Brands in this issue include: & Other Stories (H&M brand explores second-hand fashion), Adidas (raises EBA concern over Cambodia) AG Jeans (upping sustainability), Boohoo (pursued by PETA over wool), George at ASDA (new sustainability pledge), Insecta Shoes (vegan shoes from recycled car seats), Levi’s (IPOs and sustainability; PETA buys shares to push for end of leather), Mara Hoffman (on sustainability in fashion), Rent the Runway (now valued at $1 billion), Uniqlo (accused of homophobic bullying, fat-shaming and discrimination), and more.
Reports released this week:
“Freshwater and airborne textile fibre populations are dominated by ‘natural’, not microplastic, fibres,” by Thomas Stanton, et. al.
In general news:
Codes of conduct fail to address exploitation in Bangladesh’s clothing factories
US formally removes Uzbekistan cotton from Child labour list
Taking the fast fashion debacle in our own hands
Four organisations working with agritech startups and farmers to strengthen India’s agriculture sector
New Zealand labels join forces to overhaul fashion industry's ethical standards
Are natural fibres really better for the environment than microplastic fibres?
Smoke and mirrors: Why brand-led efforts will never fix fast fashion
In the supply chain:
Bangladesh: new organisation (Nirapon) takes up where Alliance left off; DIFE pays less importance in inspecting non-RMG factories; RMG Worker Rape: Police arrest 2 suspects; six years after the Rana Plaza collapse, garment workers still face harassment; rumour leads to police clash with workers in Narayanganj, 50 injured
Cambodia: Adidas raises EBA concerns (a subject of growing concern an analysis); more faintings; garment workers to benefit from education project
India: program to train first apparel pattern-makers
Pakistan: labour laws not designed for implementation
Manufacturers in this issue include: Dow Chemical (new pretreatment for cotton production), Pentatonic (coat hangers from fabric waste), Tintex (believes sustainability has helped Portuguese fabric exports improve), and more.
Sustainable fashion jobs: 7 new jobs listed (at Amazon, Bestseller, Nanushka, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and Tchibo).
Quotes of the week:
“Brands lure in potential customers with the promise of environmental credentials, when actually, only a small percentage of their collection is ‘conscious’ ... It shouldn’t be the customer's job to work out what is, and isn’t, genuine.” Holly Bullock, founder of ethical fashion podcast Clothes and the Rest (25 Mar).
“Still peddling this nonsense about cheaper clothes in the UK. The global over supply is chronic. Clothing deflation already spectacular. Any gains snaffled by brands as margin in any case. More yachts more wage theft for garment makers. No gain to be had.” Lucy Siegle, taking aim at an article suggesting Next’s potential £15m no-deal tariff boost could mean cheaper clothes (23 Mar).
“[W]e don’t need more investment in industry-led research and coalitions, feel-good sustainability conferences and chasing the next silver bullet technology solution.” Ayesha Barenblat, on why brand-led efforts will never fix fast fashion (19 Mar).
By Stephen Frost, CUHK Business School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
BRANDS & RETAILERS
Uniqlo accused of homophobia, fat-shaming and anti-white racism: “Former Uniqlo employees [in Australia] have spoken out about homophobic bullying, fat-shaming and discrimination against non-Asian staff” (25 Mar).
George at ASDA to sell items made of recycled plastic bottles & clothing: “George at ASDA has announced a new sustainability pledge whereby it will sell products made from recycled plastic bottles and clothing … George added that it would begin to publish a list of its second-tier apparel factories – those typically dyeing, printing and finishing garments – on its website, joining its existing list of first-tier factories, where clothes are cut, sewn and trimmed” (25 Mar).
Levi’s has a history of ethical manufacturing. Can those principles survive now it’s a public company? “The CEO’s challenge now will be to continue to protect that worthy heritage in the arena of a publicly traded company” (24 Mar).
Levi’s takes social responsibility seriously, and it’s paying off with investors: “Companies have plenty of excuses about why they don’t raise workers’ wages, expand family leave benefits, or commit to environmentally sound practices. High among them is the penalty they will supposedly pay with investors, who will dump their shares at the first sign of any actions that eat into profits. Levi Strauss & Co. is here to prove them wrong” (22 Mar).
PETA is coming for your Levi’s: “PETA recently purchased enough shares in Levi Strauss & Co.’s $623 million initial public offering to entitle the organization to speak up at shareholder meetings about the brand’s use of leather” (24 Mar).
Global fashion brand makes vegan shoes from recycled car seats: “Insecta Shoes, which has always been a vegan-friendly brand, offers a colourful, cruelty-free range … PETA-approved [and] Fair Trade factories in Brazil” (22 Mar).
AG Jeans just upped the game in sustainability without comprising on style: “AG Jeans, a longtime champion of eco-friendly practises, is leading the charge on this front. The Los Angeles-based denim brand is putting long-term solutions into place where other brands are merely paying lip service to sustainability. And now, to celebrate World Water Day, the 2006-founded label has announced the installation of new water filtration systems in both its LA and Mexico factories, meaning that 100% of the water used will be recycled” (22 Mar).
Interview: Designer Mara Hoffman on sustainability in fashion: “In 2015, Hoffman decided to use her brand to focus on mindful consumption habits, while maintaining an ethereal, high-fashion vibe. Since then, she has begun using organic, recycled, and regenerated materials. And she's made changes to ensure her manufacturers adhere to international labor standards, looked at sustainability in fashion as an evolving issue that constantly needs to be talked about” (22 Mar).
& Other Stories explores secondhand fashion with Sellpy: “Sellpy, then, is the company the H&M group has chosen as its partner as it takes its first steps into the resale market, an initiative which will begin with the fast-fashion giant’s & Other Stories brand” (21 Mar).
PETA US becomes Boohoo shareholder to push for reinstatement of wool ban: “As Boohoo group didn’t keep its promise to ban wool, despite knowing that sheep are subjected to shocking, systemic cruelty in the wool industry – and that wool is one of the most environmentally damaging materials – PETA US has become a shareholder in the company so that its representatives can attend the annual general meeting later this year, speak to other shareholders and executives, and call for the retailer to commit to finally banning wool” (21 Mar). [Ed’s note: PETA announced last week it had purchased Levi’s shares to push the company to drop leather.]
Rent the Runway aims to be ‘Amazon Prime of rental’: “The ‘Netflix for fashion’ platform has raised $125 million in a deal that values the company at $1 billion” (21 Mar).
NEWS & REPORTS
Codes of conduct fail to address exploitation in Bangladesh’s clothing factories: “Codes of conduct implemented in Bangladesh’s readymade garment industry in 2013 have done little to improve the exploitation and dangerous working conditions its employees experience, according to research co-authored by a Cass Business School academic” (25 Mar).
US formally removes Uzbekistan cotton from Child labour list: “This notice is a final determination to revise the list required by Executive Order No. 13126 (“Prohibition of Acquisition of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor”, hereafter the E.O. List). The E.O. List identifies a list of products, by their country of origin, that the Department of Labor (DOL), in consultation and cooperation with the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (collectively, the Departments), has a reasonable basis to believe might have been mined, produced, or manufactured by forced or indentured child labor” (25 Mar).
Taking the fast fashion debacle in our own hands: “The wellbeing of our planet is a global problem, and yet the sustainability conversation is a niche one, discussed behind exclusively shut doors, resulting in the general public being unaware and unfamiliar with the problems. But if you don't know, how can you change?” (25 Mar).
Four organisations working with agritech startups and farmers to strengthen India’s agriculture sector: “The C&A Foundation launched a sustainable cotton programme in 2014 with an aim to improve the livelihoods of small farmers and conserve the environment through sustainable cotton cultivation” (23 Mar).
New Zealand labels join forces to overhaul fashion industry's ethical standards: “New Zealand brands are tackling the issue as a collective called Mindful Fashion New Zealand. So far 12 designers have signed on, a number that’s only set to grow” (23 Mar).
Are natural fibres really better for the environment than microplastic fibres? “Researchers from the University of Nottingham have found a much higher percentage of 'natural' fibres than microplastic fibres in freshwater and atmospheric samples in the UK. The findings, which are released ahead of World Water Day, raise the question of whether we know enough about the environmental threat of some of the plastic-alternatives we are turning to, to help save the planet” (22 Mar). [Ed’s note: academic article here.]
Smoke and mirrors: Why brand-led efforts will never fix fast fashion: “What does it mean when one of the largest fast fashion retailers funds sustainable fashion research? It’s like the coal industry funding climate change research. Yet this is our reality, as many big brands put money behind research studies, developments in new technology and multi-stakeholder initiatives all in the name of sustainability. Take for example the Global Fashion Agenda, one of sustainable fashion’s biggest leaders which hosts Copenhagen Fashion Summit. It’s sponsored by ASOS, Nike, H&M, Target and Kering, “decision makers of the industry,” yet fails to converse with the workers and communities most impacted by ill-disciplined supply chains and unsustainable industry practices. Needless to say fast fashion retailers won’t be the ones to find solutions to end fast fashion” (19 Mar).
THE SUPPLY CHAIN
New organisation takes up where Alliance left off: several former Alliance members and other brands ... have launched Nirapon, a locally managed organization tasked with overseeing the ongoing safety, training and helpline efforts in garment factories (25 Mar).
DIFE pays less importance in inspecting non-RMG factories: “Factory inspectors take less interest in inspecting factories and establishments outside the Ready Made Garment sector in the country, according to a government report” (24 Mar).
RMG Worker Rape: Police arrest 2 suspects: “The 30-year-old worker of a Dhaka garment factory went to Patgram after one of the suspects promised the woman of finding her a job in India and told her to go there” (24 Mar).
Six years after the Rana Plaza collapse, garment workers still face harassment: “In 2013, foreign brands and unions signed an Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Workers now trust more the system to complain. However, women are still harassed, and workers are laid off arbitrarily or pressured to increase production” (22 Mar).
Rumour leads to police clash with workers in Narayanganj, 50 injured: “Police fired 41 rounds of blank bullets and 10 rounds of teargas shells to disperse the workers [of Chaity Composite] and bring the situation under control” (21 Mar).
Adidas raises EBA concerns: “Sportswear giant Adidas has said that the EU should balance the human rights provisions in its trade policies and the impacts of the possible withdrawal of its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme” (25 Mar).
Cambodia faces major economic blow as EU weighs ending trade deal: “Cambodia faces a serious blow to its economy as the European Union investigates the government’s deteriorating human rights record and considers revoking a special trading deal with the country” (24 Mar).
Wafting fumes cause workers to swoon: “A wave of “faintings” swept through the women working at the Indochine Apparel (Cambodia) in Kandal province’s Ksach Kandal district on Friday morning (March 22) without causing them severe harm” (23 Mar).
BEEP expansion to benefit garment workers: “The Labour Ministry and UNESCO are aiming to expand the Basic Education Equivalent Project to all factories in the Kingdom to benefit garment workers” (22 Mar).
Court acquits unionist over property damage charge: “Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday acquitted unionist Pav Sina of charges for being an accomplice to property damage for his role in leading a labour protest [at Ocean garment factory] in Por Senchey district seven years ago” (22 Mar).
Civil society groups address possible EBA suspension: “Civil society groups and trade unions are calling for concrete measures to prevent the possible withdrawal of Cambodia’s Everything-but-arms preferential trade status during various meetings with the European Union in the Kingdom this week” (20 Mar).
India’s first women apparel pattern-makers: “In the fashion industry, pattern-making is a male preserve. But a training programme is helping women cut through tradition” (25 Mar).
‘Labour laws are not designed for implementation’: “In Pakistan, there are around only 337 labour inspectors to cater to the need of the whole country, said Shaukat. She added though that many companies outsourcing their production try to leverage the exporter by asking it to implement certain laws. These brands in turn are forced by their consumers to do so. She said that the impact of these efforts is low, however, compared to what a state policy may bring” (20 Mar).
Portugal worries Brexit could rip fabric exports: “Ana Silva, head of sustainability at Tintex, which focuses on sustainable, natural-based textiles, told New Europe that sustainability helped the industry pull out of the crisis” (22 Mar).
Pretreatment makes cotton apparel production more environmentally friendly: “A new environmentally-friendly pretreatment for cotton apparel reduces the need for processing chemicals and dyes, while yielding brighter products made through a higher operational efficiency process. The pretreatment, coined ECOFAST Pure, was awarded with a 2018 R&D 100 Award after being launched by The Dow Chemical Company in 2018” (21 Mar).
Pentatonic transforms fashion waste into a useful tool: Pentatonic makes coat hangers from synthetic packaging and fabric waste (21 Mar).
Turning off the tap on fashion’s wastewater: “You’ve probably heard that the fashion industry has a wastewater issue, with an estimated 17 to 20% of industrial water pollution coming from textile dyeing and treatment, including cotton. In our first episode, Cotton Diaries takes a look at how one bright thinker could turn this on its head. Dipak Mahato and his company SeaChange Technologies has created a water purification system that promises to eliminate effluent waste and reduce the mass of waste by up to 95%. Could this technology turn of the tap on fashion’s waste water?” (21 Mar – 3:25-minute video).
SUSTAINABLE FASHION JOBS
[New listings or updated information marked with *]
Aldo: Sustainability Analyst (Montreal)
* Amazon: Social Responsibility, Senior Program Manager (Shenzhen, China)
* Amazon: Japan Environmental Manager (Tokyo)
Ascena Retail Group: Director, Supply Chain Sustainability (Hong Kong)
Asos: Sustainable Sourcing Administrator (London)
Bestseller: Sustainability Reporting & Communications Manager (Copenhagen, Aarhus, Brande or Amsterdam)
* Bestseller: Sustainability Lead for Owned & Operated Buildings and Indirect Procurement (Aarhus, Brande or Copenhagen)
BSR: Manager, Supply Chain Sustainability (New York)
BSR: Human Rights Director (Paris or San Francisco)
Burton: Sustainability Analyst (Burlington, Vermont)
Chanel: Group Director, US Corporate Social Responsibility (Piscataway, New Jersey or New York)
Columbia Sportswear: Product Sustainability Manager (Happy Valley, Oregon )
Common Objective: Content Editor/Writer (London)
Common Objective: Product Designer (UX/UI) (London)
Common Objective: Office Manager (London)
Fair Trade: Brand Partnerships Program Manager, Apparel and Home Goods (Oakland, California)
Fashion for Good: Manager Innovation Platform (Amsterdam)
Fashion for Good: Investment Intern (Amsterdam)
Fashion for Good: Business Controller (Amsterdam)
Fashion for Good: Digital Marketing Intern (Amsterdam)
Fashion for Good: Experience Hosts (Amsterdam)
Fashion Revolution: Global Network Manager (London or nearby)
Fashion Revolution: Digital Marketing Intern (Amsterdam)
IKEA: Stakeholder Engagement Leader, Public Affairs (Leiden)
Impactt: Marketing Manager (London)
Levi Strauss: Sr. Analyst, Global Product Sustainability (San Francisco)
Lululemon: Social Responsibility & Compliance Manager (Vancouver)
Lululemon: Global Manager, Corporate and Retail Sustainability (Vancouver)
Lululemon: Director, Product Sustainability (Vancouver)
Lululemon: Director, Product and Materials Sustainability (Vancouver)
* Nanushka: Sustainability Manager (Budapest)
Organic Cotton Accelerator: Program Officer (Amsterdam area)
Patagonia: Head of Supply Chain Environmental Responsibility (Ventura, California)
PVH: Manager Environmental Sustainability & Product Stewardship (New York)
PVH: Corporate Responsibility Coordinator, Programs & Operations (New York)
PVH: Sr Manager, Corporate Responsibility (Transparency & Engagement) (New York)
Redress: Sustainable Fashion Associate (Hong Kong)
Redress: Creative Media Designer (Hong Kong)
Selfridges: Senior Sustainability Manager (London)
* Sustainable Apparel Coalition: Senior Manager of Verification (San Francisco, New York, Amsterdam, or Hong Kong)
* Sustainable Apparel Coalition: Senior Manager of Higg Facility Tools (San Francisco, New York, Amsterdam, or Hong Kong)
* Tchibo: Junior Manager Nachhaltigkeit/Sustainability (Hamburg)
Tommy Hilfiger: Corporate Responsibility Manager (Amsterdam)
Wolverine: Product Sustainability Manager (Rockford, Michigan)
Zalando: Director Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability (Berlin)
CONFERENCES & SEMINARS
[New listings or updated information marked with *]
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.”
10 April, New York: Building a Global Human Rights Program: “By Elizabeth Pulos, an Associate Manager of Social Compliance at Macy’s.”
11 April, Toronto: Ontario’s Textile Diversion Symposium: “this Symposium will delve into various textile diversion strategies…”
17 April, Northampton, UK: Half Day Understanding REACH Training Course: “Understanding the differences between the Candidate List, Annex XVII and Annex XIV.”
19 April, New York: Principles of Fair Fashion: “This course provides an overview of what sustainability actually means and how your organization can move beyond CSR.”
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.”
24 April, Los Angles: The Future of Design Workshop: Presented by Sustainable Apparel Coalition for fashion designers and product developers.
24 – 25 April, Brussels: Circular - Bio-based - Digital: the Keys to Europe's Textile Future: Annual Textile ETP Conference and General Assembly.
02 May, Dhaka: Bangladesh Fashionology Summit: Transparency through technology, technology for decent work and environment, future skills development.
08 May, Manchester, UK: Time for Change – Facing up to fashion’s sustainability and ethical challenges: ASBCI’s 2019 Spring Conference.
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.
05 November: Dhaka, Bangladesh: Sustainable Apparel Forum: 2nd edition of a forum facilitate by the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange.
12 – 14 November, San Jose, California: BSR Conference: Note: this link is only to sign up for updates; registration will begin in May.
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.