THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: American Eagle (launches clothing rental service), Forever 21 (PETA billboard over wool use), Inditex (accused by union of exploiting workers), Kering (invites Hyères finalists to HQ to talk sustainability), LVMH (sets new standards for crocodile farms), New Era (eliminates over 200  union jobs in New York), Salvatore Ferragamo (unveils ‘sustainable thinking’ exhibition), Uniqlo (opens first classroom in the Philippines), VEJA (sneakers from corn waste), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Significant media coverage of the Environmental Audit Committee’s Fixing Fashion report

  • 1st annual 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge Report, 2018 by Textile Exchange

  • Is long lastin’ the new fast-fashion?

  • What a modern slavery law means for the fashion industry in the US

  • “We are breathing and eating our own plastic clothing” – Phoebe English on fashion’s ethics

  • From runway to retail: how supply chain can drive sustainability

  • ‘Don't feed the monster!’ The people who have stopped buying new clothes

  • We recycle, we upcycle, we downcycle, is it working?

  • UK consumers lead in prioritising corporate social responsibility

  • Could virtual clothes reduce the damage of fast fashion?

  • 5 fashion materials you didn't realise were bad for wildlife

  • Modern slavery: A guide for companies and investors

  • This startup is tracking microbes to figure out where your shoes were really made

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: RMG workers share success stories; some thoughts on RMG wages and the Spice Girls T-shirts controversy; claims of workers jailed over unrest; and insurance payouts for 203 dead RMG workers

  • Cambodia: Hun Sen predicts growth despite EU sanction threat

  • India: radio stations giving voice to garment workers

  • Jordan: push for new labour law to recognise worker rights

  • Mexico: workers winning with strikes, claims YouTuber

  • Myanmar: UK highlights DFID support for garment workers

  • Nepal: garment processing zone slated to be ready in April

  • South Africa: textile industry workers conditions resemble ‘modern day slavery’

Manufacturers in this issue include: Eurofins | BLC (delivers training for Indian leather industry), Huntsman (unveils new technologies), NatureWorks (aims for 100 percent certified sustainable feedstock), Spinnova (signs globally recognised textile expert), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “[D]esigning garments for longevity is pointless if they are discarded prematurely and merely add to the vast tonnage of clothing waste generated each year.” Tim Cooper, Head of Sustainable Consumption Research Group, Nottingham Trent University (21 Feb).

  • “These are first hand reports of what goes on inside the factories. And they reflect everyday abuse and hardship.” Thivyarakhini Sesuraj, president of the all-women Tamilnadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU) on a radion station the union runs for Indian garment workers (20 Feb).

  • “Imagine swabbing the invisible dust on a new running shoe with a q-tip and being able to see where it comes from.” Phylagen CEO Jessica Green (19 Feb).

  • “Coinages such as ‘Runway to Retail’ and ‘See now, Buy now’ are defining customer expectations, which have huge implications across the supply chain.” Emma Hawkins (19 Feb).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

From clothing to classroom: “Uniqlo, Japanese global apparel retailer, opened the first Uniqlo Classroom Building in Legazpi, Albay, on 7 February, as part of the brand’s sustainability efforts to support the development and growth of the kindergarten students of Gogon Central School” (22 Feb).

Kering invites Hyères finalists to HQ to talk sustainability: “The luxury firm made the case for the young designers to consider the issue from the outset of building their businesses” (21 Feb).

VEJA unveils vegan sneakers made from corn waste: “Ethical sneaker brand VEJA has unveiled its newest and arguably most impressive eco-friendly kicks yet – the Campo, a chic sneaker made with a new vegan and biodegradable fabric” (21 Feb).

10 sustainable brands doing their bit for the planet: six are fashion or related companies: Simétrie, Modibodi, Noble, The Fabric Store, The Better Packaging Co., The Coral Empire (21 Feb).

American Eagle launched a new clothing rental service, and it's just the latest sign that fast fashion as we know it is dying: “American Eagle has launched a rental subscription service for clothing … Renting has become a major fashion trend as younger consumers who crave newness look for more sustainable ways to shop. This shift in shopping habits spells trouble for fast-fashion retailers that churn out new styles each week” (20 Feb).

PETA billboard near Forever 21 urges people to steer clear of cruelly obtained wool items and shop vegan: “As part of its nationwide campaign to inspire consumers to shop vegan, PETA has placed a billboard targeting the Forever 21 store in Rockaway that shows a sheep’s sweet face alongside the words “We’re Individuals. We’re Not Sweaters. Wear Something Vegan”” (20 Feb).

New Era to eliminate over 200 union jobs at its on-field cap making factory: “New Era is the official manufacturer of baseball caps for Major League Baseball. They make both the on-field versions worn by big leaguers and the replica 59/50 models you, me and everyone else wears … For the past several years they have been made at a factory in Derby, New York, which employs 219 union workers. Last fall they announced that they would close the Derby factory in March, eliminating the 219 jobs and moving them to a non-union, contracted manufacturing facility in Miami” (20 Feb).

Union accuses Inditex of ‘exploiting workers’: “A Portuguese union has accused the owner of retail stores such as Zara of “exploiting” its workers” (19 Feb).

Louis Vuitton, Dior parent sets new standards for crocodile farms: “World leader in luxury goods LVMH, which includes Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, said Monday it would boost measures to ensure a “responsible supply” of crocodile skins. The giant French retailer said in a statement it would follow new standards for crocodile leather based on criteria “developed and validated by a committee of technical experts”” (19 Feb).

Salvatore Ferragamo to unveil ‘sustainable thinking’ exhibition: “The exhibit will run from April 12 to March 8, 2020 and sustainability projects, seminars and workshops will be organized concurrently” (18 Feb).

NEWS & REPORTS

Media coverage of Fixing Fashion, the report released earlier in the week by the Environmental Audit Committee: the report received widespread coverage, with most focussing on the 1p ‘clothing tax’. Here is a selection of responses:

  • How your business can respond to the EAC Fixing Fashion Report: “The report also stated “retailers must take responsibility for the social and environmental cost of clothes”. What is clear from this report is that sustainability is no longer a trend, but it is becoming a licence to operate and businesses that do not futureproof their operations now risk being left behind. What can your business do in response?” (21 Feb).

  • We need a tax on fast fashion to end this ridiculous millennial trend of constantly buying new clothes: “Now that we’re getting a grip on food waste and plastic waste, we really need to make a start on fashion waste – and end this fad of “fast fashion”. The MPs on the environment select committee suggest we could start small, with a tax of one penny per clothing item, which would yield about £35m a year, something that could fund better clothing collection – for charity, reuse or recycling. It should work. Yet we can go further” (20 Feb).

  • How to cure the shopping addiction that’s destroying our planet: “I went cold turkey on buying clothes – and learned that it will take more than taxes to slow the march of fast fashion” (20 Feb).

  • Fixing our throwaway fashion culture will take far more than a 1p tax: “A new report from the Environmental Audit Committee enquiry into sustainable fashion reveals how consumers are only benefiting from cheap clothes at considerable cost to the environment and through exploitation of poor and vulnerable garment workers” (20 Feb).

  • As MPs call for a 1p clothing tax, these are the high street retailers already fighting to cut waste: “We know that fast fashion is hurting the environment. Churning out endless waste in the name of new clothes every season is contributing to greenhouse gases, pollution, and the over-use of water. But now MPs in the UK are trying to help retailers cut down on the amount of waste they produce by charging a 1p tax on every garment they sell to fund a £35 million annual recycling scheme” (19 Feb).

  • Fast fashion: ‘Penny on a garment’ to drive clothes recycling: “Clothing brands and retailers should pay a penny on every garment they sell to fund a £35m annual recycling scheme. That’s the view of MPs, who say “fast fashion” is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, water pollution, air pollution and over-use of water. And they urge the government to force clothing manufacturers to pay more towards collecting and recycling the waste they create. Green campaigners argue the MPs’ recommendations are really quite tame” (19 Feb).

  • A ‘fast fashion’ tax? Britain has a radical new plan to spur clothing recycling and reduce waste: “Britain should charge producers a penny-per-garment fee to fund a £35 million ($45 million) per year national clothing recycling program, the U.K.’s parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee recommended Tuesday” (19 Feb).

  • Government must end era of throwaway fashion: “The Environmental Audit Committee calls on the Government to make fashion retailers take responsibility for the waste they create. A one penny producer responsibility charge on each item of clothing could pay for better clothing collection and recycling” (19 Feb).

  • Fashion Revolution statement on House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Report: Fixing Fashion: “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 and we believe that brands and retailers have an obligation to address the fundamental business model” (19 Feb).

  • Toughen anti-slavery laws, say UK lawmakers after fashion probe: “Fashion companies who flout a law requiring them to publish details of their actions to combat slavery should face a penalty under a toughening of legislation, British lawmakers said after holding an inquiry into the industry” (19 Feb).

1st annual 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge Report, 2018: “This first annual 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge Report [by Textile Exchange] provides information and statistics on the achievements and impacts sustainable cotton programs are having on water, communities, soil quality, biodiversity and social considerations and regulations” (21 Feb).

Is long lastin’ the new fast-fashion? “Around 39 percent of shoppers polled said that they would rather buy expensive clothing that lasted longer, and one in eight even said they would choose expensive, longer-lasting clothing over cheaper options that were more fashionable, according to the survey, which was reported on by Just Style. The population polled was between the ages of 18 and 35, encompassing some Gen Z and some Millennial shoppers” (21 Feb).

The Yellow Dress [Den gula klänningen]: A Bioeco podcast (in Swedish) with re:newcell and Lena Marie Jensen from Smart Textiles, who have made a special yellow dress via a unique recycling technique (21 Feb – 24-minute podcast – in Swedish).

What a modern slavery law means for the fashion industry: “under a recently reauthorized federal law known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPA”), apparel manufacturers and fashion companies that benefit financially from any form of modern slavery can be exposed to significant corporate liability even if they did not necessarily know about it” (21 Feb).

“We are breathing and eating our own plastic clothing” – Phoebe English on fashion’s ethics: “As designers we need to have a greater awareness of the complete picture -- what processes, materials, distances etc. go into or raw materials before we use them, how and why we use them, and consequently what happens to them after we sell them and what business models we are selling them through. We are making too much and not using it enough” (20 Feb).

From runway to retail: how supply chain can drive sustainability: “More frequent collections and the lack of structure that fixed seasons once held has resulted in a much bigger churn of fashion items, and that’s before taking into account the weight of returns, too. eCommerce is fuelling demand for individual deliveries, resulting in more packaging and air pollution. Beyond a pure environmental impact, pressure on meeting consumer demand could result in compromises elsewhere in the supply chain, such as sourcing cheaper labour or unsustainable materials. However, the growth in consumer focus on ethical consumption and visibility (#whomademyclothes) is beginning to counter this impact” (19 Feb).

‘Don't feed the monster!’ The people who have stopped buying new clothes: “A growing movement eschews fast fashion in favour of secondhand clothing. Is this the biggest personal change that can be made for the environment?” (19 Feb).

We recycle, we upcycle, we downcycle, is it working? “From plastic we get polyester, from mushroom roots we get leather, and from dialogue we get inspiration to reinvent the textile industry. A panel discussion during Texworld trade fair provides a status report on the fields of recycling and upcycling, both of which seem to be having their moment in the sun, are at the center of circularity conversations and all over international runways. Four experts break it down for us and reveal next steps” (19 Feb).

UK consumers lead in prioritising corporate social responsibility: “A new study … reveals UK consumers are outshining [US and Australia] in making social responsibility a priority when choosing which brands to support. Unlike other areas in the study, UK companies were well aligned with consumers, also ranking this as a major area of focus” (19 Feb).

Future styles: Could virtual clothes reduce the damage of fast fashion? “Striking a pose in the mirror, Swedish model and stylist Lisa Anckarman shows off a new jacket with a difference on Instagram - though it fits her perfectly in the photo, it's a virtual design that does not exist in real life” (18 Feb).

ASUCLA bears responsibility to disclose labor practices behind its clothing: “ASUCLA sells clothing for practically every purpose. The union, however, doesn’t publicly provide information regarding the ethics and sustainability of its clothing. And the garment production partners on the UCLA Store website, Russell Athletic, Wideworld Sportswear and Under Armour, provide sparse information on their website regarding the origins of the university gear” (18 Feb).

How sustainable shopping can cut environmental cost of fast fashion: “Liz Bonnin, Science and natural history presenter at BBC Planet, has teamed up with sustainable fashion brand Mother of Pearl to tackle these issues head on. To raise awareness of the issues, they've created a capsule collection using eco-friendly methods, and will unveil a short film (which will be available to watch across BBC Earth social platforms), narrated by Bonnin, that delves into fashion's impact on the planet” (18 Feb).

5 fashion materials you didn't realise were bad for wildlife: “It is one of the worst polluters and wreaks havoc on our environment in countries across the world, affecting human health and wildlife with dire consequences. Many fibres that are sold in well-known shops on the high street cause harm to species - and we’re not talking about the direct impact of the fur trade. Here’s five common fashion materials you might not have realised damage wildlife and ecosystems” (17 Feb).

Can Fashion Be Sustainable? “By producing billions of clothes every year, the fast fashion industry is also releasing waste and chemicals into our world, polluting and driving species to the brink of extinction. Is there a solution to being both fashionable and sustainable?” (16 Feb – 2:52-minute video from BBC Earth).

Modern slavery: A guide for companies and investors: “New laws require Australian business to report on the risk of modern slavery in their operations and supply chain. The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) guide offers practical support to businesses on how to understand modern slavery and respond” (15 Feb).

This startup is tracking microbes to figure out where your shoes were really made: “Because a microbiome can serve as a unique identifier of a place, Phylagen is gathering data from global factories so brands can better understand where their products are made, and detect if the work is being outsourced to places that rely on slavery or child labor” (14 Feb). See also: Phylagen secures $14m to bring transparency to global supply chains through microbiome analytics: (14 Feb).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

RMG workers share success stories in Savar: “Two workers in Savar’s SQ Celsius Ltd garment factory shared their stories of achievement and success with other workers of the factory at a program titled “OgroJatra” held at the SQ factory premises at Sreepur, Gazipur on Wednesday” (21 Feb).

Some thoughts on RMG wages and the Spice Girls T-shirts controversy: “The wage level in Bangladesh's ready-made garments (RMG) sector has been the subject of a recent controversy with multiple participants: a British peer, a Bangladeshi-American scholar, the all-girls band Spice Girls of the UK, and two newspapers in the UK and Bangladesh. The issue boils down to whether wage-earners in the factories of developing countries benefit from international trade and if western brands and customers underpay the producers of goods and services they cherish” (19 Feb).

Bangladesh factories dismiss workers after pay protests – Update: “IF Metall says 26 union-active textile workers in Bangladesh have subsequently been imprisoned” (19 Feb).

BDT 4.06cr handed as insurance claim for 203 dead RMG workers: “Bangladesh government has given BDT 4.06 crore as insurance claim for 203 deceased workers of the country’s registered apparel industries” (14 Feb). [Ed’s note: BDT 4.06 crore = $4,83149.26, or $2,380/deceased worker.]

Cambodia

Cambodian PM predicts robust growth this year amid EU trade sanctions threat: “Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said on Wednesday that the country’s economy is expected to grow by 7 percent in 2019 despite the ongoing threat of trade sanctions from the European Union” (20 Feb).

India

Indian garment workers take to the airwaves to demand better conditions: “Three radio stations, which are free and broadcast through mobile phones, have been set up across Tamil Nadu over the last year and now give a voice to the thousands of garment workers whose plight has long been ignored by manufacturers and brands” (20 Feb).

Jordan

New labour law must recognise workers’ rights: “Jordanian labor law has long restricted the rights of workers to exercise their right to freedom of association, to organize and to bargain collectively. These limitations include prohibiting migrant workers (a significant part of the Jordanian workforce) from forming their own unions, permitting unions in only 17 sectors set by the government and limiting one union per sector, among others” (19 Feb).

Mexico

70,000 strike in Mexico! Workers winning! This video argues the strikes have the potential to spread; that workers are sick of their corrupt unions; and will lead to more pressure for wage rises (19 Feb – 21:43-minute video).

Myanmar

DFID boss highlights support for garment workers, marginalised groups: “A UK cabinet minister highlighted how Myanmar's garment industry is supporting the livelihood and security of vulnerable women” (19 Feb).

What is the UK doing for Myanmar’s future? “Women training at the Aung Myin Hmu project learn how to make garments safely in a factory setting, so they can go on to work for registered, safe and fair employers and support their families. The garment sector in Myanmar is expected to grow from 400,000 to 1.5 million workers over the next five to 10 years, and these women migrants from Rakhine and Kachin will be protected from trafficking through better jobs and improved livelihoods” (18 Feb).

Nepal

Garment processing zone slated to be ready in April: “The construction of Nepal’s first garment processing zone is expected to be complete in April. The Rs2.5-billion facility in Simara, Bara will be spread over 300 bighas. According to the Garment Association Nepal, the garment processing zone will facilitate exports of Nepali readymade clothes and minimise the cost of production, enabling Nepali garments to compete in the international market” (20 Feb).

South Africa

Newcastle textile industry workers conditions resemble ‘modern day slavery’: “The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) says the discovery of 100 foreigners working in conditions resembling “modern-day slavery”, at textile factories in Newcastle yesterday, was nothing new as the union has been battling against the scourge for more than a decade” (20 Feb).

Zikalala horrified by working conditions during factory inspections: “The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), Sihle Zikalala, was mortified after he did an inspection at textile factories in on Tuesday in Newcastle, north of KZN” (20 Feb).

MANUFACTURERS

Spinnova signs globally recognised textile expert: “Sustainable textile company Spinnova has signed professor Nawar Kadi, from the University of Borås, to help to commercialise the company’s fibre-production technology” (20 Feb).

This Thai stock is forecast to surge 49% within a year: “Bangkok-based Indorama, with products ranging from Nestle SA packaging to materials for Zara clothing, is forecast to surge 49 percent within a year [partly on the basis of its ability to recycle post-consumer PET polyester fabrics]” (20 Feb).

Eurofins | BLC training in India a resounding success: On 06 February Eurofins | BLC presented a one-day Leather Processing Course in Kolkata, India, attended by 21 participants from a range of companies within the leather industry. The technical course provided an overview of the whole leather making process in two sessions, Raw to Tanned in the morning and Tanned to Finished in the afternoon. Attending the course provided an understanding of the chemicals involved in the leather making process, as well as compliance and international legislation. The course also introduced the Leather Working Group and their best practice Environmental Audit Protocol which many brands will expect their tanneries to have committed to. Attendees were also given an overview of the tanning process involved in both chrome tanned and chrome-free leather as well as common problems that are encountered during the tanning process including the direct effects of animal husbandry on the quality of leather (20 Feb).

NatureWorks aims for 100 percent certified sustainable feedstock by 2020: “A new initiative at NatureWorks will ensure that by 2020 fully 100 percent of the agricultural feedstock for Ingeo PLA-based biopolymers and Vercet performance chemicals will be certified by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification System (ISCC) to the ISCC Plus standard of best practices in agricultural production. (ISCC is a global sustainability certification system applied by more than 3300 companies in 100 countries.)” (18 Feb).

Huntsman unveils new technologies: “Huntsman’s footwear team has unveiled three new water-blown polyurethane technologies creating a portfolio of innovative, fully water-blown, polyether soling solutions that provide excellent flow and surface definition and can improve the look and feel of shoe soles” (18 Feb).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

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

26 February, Mexico City: SAC & ZDHC Manufacturer Forum: “All interested industry stakeholders and supply chain partners are welcome to participate in this manufacturer-focused event.”

26 February, London, Fashion’s Big Fix: “How do we fix the mess of the fashion industry?”

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.”

28 February: London: Sustainable Fashion and the SDGs: “The fashion industry touches upon several of the Sustainable Development Goals – so join us for an evening discussing sustainable fashion!”

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.”

14 March, The Hague, Netherlands: Learning Seminar for Garment and Textile Brands: ‘Sourcing responsibly in Turkey. How to do due diligence?’: “Organised by the Dutch Agreement for Sustainable Garments & Textile (AGT) in cooperation with Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), supported by the AGT Turkey Taskforce.”

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

08 – 11 April, Budapest: 4th Global Sustainable Fashion Week: “press conference, international conferences, workshops, eco fashion shows and cultural programs.”

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.”

* 17 April, Northampton, UK: Half Day Understanding REACH Training Course: “Understanding the differences between the Candidate List, Annex XVII and Annex XIV.”

* 23 – 26 April, Northampton, UK: 4 Day Practical Leather Technology Training Course: “Ideal for those who are heavily involved with leather, such as supply chain staff, tannery staff, leather buyers, footwear technologists or those who need to top up their leather technology knowledge.”

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.”

* 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.)

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.

(Photo Detmold, 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.

Comment