Sports Direct, TK Maxx (in a new report from the UK Parliament), G-Star Raw (talking sustainability with Arizona Muse), H&M, KappAhl, Lindex and MQ (subjects of a new report by Fair Action in Sweden), J. Crew (fair trade denim), Off-White (rated by ethical shopping app Good On You), reDEW8 (zero cotton jeans), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Broke in Bangladesh: Nordic banks and living wages in the garment sector

  • Pakistan certifies first organic cotton bale

  • Bangladesh’s garment factories must never become death traps again

  • Numerous stories on the UK’s Interim Report on the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry: Fifteenth Report of Session 2017–19

  • A minimum wage is pointless if we don’t enforce it

  • Know everyone in your supply chain? Time to get compliant

  • Paris outlines plans to become the sustainable capital of fashion by 2024

  • Research into outdoor and protective clothing seeks to shake off fluorochemicals

  • Copenhagen Fashion Week set for greener-than-ever edition under new CEO

  • A vision for green growth for the Bangladesh RMG sector (four articles)

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: thousands fired over wage protests; tannery and leather products company boss arrested for laundering over $100 million; workers still not receiving legal wages; protests blocking entrance to Chattogram Export Processing Zone

  • Myanmar: SMART Myanmar and AYA bank sign MOU on green finance

  • Nigeria: trade unions win minimum wage increase

  • Pakistan: Mini-budget termed ‘anti-worker’

  • Sri Lanka: UK politician says Sri Lanka must adhere to GSP+ standard

Manufacturers in this issue include: AMSilk (spider silk is finally appearing in products), Applied DNA Sciences (enters Asian supply chain), Far Eastern New Century (in recycling breakthrough), Polartec (commits to 100% recycled materials), PrimaLoft (reveals early adopters of fully recycled, sustainable fiber), Unifi (names winners of Champions of Sustainability awards), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “The return of Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status is a tacit approval of Sri Lanka’s poor labour standards and systematic human rights abuses.” Jude Kirton-Darling, a member of the UK Parliament’s International Trade Committee (28 Jan).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Banks fail H&M’s underpaid seamstresses: “H&M has not achieved its goal that apparel factory workers should have living wages by no later than 2018. Among the clothing giant’s largest shareholder are several major Swedish banks, with holdings of more than SEK 13 billion. But the banks have not used their influence to get H&M to keep its promise of living wages, says a new review from Fair Action and Fair Finance Guide” (31 Jan – in Swedish). [Ed’s note: the full report – Broke in Bangladesh: Nordic banks and living wages in the garment sector – can be found here (in English). The report also focuses on KappAhl, Lindex and MQ.]

Arizona Muse talks sustainability with G-Star Raw and Tiziano Guardini: “At a seminar at the 8th Future Fabrics Expo, moderated by Arizona Muse, G-Star Raw’s denim and sustainability expert Adriana Galijasevic sat down to talk all things sustainable with designer Tiziano Guardini” (31 Jan).

J. Crew to introduce fair trade certified denim collection: “J. Crew Group will expand its sustainability efforts by launching its first Fair Trade Certified collection today for its J. Crew and Madewell brands. The initial product will be an assortment of more than 30 styles of denim jeans for men and women that were made in a newly certified factory [Saitex] in Vietnam” (29 Jan).

How ethical is Off-White? Rating by ethical fashion app Good On You: “Overall Rating: Not Good Enough 2/5” (28 Jan).

reDEW8 Introduces New Zero Cotton Jeans for 2019: “Sustainable denim brand closing the loop with new jeans using 100-percent renewable fibers at the 2019 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show” (28 Jan).

NEWS & REPORTS 

Broke in Bangladesh: Nordic banks and living wages in the garment sector: “This report outlines the investments of Danske Bank, DNB, Handelsbanken, KLP, Länsförsäkringar, Nordea, SEB, Skandia, Storebrand and Swedbank as well as four savings banks (Sparebank 1 Nord-Norge / SMN / SR / Östlandet) in the Nordic fashion brands H&M, KappAhl, Lindex and MQ. In total, the banks hold shares in H&M to a value of over € 1,4 billion1. As large owners they have a unique opportunity to influence the company’s goals and strategies concerning living wages” (31 Jan).

Pakistan certifies first organic cotton bale: “Balochistan on Wednesday marked the certification of Pakistan’s first organic cotton bale at a ceremony held at Kot Sabzal” (31 Jan).

Bangladesh’s garment factories must never become death traps again: [Ed’s note: by Aruna Kashyap, senior counsel in the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch.] “In the coming weeks, Bangladesh may make the mistake of crippling an initiative that has achieved dramatic improvements in fire and building safety in the years since Rana Plaza” (31 Jan).

House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) Interim Report on the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry: numerous stories on this – see examples as follows:

  • Interim Report on the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry: Fifteenth Report of Session 2017–19: “As part of our inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry, we heard evidence outlining the urgent need for the fashion industry to address its labour market and environmental sustainability issues. In autumn 2018 we wrote to sixteen leading UK fashion retailers to ask what steps they are taking to reduce the environmental and social impact of the clothes and shoes they sell” (29 Jan).

  • UK fashion retailers failing to commit to reduce environmental impact: “In autumn 2018 the Environmental Audit Committee wrote to sixteen leading UK fashion retailers, among them M&S, ASOS and Boohoo, asking what they are doing to reduce the environmental and social impact of the clothes and shoes they sell” (31 Jan).

  • Six UK fashion retailers fail to cotton on to sustainability: “Major UK fashion retailers are failing to promote environmental sustainability or to protect their workers, a parliamentary committee has said. The six companies, which include Amazon UK, JD Sports, Sports Direct and TK Maxx, have not taken any action to reduce their carbon, water and waste footprint” (31 Jan).

  • MPs say fast fashion brands inaction on ethics is shocking: “Fashion retailers JD Sports, Sports Direct and Boohoo, are "failing to commit" to reducing their environmental and social impact, MPs say. Amazon, TK Maxx and Missguided were also described by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) as being among the "least engaged" in sustainable fashion and labour market initiatives. (31 Jan).

  • Time to pull the plug on poor business practice in fashion: “ETI is pleased that all the companies identified by the EAC as “most engaged” in reducing poor environmental and social impacts are ETI members. This shows the importance of multi-stakeholder action to address systemic issues. In our evidence to the EAC report, ETI said that while we recognise there are challenges, we expect our members to actively engage with the core principles of ethical trade. We also expect members to show continuous improvement in their supply chain practices” (31 Jan).

  • Fashion Revolution Statement on House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Interim Report on the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry: “Fashion Revolution welcomes the UK Environmental Audit Committee’s findings of their inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry. We too want to see a thriving fashion industry in the UK that employs people, inspires creativity and contributes to sustainable livelihoods in the UK and around the world. We agree with the Environmental Audit Committee’s conclusion that the global fashion industry is exploitative and environmentally damaging and that brands and retailers have an obligation to address the fundamental business model” (01 Feb).

A minimum wage is pointless if we don’t enforce it: “There is no doubt the rising minimum wage has boosted pay for millions. Most employers, after all, do what they are told. But consider Leicester as a window into the policy’s patchiness. More than a thousand factories crammed into subdivided old buildings are supplying the UK’s booming online “fast fashion” retailers. I found in an investigation last year that the going rate of pay in many such places is about £4.25 an hour, far below the legal minimum for over-25s of £7.83. The illegality in the sector is so brazen that workers have concluded that no one is serious about their rights. “The government knows what’s happening in Leicester,” one worker said bleakly. “And that’s it. They don’t do anything.” David Metcalf, the government’s Director of Labour Market Enforcement, concurred in a report last year that lack of effective enforcement in Leicester had created a “perceived culture of impunity”” (30 Jan).

Know everyone in your supply chain? Time to get compliant: “Businesses now have only until 31 March 2019 to publish their annual modern slavery statement or risk appearing on a published list of non-compliant organisations, according to a letter from the Home Office, which has written to 17,000 companies. This requirement comes as the government looks to tackle slavery and human trafficking taking place in businesses and their supply chains” (31 Jan).

Paris outlines plans to become the sustainable capital of fashion by 2024: “As the style capitals prepare for the autumn/winter 2019 shows, Paris has launched a plan outlining its steps to become greener. Over the next five years, it will implement “Paris Good Fashion” – an initiative calling on influential industry players to push eco-conscious practices forward” (31 Jan).

These 1.3 billion people could test brands’ addiction to fast fashion: “India’s meteoric growth is dovetailing with a growing awareness of how the apparel industry’s pollution–from plastic waste to carbon emissions–is reaching a breaking point, both in the country and globally. A Nielsen study from eight years ago showed that Indian consumers were already becoming more conscious of environmentally friendly fashion practices, and this awareness is only growing” (31 Jan).

H&M Foundation Annual Report 2018: ““A catalyst for change 2018” covers the work done by H&M Foundation together with 25 partners within the focus areas education, water, equality and planet, during 2018” (29 Jan).

Research into outdoor and protective clothing seeks to shake off fluorochemicals: “Rain-repelling fluorochemicals used in waterproof clothing can and should be phased out as unnecessary and environmentally harmful, textile researchers argue” (29 Jan).

Copenhagen Fashion Week set for greener-than-ever edition under new CEO: “Copenhagen Fashion Week is fast approaching, and has its sights firmly set on becoming Europe’s most sustainable fashion week under the new leadership of CEO Cecilie Thorsmark” (28 Jan).

A vision for green growth for the Bangladesh RMG sector: [Ed’s note: a series of four articles concluding this week by Shahpar Selim, Programme Coordinator of the National Resilience Programme at the UNDP.]

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

Garment workers fired for unrest over wages: numerous stories on this – see examples as follows: [note this response from the German Ambassador to Bangladesh on Twitter: “If true this would be deeply disturbing. I request the garment sector to clarify. If they continue to disregard basic rights of workers and their work conditions we may have to look at introducing standards.”]

  • Thousands of Bangladesh garment workers fired for demanding better wages: “The firing of almost 5,000 low-paid garment workers in Bangladesh in reprisal for participating in protests and strikes for higher wages is a clear violation of fundamental freedoms, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today” (31 Jan).

  • 4,899 garment workers lose jobs: “At least 4,899 garment workers have been fired from their jobs in the aftermath of recent labour unrest over their wage disparity, according to the latest data of the Industrial Police. They worked in different factories located in Ashulia, Gazipur and Narayanganj that witnessed labour movement for review of their new pay structure announced in November last year, officials said” (29 Jan).

  • Nearly 5,000 garment workers sacked over Bangladesh strikes: “Nearly 5,000 low-paid Bangladeshi garment workers stitching clothes for global brands have been sacked by factory bosses for joining strikes over wages this month that turned violent, police said on Tuesday” (29 Jan).

Crescent group boss arrested: “Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) yesterday arrested the chairman of Crescent Leather Products and Crescent Tanneries, MA Kader, in connection with three separate cases filed over laundering a total of Tk 919 crore [$109 million] in foreign currencies” (31 Jan). [Ed’s note: MA Kader and Crescent were in the news last year as well. See: Shocking swindling by shoe exporter: “Central bank finds Crescent Group faked exports without orders to skim at least Tk 765cr [$95 million] from Janata Bank; its plundering includes govt’s cash incentive against export” (09 Aug 2018).]

Many garment workers not getting new minimum wage: seminar: “Readymade garment factory workers at a programme in Dhaka on Tuesday said they were yet to get the newly announce minimum wage in their units. They also complained that many of them were threatened with losing jobs at workplaces for demanding lawful wages. Rina Akter, an operator of Yolk Garments at Kakrail in the capital, said she received only Tk 7,000 including overtime for the month of December” (30 Jan).

Govt for training to forge strong factory owner-labour ties: “Back in 2017, Bangladesh and Singapore’s Nanyang Polytechnic International signed a deal to train field-level government workers, representatives of factory owners and workers in order to ensure safe and healthy workplace. For the last two years, the course trained professionals on trade union, national wage policy, human resource management and development, problems in the industries and ensuring safe and healthy workplaces at factories” (30 Jan).

Unpaid workers block CEPZ entrance: “Several hundred workers of [Peninsula Garments Ltd.]  yesterday blockaded the main entrance of Chattogram Export Processing Zone (CEPZ), demanding payment of arrears” (30 Jan).

Myanmar

SMART Myanmar and AYA bank sign MOU on green finance: “SMART Myanmar, a project implemented by sequa in cooperation with the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA), the Foreign Trade Association of German Retailers (AVE) and consortium partner the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP) has been working with garment factories and banks to generate practical and bankable solutions to the industry’s growing environmental management challenges” (30 Jan).

Nigeria

Trade unions win minimum wage increase in Nigeria: “The new national minimum wage in Nigeria is set to increase to NGN 30,000 (approximately USD 87 per month)” (31 Jan).

Pakistan

Mini-budget termed ‘anti-worker’: “Labour leaders at a rally against retrenchment of workers and violation of labour laws on Sunday termed the federal government’s recent ‘mini-budget’ ‘totally anti-worker’ and observed that it showed its leaning towards the rich. The rally was organised by the National Trade Union Federation and Textile, Garment General Workers Union Korangi” (28 Jan).

Sri Lanka

Jude Kirton-Darling: Sri Lanka must adhere to GSP+ standards: “In May 2017, the EU reaffirmed Sri Lanka as a beneficiary of the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences+ programme – GSP+ - despite the fact that women’s labour rights in the Sri Lankan textile industry are virtually non-existent. With the textile industry one of the country’s most important export sectors, and considering the protection of human rights is one of the EU’s overarching objectives, this action seems counterintuitive” (28 Jan).

MANUFACTURERS

Unifi names winners of Champions of Sustainability awards: “Unifi, a textile solutions company, has announced the winners of Champions of Sustainability awards, which recognises brands, retailers, and textile partners that demonstrate the shared goal of making our planet a better place to live. This year, a total of 68 companies have being named winners, a 36 per cent increase from last year’s total” (31 Jan).

Polartec commits to 100% recycled materials and biodegradability across entire product line: “Polartec, the premium producer of innovative and sustainable textile solutions, introduces its Eco-Engineering initiative to use recycled and biodegradable materials across its entire product line” (30 Jan).

Synthetic spider silk is finally appearing in products consumers can buy: “Synthetic spider silk has been something of a holy grail in textile research for more than a decade. After recent advances in biotechnology finally made it feasible to create it at scale, a few companies have been working hard to do so. Now it’s starting to trickle into products that consumers can actually buy. AMSilk, a German producer of synthetic spider silk, has teamed with Omega, the Swiss luxury-watch maker…” (29 Jan).

Eastman shows Naia yarn lingerie at Interfiliere Paris: “Naia, Eastman’s cellulose acetate yarn, displayed its sustainability at the recently held Interfiliere Paris, the global event for lingerie, activewear materials, and accessories. At the show, Naia and Berry, founder and CEO of Concepts Paris, presented a session on consumer insights and emerging opportunities for apparel manufacturers in the bio-economy” (28 Jan).

PrimaLoft reveals early adopters of fully recycled, sustainable fiber: “Helly Hansen, Houdini, L.L. Bean, Norrøna and Vaude are the first adopters of its new fiber, PrimaLoft Bio” (28 Jan).

Applied DNA signs MoU with Sun Chemical Supply Company to enter Asian supply chain market: “A global provider of molecular technologies that enable greater supply chain security and tackle counterfeiting and theft, has entered into a partnership that will expand the company’s reach into the Asian supply chain market. Applied DNA Sciences has signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Sun Chemical Supply Company of Taiwan that will see Sun Chemical distribute the company’s CertainT platform in Asia’s textiles industry” (28 Jan).

Chemical recycling breakthrough from Taiwan: “Taiwan textile supplier Far Eastern New Century has developed an ‘all-in-one’ chemical recycling solution for mixed polyester textiles” (28 Jan).

China viscose group holds environmental talks: “Around 120 delegates from the world of forestry and viscose textile production descended on China to hear about progress from the Sustainable Development of Viscose (CV) group in the run up to the release of its first ever sustainability report” (27 Jan).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

03 – 06 February, Munich: ISPO Munich 2019: Lots on sustainability this year.

05 February, Barcelona: Barcelona Fashion Summit: “What can fashion do to stop the loss of consumers?”

* 12 February, webinar: The State of Anti-Corruption in the Supply Chain: Highlights of the EcoVadis Study on 20,000 Companies.

13 February, Mumbai: ZDHC Regional Conference: “Signatory Brands, other stakeholders and industry captains of the textile & leather value chain will meet and deliberate on how to integrate sustainable chemistry in business strategies, implement best practices in textile manufacturing and encourage innovations in the chemical industry.”

15 February, Amsterdam: Circular Textiles Ready to Market – ECAP Event: “Sharing the results and learnings of the European Clothing Action Plan after more than 3 years of work.”

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.”

* 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.”

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

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.”

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.”

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.”

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 Scott Webb, 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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