Week 16.1 – The fashion sustainability week in review


Brands in this issue include: H&M (working with Hong Kong university exploring sustainable design), Nike (NYU students urge reevaluation of ties), REI (commits to expansion of resale and rentals), Sundried (clothes made from plastic bottles and coffee), Supre (heir says not to fast fashion), Tchibo (continues work with IndustriALL; holds public dialogue with senior German representatives on sustainability; dispenses with plastic packaging), Zalando (90 ventures in accelerator), and more.

Recently released reports:

In general news:

  • Nine out of ten textile companies well on the way to meeting sustainability targets
  • Extinction Rebellion protest in London
  • The race is on to make fast fashion become sustainable
  • Hungary helping bring sustainability into fashion
  • New technical fabric replaces polyester with banana plants
  • Fashion industry seeks to shake bad reputation with CSR initiatives
  • Why fast fashion should slow down – Science Weekly podcast
  • Are brands serious enough about their sustainability missions?
  • CottonConnect on why transparency is crucial for effective supplier impact analysis
  • I’m breaking up with sustainable fashion
  • The fur industry is ready to fight New York City’s proposed ban ‘tooth and nail’

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: Accord deferred for 8th time; fire in Dhaka garment factory; illegal yarn imports destroying local industry; government plans to amen fire prevention and fighting rules under pressure from manufacturers
  • Cambodia: Hun Sen tells US to cut all aid
  • Indonesia: new report on violations of Indonesian law by Nike supplier
  • Pakistan: factory fire
  • Vietnam: low wages trigger labour unrest

Manufacturers in this issue include: A&E and Coats (eco-friendly textile makers), AG (unveils sustainable water-saving denim technology), Avery Dennison (recyclable woven printed label), Solvay (biodegradable polyamide yarn in new exhibition), Stahl (signs MOU with Applied DNA Sciences), and more.

Sustainable fashion jobs: eight new jobs listed (at Columbia, Cotton made in Africa, Macy’s, Moncler, NA-KD, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and Varner).

Quotes of the week:

  • “If you think about how many people are employed by H&M and how many people they employ indirectly through their supply chain – if they can turn that around even by the little things they’re achieving now it can have a huge impact on the sustainability of the fashion industry.” Jackie May, Founder of Twyg (14 Apr).
  • “It has become clear that voluntary sustainable behaviour by companies has not yet achieved the desired effect … today’s business models do not fit together: [voluntary CSR] cannot reconcile companies earning a lot of money from an economic model at odds with companies acting sustainably. Regulation must therefore create a level playing field for all.” Nanda Bergstein, Director, Corporate Responsibility at Tchibo (12 Apr).
  • “How can multiple brands work in the same factory and some have agile and efficient supply chains, while their counterparts are still operating like it’s 1995?” Edward Hertzman (11 Apr).
  • “This is New York, one of the cradles of civilization, and there is nothing civilized about electrocuting and skinning animals just for a frivolous fashion item that has already fallen from favor.” PETA’s senior vice president Dan Mathews (09 Apr).

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


Tchibo and IndustriALL continue to build industrial relations in the supply chain: “The global framework agreement (GFA) between IndustriALL and the German retailer, Tchibo was signed in September 2016, and the parties continue to work towards effective implementation” (15 Apr).

Students urge NYU to reevaluate ties with Nike due to its labor practices: “Student activists discussed at an event on Thursday Nike’s mistreatment of workers following the company’s withdrawal from Indonesia and decision to provide minimal or no severance pay to Indonesian workers in 2011. Two Indonesian union leaders scheduled to speak at the event — Linda Ratnasari and Siti Chasanah — were unable to attend after the State Department denied their visa applications, according to SLAM members” (12 Apr).

This athletic brand makes its clothes from plastic bottles and coffee: “The activewear market is heavily saturated. But that didn’t stop entrepreneur Daniel Puddick from founding Sundried, a British active sports apparel brand, with a unique eco-friendly twist. The company’s two most recent collections are made from 100% recycled materials – plastic bottles and coffee grounds” (12 Apr).

Fairness in unfair times – or the end of sustainability? [Ed’s note: from the Tchibo blog.] “Sustainability is becoming more and more “mainstream” – fortunately. Nevertheless, let’s not fool ourselves: conditions in the world are not always fair. The issue of living wages in the textile industry shows how complex the challenges are. Tchibo therefore invited selected representatives to a press-public dialogue event on 3 April in Berlin. Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Joschka Fischer, former Federal Foreign Minister, Dr. Frank Hoffer, managing director of the initiative ACT for living wages, and the fair fashion experts Barbara Meier and Marie Nasemann were among those who attended”  (12 Apr – in German).

Hanneli Rupert defends use of exotic skins in South Africa: “Hanneli Rupert, daughter of Johann Rupert, chairman and controlling shareholder of Cartier and Chloe-owner Richemont, has emerged as a bold countercurrent voice in the fashion world, defending the use of exotic leather while the rest of the industry has been moving away from it” (12 Apr).

Supre heir: There’s no future in fast fashion: “A woman whose father founded the Supre fast fashion clothing chain – and who worked for more than a decade as its international brand manager – says if she were starting a business now, it wouldn’t be in fashion … “She said this week’s Tearfund ethical fashion report was an accurate reflection of what was happening in the industry” (12 Apr).

Tchibo dispenses with plastic packaging: German retailer Tchibo opens new store in Austria, dispensing with shrink-wrapped plastic. The company says it will phase out all plastic packaging by 2020 (11 Apr – in German).

REI posts record annual sales; commits to expansion of resale and rentals: “Outdoor apparel and equipment retailer REI Co-op reported record-breaking annual net sales of $2.78 billion for 2018 on Tuesday and announced a series of initiatives aiming to promote equipment re-use in 2019” (11 Apr).

Designer Johanna Ho is determined to make fashion sustainable, from high-street to high-end: “The Hong Kong founder of Phvlo believes in harnessing younger generations to implement a circular system” (11 Apr).

Trelise Cooper hits back after ethical fashion report gives company an F: “Kiwi fashion designer Dame Trelise Cooper has asked people who doubt the ethics of her company’s manufacturing practices to unfollow her social media accounts, after facing flak from customers for receiving an ‘F’ in Tearfund’s ethical report” (11 Apr).

H&M greater China explores circular fashion with design students: “Our team in China therefore teamed up with the Polytechnic University (PolyU) for a collection exploring sustainable design using unwanted garments” (11 Apr).

Zalando x circular.fashion: “With our accelerator, we support ventures that reimagine transparency. Among a pipeline of over 90 ventures, we support circular.fashion, who makes it possible to trace the history of materials used in a garment as far back as possible” (09 Apr).


Nine out of ten textile companies well on the way to meeting sustainability targets: “An assessment shows that 86% of brands participating in the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile (AGT) are well on the way to meeting the AGT targets. This is a conclusion of the annual report published by the parties to the AGT today” (15 Apr).

Extinction Rebellion protest: Climate change activists bring Oxford Circus to standstill for ‘catwalk’ demonstration against ‘disposable’ fashion: “Members of Extinction Rebellion’s Fashion Action group staged a “catwalk” in the middle of the busy junction on Friday to highlight the fashion industry’s role in climate change. The group rolled out a long pink carpet across the intersection, blocking traffic, before parading clothing, some of which featured plastic bags and anti-fracking slogans” (14 Apr).

The race is on to make fast fashion become sustainable: “It’s a pressing question – can initiatives to make fast fashion sustainable, become successful fast enough? Jackie May, founder of sustainable living platform Twyg, has just returned from Stockholm where she attended the Global Change Awards, created by the Foundation set up by clothing retail giant H&M” (14 Apr).

Hungary helping bring sustainability into fashion: “Now in its fourth year, Global Sustainable Fashion Week is a unique Budapest-based event that combines an international conference, workshops, displays and fashion shows dedicated to sustainable and ethical fashion and art” (13 Apr).

This new technical fabric replaces polyester with banana plants: “The abacá plant grows without needing lots of water or pesticides, helps stop erosion, and is now being used to replace fossil fuels in clothes” (12 Apr).

Fashion industry seeks to shake bad reputation with CSR initiatives: “Fast fashion has long been demonised for its unethical and ecologically harmful business processes. It is now undergoing an overdue makeover thanks to new corporate social responsibility policies” (12 Apr).

Sustainable fashion – the green-fashion movement: “there is a looming concern over the impending impact this drastic rise in global fashion production will have on the environment hinged on the fact that the largest portion of greenhouse gas emissions in the world comes from the ‘use phase’ of clothing. Fast fashion as a fad is progressively crippling the earth as we know it and there needs to be industrial amendments to counter it by making it ethical and eco-friendly.” (12 Apr).

Why fast fashion should slow down – Science Weekly podcast: “With the help of the Chips with Everything podcast, Science Weekly unravels the true cost of our throwaway culture and looks to tech for solutions. Graihagh Jackson speaks to Prof Tim Cooper from Nottingham Trent University about the issues surrounding taking your clothes to the charity shop and how some synthetic fibres are contributing to plastic pollution in our oceans. Jordan Erica Webber talks to Orsola de Castro of Fashion Revolution about apps that help map a company’s supply chain and manage your fashion footprint” (12 Apr – 25:26-minute podcast).

Are brands serious enough about their sustainability missions? “These days, many brands are giving back on varying levels, from local to international, with focuses ranging from human and civil rights to environmental and sustainable missions. The question is, are brands serious about keeping to the cause?” (11 Apr).

CottonConnect on why transparency is crucial for effective supplier impact analysis: “CottonConnect CEO Alison Ward speaks with Innovation Forum’s Ian Welsh about the role of enablers in supply chains, and how to build capacity effectively on the ground” (11 Apr).

I’m breaking up with sustainable fashion: “Breakup may be a misnomer, but I’ve come to realize that I’m disillusioned with the community that grew around the sustainable fashion industry, because as it grew, it inherited many of the problems associated with conventional fashion” (11 Apr).

The fur industry is ready to fight New York City’s proposed ban ‘tooth and nail’: “NYC lawmakers have proposed a ban on the sale of fur, following the lead of Los Angeles and San Francisco. It could cost the city over 1,000 jobs and $3.3 billion” (09 Apr).



The Accord must continue in Bangladesh until the government is truly able to ensure worker safety: “The Supreme Court of Bangladesh has given another short-term extension to the Bangladesh Accord, scheduling the next hearing to determine the safety program’s fate on 19 May 2019. UNI Global Union and IndustriALL Global Union, two signatories of the Accord, issued the following statement: “The Bangladesh Accord has saved lives and has helped make the country’s garment industry more sustainable,” said Head of UNI Commerce, Mathias Bolton. “We welcome the one month extension but the facts remain the Accord must be allowed to continue operations in the country until the government is ready to effectively take over the training, inspection, and remediation functions of the Accord. Currently, the government clearly does not have that capacity” (15 Apr).

Fire breaks out in Dhaka garment factory, no casualty: “A fire broke out at a garment factory in Bangladesh capital Dhaka’s Mirpur-14 area on Sunday, media reports said” (14 Apr).

  • Mirpur garment fire under control, no casualties reported: “The fire that broke out at garment factory warehouse in the city’s Mirpur-14 area on Sunday afternoon was brought under control after two hours” (14 Apr).
  • Mirpur building fire under control: “Two firefighters fell sick after inhaling smoke as they were trying to douse the fire, said Maj Shakil Newaj, director (operation) of the fire service … The fire originated at a godown on the sixth floor of the building “Khan Mansion & City Park”” (14 Apr).

Cheap yarn imports make textile millers walk a tightrope: “Backward linkage factories – spinning, weaving, and knitting – in Bangladesh are running their businesses at a loss because of yarn dumping from India, and fabrics from China and Pakistan” (14 Apr).

Govt plans to amend fire rules: “The government has decided to amend the Fire Prevention and Fighting Rules 2014 to relax major safety clauses under pressure from apparel and knitwear factory owners. Home affairs ministry in March asked the Fire Service and Civil Defence to prepare a fresh draft with a view to amending the rules after considering observations given by Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association regarding the standard of the safety clauses … They are for reducing width of the approach roads, empty spaces around the buildings, capacity of hydrants and other fire safety equipment set as standard in the rules” (13 Apr).

When it comes to transparency, seeing is believing: “Denim Expert, a jeans manufacturer which is based in Chittagong, is at the vanguard of this change which is sweeping the industry. The company has always been a great believer in transparency, and the company’s owner, Mostafiz Uddin, is someone who always practices what he preaches on this issue” (11 Apr).


Defiant Hun Sen tells US to cut all aid to Cambodia: “Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen challenged the United States on Sunday to cut all aid after it announced it was ending funding for a general election next year in response to the dissolution of the main opposition party, media reported” (13 Apr).

  • The rising cost of Hun Sen’s rule in Cambodia: “On 4 April, a group of international buyers’ associations from the garment, footwear, sporting, and travel goods industries sent a letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to express concerns over abusive labour practices and human-rights violations” (14 Apr).


Worker Rights Consortium assessment PT Kahoindah Citragarment Tambun-Bekasi (Indonesia): Findings, Recommendations, and Status: “This report presents the [Worker Rights Consortium] findings regarding alleged violations of Indonesian law and university codes of conduct related to the closure of PT Kahoindah Citragarment Tambun-Bekasi (hereafter, “PT Kahoindah Bekasi” or “the Bekasi factory”), a supplier of university logo apparel to Nike” (09 Apr).


Karachi factory fire injures two: “Two persons were injured when a fire erupted in a towel factory at Karachi’s S.I.T.E Superhighway on Monday” (15 Apr).


Low wages trigger labour unrest in garment industry: “The garment industry saw a large number of strikes last year due to low salaries, experts told a conference in Hanoi on Thursday”  (12 Apr).

Vietnam to become “sustainable supplier of choice” for textiles and apparel: “Speaking at the 2019 Global Textile and Apparel Supply Chain Conference, Vu Duc Giang, chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS), said the industry creates long-term and well-paid skilled jobs since it can offer affordable labour resources” (12 Apr).


Hong Kong WiseEye wins international award: WiseEye, an AI-based Textile Material Inspection System, has won two grand awards and a gold medal at the Geneva Inventions Expo. “This intelligent system can be installed on any weaving machines, and can identify about 40 common fabric defects with exceptionally high accuracy resolution of up to 0.1 mm/pixel, reducing 90% of material loss and wastage in the fabric manufacturing process”  (15 Apr). [Ed’s note: see video here.]

Global textile producers rely on Hohenstein’s testing competence: “The family-owned testing services provider and research partner manages cutting-edge laboratories and more than 40 contact offices worldwide” (14 Apr).

Stahl signs Memorandum of Understanding with Applied DNA Sciences to bring molecular tagging to manufacturing supply chains: “Stahl announced the signing of a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Applied DNA Sciences Inc., a leader in polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based DNA manufacturing for product authenticity and traceability solutions. The MOU is expected to be followed by a definitive agreement” (12 Apr).

Amni Soul Eco polyamide yarn is part of Sustainable Thinking, eco-exhibition held at Museo Salvatore Ferragamo: “Created by the international multi-specialty chemical Solvay Group, this award-winning fiber has been selected as a remarkable chapter in the history of sustainability due to its astounding biodegradable properties … Amni Soul Eco branded fibers are designed to decompose in around five years when disposed in well-controlled landfills” (12 Apr).

AG unveils sustainable water-saving denim technology: “US denim brand AG is taking steps to plug the leak, installing state-of-the-art equipment in its LA and Mexico factories to ensure that 100 per cent of its water is recycled during production. Now only 1,200 gallons of water are lost per day due to evaporation or spillage” (12 Apr).

Asia Dyestuff Industry Federation (ADIF) and ZDHC announce collaboration: “During the 2019 China InterDye exhibition the China Dyestuff Industry Association (CDIA), the Asia Dyestuff Industry Federation (ADIF) and ZDHC organised a joint information event, which included the announcement of ADIF joining ZDHC as Contributor. The event also marks the start of a collaboration which is expected to significantly accelerate sustainable chemical management uptake across the Asia region” (12 Apr).

The apparel industry has shifted drastically – but have supply chains really changed? “Though the industry – whether at sourcing conferences, trade shows, during executive pitches and the like – has embraced all the right buzzwords that lend the appearance of evolution and advancement, few have quite unlocked the key to retail as they believe they have” (11 Apr).

These eco-friendly textile makers are ushering in a new era of sustainability: “Consumers aren’t the only ones going green. The manufacturers of high-quality materials used in shoes are, too, as sustainability standards continue to rise around the globe. To meet the environmentally conscious demands of footwear and apparel brands, market-leading textile producers are seeking new ways to generate eco-friendly fabrics without compromising on performance” (11 Apr). [Ed’s note: article focuses on A&E and Coats.]

Avery Dennison: Licensing its unique label patent to promote sustainability across the fashion industry: Avery Dennison is promoting sustainability across the fashion industry by licensing its patent for a recyclable woven printed label, with a significant part of the proceeds from the license fee going to Plastic Bank (06 Apr).