THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Allbirds, ELK, Reformation and Selfridges (new signatories to Canopy), Alternative Apparel (ditches wool after PETA appeal), Amour Vert (green and local manufacturing), H&M (public statement on Bangladesh unrest), Houdini (pushing transparency), H&M, Next, Mango, Guess and Saks (sourcing from factories laying off workers after unrest in Bangladesh), Kenneth Cole (humanitarian mission in Haiti), Nike (interview with new CSO), Rotate, Baum und Pferdgarten, Rodebjer, Cecilie Bahnsen, and Stine Goya (Nordic labels setting standards for sustainability), Timberland, UGG, The North Face and J.Crew (sourcing from Philippines factory accused of union busting), TK Maxx, JD Sports, Missguided and Boohoo (respond to interim report in the UK on sustainable fashion), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Check your supply chain or cop $1.1 million fine as Australian modern slavery legislation kicks in

  • Social audits in the textile industry: How to control the controllers?

  • A milestone for organic cotton

  • 10 takeaways from the UN’s – yes, the UN’s – sustainable streetwear conference

  • Full ban on animal fur farms in the Czech Republic is now in effect

  • SFRA event to combat greenwash with evidence focus

  • China ushers Year of the Pig with annual fashion binge – and the environment is picking up the bill

  • Why 50,000 garment workers in Bangladesh went on strike

  • Is there really such a thing as “Ethical Consumerism”? [Ed’s note: highly recommended.]

  • If there are so many great vegan alternatives to leather, why don’t ethical brands use them?

  • How Ontario is becoming a hotspot for ethical apparel

  • fibre2fibre recycling - turning the UK’s unwanted clothes into the latest fashion

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: minister seeks fair prices for apparel; suppliers to H&M, Next and others lay off workers after wage protests; United Steelworkers demand release of arrested RMG workers; Liberty Fashion seeks Accord clearance

  • Cambodia: Young Cambodian workers move a step closer to leadership

  • Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur plans reform on migrant labour laws

  • Mexico: Matamoros strike nears victory, 44 of 48 plants settle

  • Nigeria: Don’t tax new minimum wage, trade union pleads

  • Philippines: Timberland workers in the Philippines strike over union busting

Manufacturers in this issue include: PILI (dye powder from bacteria), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “Sustainability in the fashion industry is often targeting selected issues, selected stakeholders and selective parts of the organisation.” Esben Rahbek Gjerdrum Pedersen (05 Feb).

  • “I have decided that “ethical consumerism” is a nonsense concept. I don’t mean to say I’ve come around to a global supply chain that chews up lives and vomits landfill, or given up on the idea that ugly mass production practices can and should be changed. I’ve merely let go of my belief we can shop our way to progress.” Maya Singer in the latest issue of Vogue (04 Feb).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Unrest in Bangladesh: [Ed’s note: a public statement from H&M.] The well-being of the workers at our suppliers’ factories is a priority to us and we are therefore deeply concerned about the recent development in Bangladesh (07 Feb).

Alternative Apparel stops wool sales after PETA appeal: “After PETA informed Alternative Apparel about shocking, systemic cruelty in the wool industry, the Norcross-based clothing company announced that it will no longer produce items made from wool” (06 Feb).

Why fashion falls short: retailers respond to MPs’ sustainability charges: “The environmental audit committee’s interim report on fashion retailers’ ethical and environmental track records show the industry needs to make up a lot of ground” (06 Feb). [Ed’s note: includes responses from TK Maxx, JD Sports, Missguided and Boohoo, all of whom were criticised in the report for lack of engagement on sustainability issues.]

Protecting the future of sport: “Noel Kinder, Nike’s new Chief Sustainability Officer, reflects on the importance of preserving our planet for Nike’s long-term growth” (06 Feb).

Canopy announces new signatory brands: “Environmental not-for-profit Canopy has announced the addition of a host of new brand commitments aimed at developing next-generation rayon and viscose fabrics that will reduce sourcing from the world’s ancient and endangered forests. With the addition of Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Allbirds, ELK, Reformation and Selfridges, the CanopyStyle initiative has now reached over 170 brand partners since its launch in 2013” (05 Feb).

These Nordic labels are setting the standard for style and sustainability: Rotate, Baum und Pferdgarten, Rodebjer, Cecilie Bahnsen, and Stine Goya (04 Feb).

Houdini – TrusTrace partnership: “See how TrusTraceHoudini Partnership is pushing the boundaries of Fashion Value Chain traceability and transparency” (04 Feb – 1:29-minute video).

Kenneth Cole & Haiti: An exclusive look at the designer’s humanitarian mission: ““We come here to make sure [our efforts are effective]. We want to bring business to the community – that’s the ultimate sustainability,” said Cole. “One of the issues here is that you can feed hungry people today, but someone has to feed them tomorrow. You need to empower the community. The health center is a platform we can build upon”” (04 Feb).

Amour Vert brings a green side to local manufacturing: “Before domestically made, sustainable apparel manufacturing became a major trend, San Francisco–based Amour Vert provided women with well-made clothing that combines style with sustainability, and it has ever since it was founded in 2010” (31 Jan).

NEWS & REPORTS 

Check your supply chain or cop $1.1 million fine: “New modern slavery legislation has been passed and this legislation will have a significant effect on the operations of businesses in the fashion industry. Organisations must be aware of their obligations, as well as the potential legal and reputational consequences of non-compliance. The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (Federal Act) became law on 29 November 2018 and will take effect on 1 January 2019. This follows the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) (NSW Act) which was enacted in June 2018 and is due to take effect after the Federal Act commences” (07 Feb).

Social audits in the textile industry: How to control the controllers? “Another typical shortcoming of social audits is that problematic choices about the audit scope are all too often hidden behind seemingly technical choices regarding their design. For instance, the auditing firm TÜV Rheinland claimed that it was not asked to inspect the safety of the Rana Plaza building structure. Subcontracting factories are also generally excluded from auditing procedures. Certifiers, financed by the very same businesses they have to assess, are bound by contradictory incentive structures. Certificates generate a high-level of trust within supply chains and, ultimately, with consumers, while incurring almost no legal risk. Who takes responsibility for the content or impact of audit reports is not defined. As these are generally not made public, there is no way for interested or independent parties to oversee the audit process or assess its accuracy. And workers – who are the supposed beneficiaries of the whole auditing enterprise – have no means of verifying such reports or holding auditors accountable” (06 Feb).

A milestone for organic cotton: “With all the negativity in the media, it can be easy to miss the good news. It can be easy to miss that we are right in the middle of unstoppable movement towards sustainability. And it can be easy to miss the milestones.  This month, Pakistan hit one of those important milestones producing its first bale of certified organic cotton” (06 Feb).

10 takeaways from the UN’s – yes, the UN’s – sustainable streetwear conference: “Last Friday, sustainable streetwear went global. In a special event hosted at the United Nations, everyone from Dapper Dan to NASA astronauts dropped knowledge as part of The Study Hall Summit, a one-day conference devoted to sustainable fashion” (06 Feb).

Made for next to nothing. Worn by you? “A new report shows the depth of the fashion industry’s exploitation of female home workers in India” (06 Feb). [Ed’s note: the report is “Tainted Garments” by Siddharth Kara.]

Full ban on animal fur farms in the Czech Republic is now in effect: “Last week, a long-debated ban on animal fur farms in the Czech Republic finally went into effect, more than eighteen months after it had been signed into law. Approved in June 2017, the ban was enacted after lengthy campaigns from local animal rights groups and public pressure when video from local farms surfaced that allegedly depicted inhumane treatment of the animals during fur production” (05 Feb).

SFRA event to combat greenwash with evidence focus: “The newly-established Sustainable Fashion Research Agenda (SFRA) event is set to shake up the fashion and textile industries’ summer calendar when it debuts in May 2019. The event has been conceived as a tonic to the industry shows which the new summit’s organisers say “have celebrated the concept of sustainable fashion,” despite a perceived absence of “concrete information about the actual progress towards sustainability”” (05 Feb).

China ushers Year of the Pig with annual fashion binge – and the environment is picking up the bill: “As the (Year of the) Dog passes the 2019 baton to the Pig, families from Beijing to Boston are celebrating by consuming everything from dumplings and dresses to digital gadgets. In China, where retailers enjoy a sales boom over the Lunar New Year, we’re also witnessing the country’s voracious fashion consumption habit: an annual clothing purge followed by a splurge” (05 Feb).

Why 50,000 garment workers in Bangladesh went on strike: “Fifty thousand garment workers in Bangladesh struck earlier this month for higher wages and were met with rubber bullets and tear gas. The minimum wage in the garment industry was recently raised 50 percent, but still stands at just $95 a month. Five thousand have been fired as a result of the strikes and property destruction the striking workers are accused of. Bangladesh’s highest court has ordered shut down the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, an innovative institution monitoring workplace health and safety created five years ago” (05 Feb).

Is there really such a thing as “Ethical Consumerism”? “You know that thing, where you say a word to yourself a couple dozen times in a row, and by the 25th repetition, the word doesn’t signify anymore? It’s just a bunch of syllables. That’s how I’ve started to feel about the phrase “ethical consumer.” Who on earth is that? Does such a person exist? I write this as one who has spent the past decade beating the drum for fashion shopping that takes matters such as environmental sustainability and labor rights into account. Last September, for instance, I brought the Bangladeshi garment worker activist Taslima Akhter with me to New York Fashion Week shows, and wrote despairingly of the disparity between the attention paid to the clothes on the runway and that given to laborers in Bangladesh, who were then agitating for a raise in their viciously low minimum wage. The subtext of these pieces is always the same: Please, for God’s sake, could someone just care?” (04 Feb). [Ed’s note: if you read one thing this month, then make it this.]

If there are so many great vegan alternatives to leather, why don’t ethical brands use them? “There are ostensibly many fantastic vegan leather alternatives out there today:  cork, upcycled rubber, mushroom leather, grape leather, apple leather, and pineapple leather, and even all the fruits together in something called Fruitleather, plus lab-grown leather. With such an embarrassment of plant-based leathers, many of my readers ask: why do ethical and sustainable fashion brands still use real leather?” (04 Feb).

How Ontario is becoming a hotspot for ethical apparel: “Now a recent wave of designers and apparel producers in Ontario wants to offer a lasting alternative. The province’s burgeoning ethical-apparel industry consciously embraces collaboration, transparency, and innovation, emphasizing the DIY approach and creating new networks that promote collaborations between like-minded designers, dyers, farmers, weavers, knitters, and other professionals” (04 Feb).

Big Boi blasted By PETA for Super Bowl fur coat: “”The way you move is horrifying when animals have to DIE for your outfit,” wrote the animal rights organization, tagging the artist in their tweet. PETA has long been vocal about their stance on fur, digging into musicians who wear it and urging them to switch to faux fur. Big Boi may not have gotten the memo. He looked fly as hell, though” (04 Feb).

Sustainable supply chain: Why thinking green isn't enough: “If you are running or working in a supply chain today, you have witnessed the rise of global mass production driven by increasing consumer demand. This era has introduced new business and supply chain practices such as outsourcing, offshoring, and economies of scale – to name a few. It has created global corporations that have sold standardized products in every corner of the world. More importantly, in this era, we have seen the growth of emerging economies, which will reshape business for years to come” (04 Feb).

Workers in Bangladesh deserve protection: “European governments and brands must put more pressure on the government and producers in Bangledesh, writes Aruna Kashyap, lawyer at Human Rights Watch. They must improve the living and working conditions of textile workers and guarantee a fair wage” (01 Feb).

Freshfields 2019 Asia Employment Law Bulletin: “Welcome to the 2019 edition of our Asia Employment Law Bulletin. As always, we have set out to highlight those areas in various key Asian jurisdictions where key legal changes to the employment law landscape were made in the past year and where we expect changes to be made in the coming year” (01 Feb). [Ed’s note: covers Australia, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.]

fibre2fibre recycling - turning the UK’s unwanted clothes into the latest fashion: “A new report published today by sustainability experts WRAP is the first to examine the economic factors influencing fibre2fibre recycling and assess how it may help clothe the UK in the future. Using data from established and emerging business and academic trials, WRAP’s report (Fibre to fibre recycling: An economic & financial sustainability assessment) is the first detailed appraisal of the financial viability of using post-consumer clothing and textiles as feedstock for chemical and mechanical fibre2fibre recycling operations” (28 Jan).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

Minister seeks fair prices for apparel: “Bangladesh demanded fair prices for garment items from the US retailers and brands as the local apparel exporters spent billions of dollars to strengthen workplace safety that increased the cost of production” (06 Feb).

Bangladesh suppliers to H&M, Next lay off workers after wage protests: “At least three garment manufacturers in Bangladesh that supply European brands such as H&M and Next have laid off thousands of workers weeks after they had joined wage protests, union leaders said on Tuesday … “Next is aware of the situation - and its directly-employed audit staff on the ground in Bangladesh are currently investigating this matter,” the retailer said in an email. H&M said it “regards freedom of association to be a non-negotiable human right,” and that it is “deeply concerned by the recent events in the Bangladeshi textile industry”” (05 Feb). [Ed’s note: article also mentions Mango, Guess and Saks, and names three manufacturers: Crony Group, East West Industrial Park Ltd and Metro Knitting & Dyeing Mills Ltd.]

Global labour rights group demands release of arrested RMG workers: “The United Steelworkers, one of the largest unions in North America and Canada, has urged the Bangladesh government to release immediately all the garment workers and union representatives arrested on ‘trumped-up charges’ due to demonstration protesting against the inadequate minimum wage increase” (05 Feb).

Liberty Fashion seeks Accord clearance: “Liberty Fashion Wears Limited, one of the largest supplier factories of European brands, on Monday demanded compliance clearance from the EU buyers’ platform Accord to resume production for the global buyers as the unit remained closed since May 2013 due to ‘noncompliance’”(05 Feb).

Cambodia

Young Cambodian workers move a step closer to leadership: “The participants discussed the situation of youth in Cambodia, in society and at the workplace. They identified fears which young workers have over failure to implement labour laws, fixed-term contracts, piece-work, forced overtime, discrimination against young workers and the lack of protection for pregnant workers” (06 Feb).

Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur plans reform on migrant labour laws: “Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran said the Pakatan Harapan government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad would propose changes to the country’s patchwork of decades-old labour laws to offer both domestic and foreign workers more legal protection. “We need to ensure the dignity and protection not only of domestic workers but also foreign ones,” Kulasegaran told the Sunday Times. At issue are as many as nine industrial relations laws dating as far back as the 1950s that give the government broad powers to prevent or disband unions and limit collective bargaining” (04 Feb).

Mexico

Matamoros strike nears victory, 44 of 48 plants settle: “A mass strike at assembly plants at Matamoros border city is nearing victory, after 44 of 48 “maquiladora” factories agreed to 20 percent pay increases” (06 Feb). [Ed’s note: this strike does not – to my knowledge – involve garment factories, but the issues at the heart of this large and coordinated action concern all maquiladora factories in Mexico.]

Nigeria

Don’t tax new minimum wage, NLC pleads: “The Nigeria Labour Congress has called for an amendment to the present Income Tax Law so that the new National Minimum Wage of N30,000 will not be taxed. NLC’s General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, made the call in Abuja in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday. Ozo-Eson was reacting to a motion submitted by the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria at the plenary session of the 12th National Delegates Conference of the NLC” (06 Feb).

Philippines

Timberland workers in the Philippines strike over union busting: “Workers at Pulido Apparel Company Inc in the Philippines, which supplies global brands including Timberland, UGG, The North Face and J-Crew, have been on strike since 21 January after the company temporarily shut down its main factory to break the workers’ union” (06 Feb).

MANUFACTURERS

Dye powder made by bacteria for more sustainable clothes: “The French startup PILI has found a way to make biodegradable dye powder with the help of bacteria. Thanks to that innovative biotechnology, they want to make fashion industry – one of the most polluting industries – more sustainable” (07 Feb – 2:46-minute video).

Kingpins to require denim exhibitors to meet supply chain standards: “As part of its effort to improve the denim industry, Kingpins said Tuesday that, starting with its Kingpins Amsterdam Show in April, it will require all exhibiting denim mills to “meet or exceed standards” where corporate social responsibility (CSR), environment and chemical usage are concerned” (05 Feb).

Processing mills concerned over hike in water cost: “All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association (APTPMA) chairman Rizwan Ashraf has raised his concern over the government move of increasing tax over the usage of underground water by the textile processing mills, arguing the move will further hike the cost of industry which is already uncompetitive in the international market” (05 Feb).

NGT asks govt to submit report on villagers’ health in Pali: “The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has taken a serious note of the absence of any serious study or action by the state government on health issues of the villagers, scarcity of drinking water supply and damages to the agriculture because of use of contaminated water in river Bandi released by the textile industries in Pali district. Now, the NGT has directed the state government to carry out a detailed assessment of loss of the agriculture and submit a detailed report on the status of the health of the villagers in a month” (04 Feb).

Wiser Wash provides cleaner production opportunities for denim brands: “Approximately 15 years ago, [Kevin] Youn [apparel-industry veteran and Tortoise Denim founder] encountered ozone methods for denim processing, and seven years ago, while working with an ozone machine to create a variety of samples, he discovered the slow-moisture-transfer method” (31 Jan).

A look at the Sustainable Angle’s latest Future Fabrics Expo: “The Sustainable Angle wrapped its latest Future Fabrics Expo (FFE) on Jan. 25, leaving the industry with lots to be excited about where future fabrics are concerned. The expo, which is a showcase of commercially-available fabrics and materials that leave a lower environmental footprint. (30 Jan).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

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 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.”

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: 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.”

15 – 18 October: Vancouver: Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference: Textile Exchange call for breakout presentations.

(Photo Holger Feulner, 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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