Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers

Page created by Johnnie Vasquez
Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers

                Danger Ahead
                Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands

May/June 2021                    W W W. A P PA R E L I N S I D E R . CO M             Issue 19
Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers
Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers

                A      round a decade ago, brands
                       and retailers began introducing
                in-store clothing take-back schemes.           ” The low-quality
                These allow customers to return old
                clothing into stores, depositing them in       stuff sent to India and
                branded containers. In return, customers       Pakistan is mainly
                sometimes receive gift vouchers.
                                                               downcycled, and they
                One of the biggest names in the collection
                space for such schemes is I:CO, short for      use all of it over there
Brett Mathews   I:Collect, and the branding they use is
                ‘circular economy in the textile industry’.
                                                               (“every scrap,” one agent
                I:Collect now works with retailers in
                                                               told me). None of it is
                more than 60 countries globally. It used       landfilled or incinerated ”
                to be very loud on public relations but has
                gone noticeably quiet in the past couple
                of years.
                I think I may have worked out why. In this     around 40 per cent of clothing gathered
                issue (page 29) we report on a survey of       via take-back schemes is sent to India
                brands which found the majority (52 per        (specifically Panipat’s huge recycling
                cent) of brands do not know what happens       market) or Pakistan. This is because the
                to clothing collected as part of these in-     cost of sorting is prohibitive in Europe,
                store ‘take-back’ schemes. In fact, just 11    especially for low grade clothing; the
                per cent of brands surveyed had decent         declining quality of clothing is making
                                                               this issue worse.
                visibility of the destination of clothing
                collected as part of the schemes.              The low-quality stuff sent to India and
                                                               Pakistan is mainly downcycled, and they
                It was not supposed to be like this given
                                                               use all of it over there (“every scrap,” one
                these schemes were launched as part of a
                                                               agent told me). None of it is landfilled or
                recycling ‘closing the loop’ drive.
                A few years ago, I visited one of the
                                                               In a strange twist and a relatively new
                plants of I:Collect which is run by its
                                                               development, some of this clothing is
                parent company, Soex, in Lower Saxony,
                                                               shredded and ends up being sold back
                Germany. This huge plant was where
                                                               to agents and used in the ‘recycled’
                much of the clothing being collected via
                                                               collections increasingly popping up in the
                these schemes ended up. I asked a few
                                                               stores of leading fashion brands.
                of the people running the plant about
                recycling and they said the clothing           This gives rise to the scenario of fast
                arriving was almost all being downcycled.      fashion clothing originally being made in
                                                               India, shipped to stores in Europe, worn
                They were looking at new recycling
                                                               a few times, returned to stores, shipped
                technologies but said a huge problem was
                                                               back to India, shredded, and returned to
                that the quality of clothing arriving was of   Europe for recycled collections.
                such poor quality and that sorting costs
                made shifts to full recycling prohibitive.     You won’t read much about this story on
                                                               the websites of leading fast fashion brands
                Soex invited a few journalists on this trip    as it doesn’t really fit the ‘closing the loop’
                but they aren’t keen to talk to the press      narrative. But then again, none of this
                anymore (last time I reached out to them       should come as a surprise in an industry
                they told me “management board has             where things are never quite as brand
                … decided not to give interviews until         marketing teams would have us believe.
                further notice”).
                I did some more digging in the wake
                of the above survey findings. Talking          Brett Mathews
                to middlemen in the collection and             Editor
                downcycling industry, it seems that            Email: brett@apparelinsider.com

                                                                                               www.apparelinsider.com 3
Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers
Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers
6-11    UPFRONT
Comment, insight and analysis on current
trends and issues in the global apparel and
textile industries

13-16     COVER STORY                          27    MICROPLASTIC MISERY
UK regulators recently published new guide-    New research by the Nature Conservancy
lines around greenwashing, with fashion        found that the equivalent of one in every 500
one of the sectors in the spotlight. BRETT     t-shirts manufactured is lost in microfibre pol-
MATHEWS caught up with several lawyers to
                                               lution. By MARK LANE
find out what this might mean for green mar-                                                                 SPONSORED CONTENT
keting claims by brands
                                                                                                  ISKO, the world’s largest denim manufacturer,
                                                                                                  continues to set new industry benchmarks
                                               24-25        SAC SILENT ON GROUND-                 around sustainability, innovation and social
17-19     FAST FASHION BLIND SPOT                           BREAKING LCA REPORT                   responsibility.

Global Fashion Agenda’s annual ‘CEO Agen-      A major study has concluded that the fashion
da’ turns a blind eye to the two foremost      industry should not be relying on out-of-date
problems facing he fashion industry. BRETT     LCA studies to draw sustainability conclusions.
                                               By BRETT MATHEWS
                                                                                                  33    VEGAN LEATHER DILEMMA
MATHEWS reports
                                                                                                  A new study, which found virtually no link be-
                                                                                                  tween hide prices and US cattle production,
                                                                                                  raises questions about the environmental
21     THE WEAKEST LINK                        29    BRANDS IN DARK OVER                          benefits of switching to ‘vegan’ leather. By
                                                                                                  MARK LANE
A new report has documented how hardball             UNSOLD GOODS
brands tactics used by fashion brands have     New research from Textile Exchange found
stretched suppliers and garment workers        there is a lack of insight among brands around
in Bangladesh to breaking point during the     the destination of clothing collected via in-      35-45       IN BRIEF     46     FINANCIALS
global pandemic                                store ‘take-back’ schemes

                                                                                                                    www.apparelinsider.com 5
Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers

BCI’S LEADERSHIP VACUUM                           following a huge backlash by Chinese con-          move the Xinjiang statement and whether
                                                  sumers about Western brands and their deci-        they, individually, supported the decision.

L     ONDON - Members of the BCI Council,         sion to ditch Xinjiang cotton.                     All have stonewalled our contact.
      which includes representatives from         The decision to remove the Xinjiang state-         BCI has never publicly apologised for expos-
Levi’s, H&M and Adidas, have continued to         ment has never been explained by the BCI’s         ing consumers globally to the risk of pur-
stonewall questions from this and other pub-      leadership, which appears to have com-             chasing garments which have a high risk of
lications about BCI’s decision to remove a        pletely gone to ground since the backlash          containing cotton picked via state-sponsored
statement from its website condemning the         by Chinese consumers began.                        forced and prison labour schemes.
human rights situation in Xinjiang.               Apparel Insider recently contacted individ-        Rather than face the music on this issue – which
BCI published a press note on its website on      ual members of the BCI Council whose role          refuses to go away as more and more revela-
21 October 2020 in which it stated that sus-      it is to ensure BCI has a "clear strategic di-     tions emerge about Xinjiang – BCI and its lead-
tained allegations of forced labour and other     rection and adequate policy to successfully        ership have now completely gone to ground.
human rights abuses in Xinjiang had contrib-      fulfil its mission."                               If these people cannot lead when the going
uted to an untenable operating environment.       We asked the likes of H&M, Levi’s and Adidas       gets tough, what are they doing in leader-
However, that statement was swiftly removed       whether they had a say in the decision to re-      ship roles?


L     ONDON – Garments made with recy-
      cled polyester released 2.3 times more
microfibres than those made with virgin pol-
yester in a study using controlled washes.
Knitted fabrics made with recycled polyester
and virgin polyester were washed three times
under the same conditions. Researchers sug-
gest the higher release of fibres produced with
recycled polyester may be due to their shorter
fibre length, which would seem logical.
The research was published in the Journal
of the Textile Institute. Knitted fabrics were
washed three times under the same wash-
ing conditions according to the TS EN ISO
105-C06 standard. It was found that R-PET
knitted fabrics released almost 2.3 times
more fibres than virgin PES fabrics.
However, the study also found that the
amount of the released fibres showed a sig-
nificant reduction with an increase in the
number of washing cycles for both R-PET
and virgin PES samples.
The study is the first to our knowledge to
compare the release of microfibres from
virgin polyester alongside recycled polyes-       Indeed, Textile Exchange and the Fashion In-       seem concerned about all those extra mi-
ter. Its findings raise a potential dilemma       dustry Charter for Climate Action, convened        crofibres being released.
for brands which are increasingly promot-         by UN Climate Change, recently launched a          There is another issue here. Conversations
ing their use of recycled polyester. Textile      joint initiative to “spur further a shift in the   we have had with industry insiders suggest
Exchange categorises recycled polyester as        market towards the uptake of recycled poly-        there is already not enough recycled poly-
a ‘preferred fibre’ alongside organic cotton,     ester and the associated reduction in green-       ester to meet the collective commitments
BCI cotton and other allegedly more sustain-      house gases (GHGs).”                               of brands. Some we have spoken to are ad-
able fibres. However, like the Sustainable        The rPET Challenge petitions the apparel           amant rPET must be being mixed with virgin
Apparel Coalition, TE completely ignores the      industry to commit to increasing the glob-         polyester in some cases.
issue of microfibre shedding.                     al percentage of recycled polyester from 14        We are still trying to verify this claim but, if
It is also encouraging brands to increase         per cent to 45 per cent at 17.1 million metric     there is truth in it, the commitments being
their uptake of recycled polyester via its        tons by 2025.                                      made by the challenge above would surely
2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge.                None of those involved in this initiative          raise some eyebrows.

6 Apparelinsider
Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers

H       AMBURG – Greenpeace recently an-
        nounced it had obtained covert film
recordings showing employees at an Ama-
zon warehouse in Germany sorting out un-
sold goods, including clothing, for destruc-
tion. Recordings by an undercover reporter
clearly show T-Shirts being removed from
their packaging before being placed in bins
marked ‘destroy’.
A Greenpeace researcher worked for several
weeks as an employee in the Amazon logistics
centre in Winsen to document the processes.
The researcher found that products in their
original packaging were being pre-sorted for
destruction at eight workstations that Ama-
zon calls 'Destroy Stations'. In this way, Ama-
zon disposes of at least one truckload of un-
sold goods every week at one location alone,      space on the shelf to be more important than the product in it - a climate-damaging waste of
from T-shirts to books to brand-new electrical    resources,” Viola Wohlgemuth, consumer expert from Greenpeace, told Apparel Insider.
goods, claims Greenpeace.                         The German government brought in the new duty of care guidelines for retailers as part of a
Last year, the German government launched         reform of the Recycling Management Act. According to the text of the law, the duty of care stip-
draft laws aimed at improving waste avoid-        ulates that “when selling products, also in connection with their taking back or return, that the
ance and increasing recycling.                    usability of the products is maintained and they do not become waste.”
With the new ‘duty of care’ laws, stock may       Greenpeace claims Amazon is taking advantage of the fact that so far there is no legal ordinance
only be destroyed if items are unusable, and      on duty of care, which is why no penalties are imposed.
manufacturers and dealers must clearly doc-       Given Amazon is now the most shopped online retailer for clothing in the US and many other
ument how they handle unsold goods.               countries, this is a huge concern.
Greenpeace claims that so far the duty of care    Amazon already manages to shift its profits to tax havens like Luxembourg to avoid paying its
has neither been implemented nor moni-            fair share of tax, with the authorities seemingly powerless to do anything about this as it is all –
tored by the authorities. “Amazon relies sole-    somehow – deemed legal and above board.
ly on quick sales and therefore considers the     A similar dereliction of its duties where the environment is concerned would surely be a step too far.


T     OKYO: Japanese retailer Uniqlo, which
      is owned by Fast Retailing, recently had
a shipment of its shirts blocked by US Cus-
                                                  “We confirm that certain cotton shirt prod-
                                                  ucts, which were manufactured in China
                                                  using raw cotton from outside China, were
toms and Border Protection (CBP) on suspi-        blocked from being imported into the US,”
cion they had been made with forced labour        said Uniqlo in a statement.
in the Xinjiang region of China.                  “We demonstrated that there is no evi-
Customs said the shirts flouted a Withhold        dence of forced labour in our supply chain,
Release Order (WRO) on goods produced by          and that there should be no problem with
the Xinjiang Production and Construction          importing these products into the US,” the
Corps (XPCC), the state-owned quasi-para-         business argued, adding that it has provided
military organisation which controls much of      information on the country of origin of raw
Xinjiang’s cotton industry.                       materials used in its products and produc-
Uniqlo has since protested, arguing it had        tion processes.                                      authorities, regardless of Xinjiang links. This
“no direct deal” with any company in China’s      Who is in the right here, it is hard to know.        could be due to ongoing hostilities between
Xinjiang region suspected of using forced la-     What the story does tell us, however, is that        the two global superpowers.
bour and that the products should not have        even clothing manufactured in China now              If this is indeed the case, it represents a whole
been intercepted.                                 appears to be under the scrutiny of the US           new ball game for brands.

                                                                                                                          www.apparelinsider.com 7
Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers

S    AN FRANCISCO – On pages 24-25 we re-
     port on a major study which concluded
the fashion industry should not be relying on
                                                    choices for the planet.
                                                    But we have serious reservations about this particular programme and – more crucially – the
                                                    data underpinning it.
out-of-date LCA studies to draw sustainabili-
                                                    Here are five reasons why:
ty conclusions.
These are significant findings for those who        1. LCAs should not be used to make comparative assertions – no ifs or buts
care to join the dots. On the one hand, the         The Higg MSI makes comparative assertions between different types of cotton production and
findings tie in with our cover story, which         polyester production. This data is underpinning the Higg product scores.
focuses on greenwashing. The findings also          The UNFCCC Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action report, covered later in the magazine,
tie in with the recent announcement that            states: “The existing LCA research conducted on cotton fibre production more often reports
Amazon and H&M will publicly share data on          results as global averages and lacks regionality… LCA data cannot be used to determine the
a product’s environmental impact as part of         environmental performance of one cotton type over another.”
a new programme with the Sustainable Ap-            As an example, the Higg MSI draws on a 2014 LCA for organic cotton to give it a far better envi-
parel Coalition and its spin-off outfit, Higg Co.   ronmental profile than conventional cotton. This is a comparative assertion and this is precisely
This move towards consumer-facing hang-             what the UNFCCC report suggests we should not be doing.
tags using Higg data has always been a major        As an aside, the Higg MSI LCA for conventional cotton simply fails to factor in the huge strides
end-goal of the SAC, and this is a potentially      made by conventional cotton farmers in recent years. Australian ‘conventional’ cotton, for in-
huge step for the industry, although not nec-       stance, is arguably the most sustainable cotton in the world at the present time due to its highly
essarily a positive one, for the reasons we will    progressive farming practices.
outline below.
The first phase of the programme will focus
on evaluating material environmental im-
pacts of products using data from the Higg          ” THE EXISTING LCA RESEARCH CONDUCTED ON COTTON FIBRE
Materials Sustainability Index (MSI).
Further phases will expand to incorporate ad-
                                                    PRODUCTION MORE OFTEN REPORTS RESULTS AS GLOBAL AVERAGES
ditional data, including manufacturing and          AND LACKS REGIONALITY… LCA DATA CANNOT BE USED TO
corporate responsibility.                           DETERMINE THE ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE OF ONE COTTON
Just like the SAC, we welcome a world where
consumers are given better information              TYPE OVER ANOTHER ”
about clothing to help them make better

8 Apparelinsider
Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers
                                                   THEM LAST LONGER (AS LEVIS’ MARKETING CAMPAIGN RECENTLY
                                                   DID) IS SURELY A BETTER WAY TO ENCOURAGE MORE RESPONSIBLE
                                                   PURCHASING THAN PLACING HANGTAGS (UNDERPINNED BY
                                                   QUESTIONABLE DATA) ON POLYESTER CLOTHING BEING RETAILED BY
                                                   FAST FASHION BRANDS ”

                                                   measurement technique for microfibre re-          where sustainability marketing claims are
                                                   lease. The problem is, it has been saying this    concerned, is under the microscope.
                                                   for several years. Two questions. Firstly, why    The use of Higg product profiles raises an
                                                   can’t the cash-rich SAC fund such research        interesting question: if a consumer or other
                                                   given it is they who require this information     entity attempts to challenge a company for
                                                   to be able to offer accurate environmental        greenwashing with its use of Higg Profiles,
                                                   insight? And secondly, should these product       who is liable – the brand or Higg?
                                                   profiles be given to the public given they are    This is one for the legal teams (and we will be
                                                   missing this critical piece of information?       addressing this issue with a group of lawyers
                                                                                                     in our next magazine!).
                                                   3. What about complaints from natural
                                                   fibres?                                           5. Product profiles are missing the point
                                                   Three industry sectors – leather, alpaca and      We have felt for a long-time that the focus
                                                   silk – have already complained directly to the    on fibres is misplaced and, in many ways, a
                                                   SAC about how their scores are represented        red herring. Such as the Higg MSI are mak-
                                                   on Higg MSI. We also know the wool sector         ing the issue of sustainable fashion far more
                                                   has for years had reservations about wool’s       complicated than it need be (I quickly gave
                                                   representation on the Higg MSI.                   up trying to make sense of the methodology
2. Consumers need to know the issues
                                                   It is one thing for the SAC to turn a blind eye   behind Higg product profiles).
with polyester
                                                   to the reservations of four major fibre sectors   Encouraging consumers to buy better gar-
There are two issues here. The first refers back
                                                   in regard to the Higg MSI (the complaints         ments and make them last longer (as Levis’
to the UNFCCC study mentioned above. The                                                             marketing campaign recently did) is surely
                                                   of all four above sectors have, to our knowl-
researchers found existing LCAs are “not cap-                                                        a better way to encourage more responsible
                                                   edge, been met with obfuscation and defen-
turing the geographic variability of polyester                                                       purchasing than placing hangtags (under-
                                                   siveness from the SAC).
feedstock production” and we cannot rely                                                             pinned by questionable data) on polyes-
                                                   It is quite another to then produce consum-
upon them to accurately measure and com-                                                             ter clothing being retailed by fast fashion
                                                   er-facing scores based on the Higg MSI when
pare polyester’s environmental impact.                                                               brands.
                                                   such scores are – in the eyes of some – unfair-
Once again, the data underpinning the Higg                                                           It was also unfortunate timing that in the
                                                   ly penalising natural fibres. Remember, there
profiles does precisely that. Moreover, the                                                          same week Amazon was announced as a
                                                   are livelihoods at stake here in natural fibres
Higg LCA data for polyester is based on Eu-                                                          participant in the Higg profiles, the business
                                                   sectors if these product profiles impact con-
ropean polyester production. Is this truly rep-                                                      was also exposed as destroying clothing
                                                   sumer purchasing practices.
resentative in any case given the majority of                                                        items which had been returned to its Ger-
                                                   To our mind, these issues should have been
polyester production takes place in Asia (par-                                                       man warehouse. Is this really the kind of
                                                   properly resolved before Higg product pro-
ticularly China - and often in areas with huge                                                       business which we should be holding up as
                                                   files were shared on garments.
water-stress issues)?                                                                                leading the charge in sustainable fashion?
                                                   Natural fibres sectors are being treated un-
The second factor is microfibre shedding,                                                            Swedish researchers at Mistra carried out a
                                                   fairly and not being given a proper hearing.
again a huge concern for consumers. Re-                                                              study a couple of years ago. They found that
search studies have consistently found that        4. Who is liable?                                 if each garment is used twice as many times
a majority of microplastic particles in our        Greenwashing has risen up the agenda with-        before disposal, almost half the impact is
waterways are from synthetic fibres. Note:         in the European Union as well as at national      mitigated. Solar-powered electricity in pro-
research has shown this issue is even worse        level in countries such as the UK and Holland.    duction and manufacturing reduces anoth-
with recycled polyester as such fibres tend to     Both countries have recently issued guide-        er 18 per cent and walking or taking a bicy-
be shorter (see p6).                               lines to businesses on product marketing          cle to the store saves another 11 per cent.
None of this is reflected in the Higg MSI          claims – see cover story - and it is clear that   Sustainable fashion need not be complicat-
scores and therefore none of this is reflected     regulators are losing patience with business      ed. Why we continue to make it so with tools
on the Higg product profiles.                      on this issue. Fashion, where brands and re-      such as Higg product profiles is a question
The SAC says it is waiting for an appropriate      tailers have always sailed close to the wind      only the SAC can answer.

                                                                                                                       www.apparelinsider.com 9
Danger Ahead Storm clouds gather for greenwashing brands - SUSTAINABLE FASHION, FINANCIAL INSIGHT - Red Lion Chambers

PLASTIC MASK WASTE WILL BE COVID’S LEGACY                                                           when these in many cases single-use prod-
                                                                                                    ucts are disposed of.”

B      EIJING – Data from commodity con-
       sultants, Jernigan Global, suggests the
US is being flooded with below-cost personal
                                                   tions take months or years, which mean US
                                                   producers could be out of business by the
                                                   time any duty is applied.
                                                                                                    Indeed. One suspects that long after this pan-
                                                                                                    demic is over, plastic masks will still be scat-
                                                                                                    tering our landscape, so ubiquitous have they
protective equipment (PPE) from Asia, pri-         He adds: “The entire PPE market is dominated     become this past 18 months. Equally galling
marily China. In the first quarter of 2021, the    by man-made fibre thanks to cotton essen-        is that the most recent research from Sweden
US imported US$6.4bn of PPE, a 431 per cent        tially abandoning this market. This resulted     found masks made of cotton are about a third
increase from a year ago. China remains the        in very limited research into making cotton      more effective at slowing the spread of Cov-
dominant source, with Malaysia, Mexico, Viet-      fabric work in many of the PPE products.         id-19 than those made of polyester.
nam, and Thailand the other largest suppliers.     “The domination of man-made fibre in PPE         But, obviously, cotton masks are more expen-
Ed Jernigan notes that with the pandemic           and the lack of any real effort to change        sive. Must cost always trump all else, even on
slowing in the US and Europe, Chinese ex-          that are creating an environmental disaster      matters of public health?
porters are reportedly dumping PPE far be-
low the cost of the production across the US
market as China seeks to find a home for its
expanded production capacity.
He says: “China made PPE part of its 5-year
plan way before the pandemic and is now
the world’s dominant producer and exporter.
It has built huge capacity it must utilise.
“It installed the fabric capacity to produce the
specialised protective fabric, which is domi-
nated by man-made fibres, and requires re-
cord polyester capacity to produce it. It has
to dump product to keep these plants open,
but even then some closure of plants is likely.
“The result of this and lack of enforcement
and protection from the US government are
allowing Chinese imports to undercut all US
The US has enforced anti-dumping measures
on, for instance, elastane imports in recent
years but, as Jernigan points out, such ac-

NO WINNERS IN CHINA-US                             ported by companies including Nike, H&M
                                                   and Zara.
                                                                                                    The same issues were flagged for children's
                                                                                                    clothes imported by Zara, Nike boys' t-shirts
TIT-FOR-TAT                                        The announcement included items like chil-       and batches of Gap boys' cotton pyjamas.
                                                   dren's clothing as well as shoes, toys, tooth-   Notably, all three brands and retailers are

B      EIJING – China has ramped up its war
       on Western brands by accusing cloth-
ing giants Nike, H&M and Zara of selling
                                                   brushes and baby bottles, with the warnings
                                                   covering items from June 2020 to May 2021.
                                                   Batches of H&M girls' cotton dresses were
                                                                                                    prominent members of the ZDHC, the in-
                                                                                                    dustry body working with textile, apparel,
                                                                                                    and footwear industries to implement sus-
goods that could be harmful to children.           said to contain "dyes or harmful substances      tainable chemical management best prac-
The country's customs administration web-          [that] may be absorbed by the body through       tices. Indeed, all three are contributors to
site listed a warning notice on 81 items im-       the skin, mouth, etc. and endanger health."      the work of the ZDHC.
                                                                                                    The US government has placed Withhold
                                                                                                    Release Orders on the import of garments
                                                                                                    containing cotton from Xinjiang over con-
                                                                                                    cerns around forced labour. It would seem
                                                                                                    the Chinese government has now turned
                                                                                                    this into a tit-for-tat by flagging up products
                                                                                                    from Western brands for what we suspect
                                                                                                    may well be spurious reasons.
                                                                                                    China seems to be backing itself into a cor-
                                                                                                    ner here. It’s hard to see this ending well for
                                                                                                    any party concerned.

                                                                                                                      www.apparelinsider.com 11

Storm clouds
gather for

UK regulators recently published new guidelines around greenwashing,
with fashion one of the sectors in the spotlight. We caught up with
several lawyers to find out what this might mean for green marketing
claims by brands

                         ONDON – Fashion brands using           marketing either by expressly         misleading consumers. And it
                         vague marketing claims such as         stating something or by omission.     warned the businesses that if
                         “greener” or “more sustainable”        The significance of the move by       they continue to break marketing
                         cotton could face legal action for     the CMA, however, is two-fold.        guidelines on these issues beyond
                         flouting proposed new guidelines       Firstly, it is part of a broader      mid-June, they may face fines and
                         around environmental claims in the     clamping down by regulators           other penalties.
                         UK. The Competition and Market’s       internationally on the issue of       In the UK, as indicated, while there
                         Authority (CMA) has set out the        sustainability marketing – a huge     is nothing new in the legal basis
                         guidelines to give businesses an       growth area. For instance, the CMA    for the CMA’s draft guidance, the
                         idea of the types of misleading        has been collaborating closely with   development here – as in Holland
                         green claims which would likely        its equivalent body in Holland,       – is that authorities are now starting
” As always, it is       fall foul of the law. It also wants    the Netherlands Authority for         to look at clarification around and
                         to create a more level playing field
much cheaper for         around environmental marketing
                                                                Consumers and Markets (ACM).
                                                                The ACM began investigating
                                                                                                      enforcement of the rules.
                                                                                                      To this end, Cecilia Parker Aranha,
a seller to pull         claims. This would help smaller        the use of sustainability claims      director of consumer with the
                         brands which are genuinely doing       by companies last year and this
the wool over            the right thing but which are losing   research led to the publication of
                                                                                                      CMA, told Apparel Insider that
                                                                                                      after the green guidelines are
the purchasers'          competitive advantage to larger        a set of similar guidelines which     finalised in September 2021, a
                         rivals which use greenwashing as       Dutch companies are now expected
eyes with clever         part of their marketing strategy.      to adhere to in their marketing
                                                                                                      ‘compliance review’ will be carried
                                                                                                      out early in 2022. This will look
marketing or             There is nothing new regarding         around sustainability.                at compliance to the guidelines
sleight of hand          the legal basis for the CMA’s draft
                         guidance. In the UK, brands and
                                                                The Dutch government wrote
                                                                to more than 70 Dutch fashion
                                                                                                      in consumer facing sectors,
                                                                                                      with fashion again likely in the
in the use of            retailers will still need to comply    retailers requesting they present     spotlight. This review will likely last
                         with the Consumer Protection from      their sustainability claims in a      around three months, after which
meaningless              Unfair Trading Regulations, which      “clear, specific, accurate, and       enforcement procedures will be
terminology ”            focus on the use of misleading         unambiguous manner” to avoid          introduced, with potential fines

                                                                                                           www.apparelinsider.com 13

for greenwashing brands.
So what would constitute
greenwashing? As well as the
need to be accurate, clear and
unambiguous, the guidelines call
for businesses to make “fair and
meaningful” comparisons, to not
“hide or omit information,” for
claims "to be substantiated," and
to consider the full lifecycle of a
Talking to Apparel Insider, the CMA
confirmed that vague statements
such as “more sustainable cotton”
would “absolutely be something
we would look at” – with
potentially major ramifications
for the marketing of Better Cotton
Initiative (BCI) members. Other
cotton standards which market
themselves as “more sustainable”
will also fall under the spotlight.
Thus the CMA's proposals open a
potentially huge hornet’s nest for
fashion brands and retailers. Fast
fashion brands have been sailing
close to the wind for years on green
marketing claims. For instance,
should they be compelled to publish    last year found that 40 per cent of green claims could be misleading.              “Unfor tunately, increasing
information on microplastic            Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, told us: “We’re concerned             consumer willingness to buy
shedding from synthetic clothing       that people are paying extra for so-called ‘eco-friendly’ products and those       products that reduce their pollution
under the premise of not hiding or     businesses which are genuinely investing in going green aren’t getting the         footprint is matched by some
omitting information?                  recognition they deserve. People must be able to trust the claims they see         producers' willingness to confuse,
                                       and businesses must be able to back them up.”                                      cloud and mislead their customers
There is also the issue of brands
                                                                                                                          on the issue.
increasingly promoting their use of    Another issue for us is that of recycled polyester. This is now classed as
the Sustainable Apparel Coalition's    a ‘preferred fibre’ by Textile Exchange – a vague and ambiguous phrase             “As always, it is much cheaper
Higg MSI, which does not cover         if ever there was one – and dozens of brands have now signed up to that            for a seller to pull the wool over
the full lifecycle of a product but,   organisation’s rPET Challenge which is calling on the apparel industry to          the purchasers' eyes with clever
rather, is a cradle to gate tool.      commit to increasing the global percentage of recycled polyester from 14           marketing or sleight of hand in
                                       per cent to 45 per cent by 2025.                                                   the use of meaningless terminology,
The CMA’s own analysis of websites
                                                                                                                          which gives the public a mistaken
                                       With the backing of TE’s ‘preferred fibre’ status, many brands are now             impression that they are buying
                                       bracketing recycled polyester in the bracket of ‘more sustainable’. This is        ethically.”
                                       despite the fact that the vast majority of recycled polyester comes from
                                                                                                                          Mehta makes the telling point that
                                       plastic bottles. Once these are melted down, the resultant polyester used
” The latest                           in clothing becomes unrecyclable. Can that process really be classed as
                                                                                                                          because of the complexity of the
                                                                                                                          problem, “no consumer has the
research suggests                      more sustainable?
                                                                                                                          time or expertise to check every
                                       To get further insight, we reached out to several lawyers in the UK on
that green                             this issue.
                                                                                                                          green claim made by a seller.”
                                                                                                                          Such sentiments ring loud alarm
labelling has a                        Sailesh Mehta of Red Lion Chambers is a barrister who specialises in               bells in a fashion industry where
significant impact                     regulatory law. He prosecutes and defends large corporations and their
                                       directors and advises institutions at a national level. He also lectures lawyers
                                                                                                                          brands permanently seem to be
                                                                                                                          pushing at the boundaries of what
on consumer                            and judges on aspects of regulatory law internationally.                           is and is not acceptable around
sentiment and                          Mehta notes the huge shift in consumer spending on ethical products and            green marketing.
                                       services, which in 2019 was estimated at around four times as much as              “Most sellers ‘sail close to the
purchasing                             two decades ago.                                                                   wind’ in that they are fully aware
decisions ”                            “The ethical market is now big business,” he tells Apparel Insider.                of the law, but are also aware of its

14 Apparelinsider

                                      • Must be truthful and accurate: Businesses must live up to
                                      the claims they make about their products, services, brands and
                                      • Must be clear and unambiguous: The meaning that a consumer
                                      is likely to take from a product’s messaging and the credentials of
                                      that product should match
                                      • Must not omit or hide important information: Claims must not
                                      prevent someone from making an informed choice because of the
                                      information they leave out
                                      • Must only make fair and meaningful comparisons: Any
                                      products compared should meet the same needs or be intended for
                                      the same purpose
                                      • Must consider the full life cycle of the product: When making
                                      claims, businesses must consider the total impact of a product
                                      or service. Claims can be misleading where they don’t reflect the
                                      overall impact or where they focus on one aspect of it but not
                                      • Must be substantiated: Businesses should be able to back up
                                      their claims with robust, credible and up to date evidence

limitations and fully exploit those   which would likely mislead – but        and shame’ in the most obvious         this with palm oil – as awareness
limitations,” he says.                be unlikely to breach the law - are     cases in the hope that MPs can be      grows, consumers are more likely
So what about the law? Mehta          phrases such as ‘now greener,’ ‘now     embarrassed into taking action         to attach certain connotations
suggests that while many brands       more ethically sourced’ or ‘more        against powerful industries.”          to certain sustainability claims,
may push the limits of marketing      sustainable material.’                  Duncan Reed is a regulatory            and marketing those products
in a way that could break – for       “[This] may be factually true even      partner at UK law firm TLT.            becomes riskier.”
instance – CMA guidelines, they       if the change is miniscule,” Mehta      Asked about the implications for       Asked about penalties, Reed said:
may manage to remain within the       says. “Again, this is contrary to the   brands of this flexing of muscles by   “While a breach of the Consumer
letter of the law.                    guidelines from the CMA but not         regulators, he told Apparel Insider:   Protection from Unfair Trading
Offering examples of claims           contrary to letter of the law.”         “What this means for brands is, the    Regulations could result in
                                      Summarising, he tells us: “The          more noise they make about their       prosecution and an unlimited
                                      difficulty is that the Guidelines       green credentials and the harder       fine, a CMA investigation itself
                                      are not binding. Experience of          they fight for that eco-minded         can be costly and risks damaging
” Enforcement                         Guidelines in various industries        consumer, the greater the risk of      the brand’s reputation. The CMA
                                      shows that because of the huge          being called out if they fall foul     could require the brand to change
orders and                            financial gains that can be made, a     of the regulations. For example,       its behaviours and processes, and
undertakings                          sizeable minority of producers and      if your product is as green as they    get them to publicly agree to a list
                                      sellers will continue to breach the     come, but your packaging couldn’t      of undertakings that will hold them
can also include                      CMA's guidelines while staying just     be less environmentally friendly,      to account for future actions.
‘enhanced                             on the right side of the law.           you need to be careful what you say.   “It will be interesting to see if
                                                                              “The test is: how would the average    there is any divergence between
consumer                              “The public will continue to be
                                      duped by carefully designed,            person on the street behave?           the UK and EU approaches
measures’, which                      ambiguous and ha lf-t r ue              The latest research suggests that      post-Brexit. While the CMA will
                                                                              green labelling has a significant      allow time for this to bed in, the
require businesses                    advertising until the law adopts the
                                      guidelines and some high-profile        impact on consumer sentiment           announcement suggests that it will
to take additional                    prosecutions are pursued. This is       and purchasing decisions. If           start investigating brands that do
                                      unlikely to occur in the near future.   the average consumer would be          not comply, and is prepared to take
steps to protect                      In the meantime, pressure groups        misled by the claims, then there       them to court and fine them.”
consumers ”                           should do their best to ‘name           will be a case to answer. We’ve seen   Katharine Mason is a senior

                                                                                                                         www.apparelinsider.com 15

associate, Regulatory, Compliance
and Investigations at DWF, a
global provider of legal and
business services.
                                                                                                                           ” Claims should
Asked generally about marketing                                                                                            not mislead
claims around sustainability, she
told us: “Claims must be factually
accurate, and companies will                                                                                               about the total
need to hold evidence to prove
any claim made. The stronger the
claim the more robust the evidence                                                                                         impact. In this
needs to be.
                                                                                                                           example, a brand
“A top tip is to keep the R&D or
technical teams in the discussion                                                                                          would need to
when it comes to developing
the marketing claims. This way,
                                                                                                                           be clear what the
businesses can ensure claims                                                                                               Higg MSI relates
accurately reflect reality, aren't
cherry-picked or risk being
                                                                                                                           to, and then, if it
potentially misleading. Debate                                                                                             wanted to make a
robustly in-house now, so you don't
have to defend to the regulator later!”                                                                                    claim beyond the
Asked how a claim against a retailer                                                                                       factory gate, have
might play out, Mason said: “If
the CMA identifies a consumer
                                                                                                                           its own data ”
protection issue relating to
advertising, it could refer this to the
Advertising Standards Authority to
consider, as an alternative to taking                                                                                      information. Again, the comparison
law enforcement action of its own.                                                                                         should be clear on what's being
The ASA welcomed the guidance as                                                                                           compared against, is polyester from
a means to help consumers make                                                                                             plastic bottles more sustainable than
better informed decisions about                                                                                            traditionally produced polyester?
products, so it's likely we'll see                                                                                         If there's going to be polyester, is
references to the guidance in ASA                                                                                          recycled not a better option?”
rulings in the future. Such rulings                                                                                        Finally, we asked about brand’s
stay published for five years and are     undertakings can also include ‘enhanced consumer measures’, which
                                                                                                                           promoting their use of the
widely reported so can have long          require businesses to take additional steps to protect consumers. This can
                                                                                                                           Higg MSI of the Sustainable
                                          include requirements to pay redress to those who have been harmed by the
term reputational impact.                                                                                                  Apparel Coalition as part of their
                                          failure to comply with consumer protection law and measures to ensure
“However, this guidance goes                                                                                               sustainability marketing and the
                                          that similar breaches do not occur in future. Businesses may also face legal
beyond advertising, so businesses                                                                                          fact Higg specify it is cradle to
                                          action from consumers, who can bring legal proceedings in response to
should be prepared for the CMA                                                                                             factory gate tool, not a full product
                                          a business’s conduct or seek redress in the courts for certain breaches of
to have its eye on areas not covered                                                                                       lifecycle tool.
                                          consumer protection law.”
by the ASA such as packaging and                                                                                           On this, Mason said: “The
                                          We also asked Mason to talk us through a few specific examples of where
hangtag claims.”                                                                                                           guidance is clear that claims may
                                          brands might – in theory – be making misleading claims at the present times.
She added: “If a business does                                                                                             be based on a specific part of an
                                          On the guideline of ‘must be clear and unambiguous’ we pointed to the
not comply with consumer                                                                                                   advertised product's life cycle, or
                                          example of “more sustainable cotton.”
protection law, the CMA or another                                                                                         part of a business’s activities as
enforcement body may seek an              Mason said: “’More sustainable cotton’ is a comparative claim, so in isolation   long as it's clear which aspect is
enforcement order from a court            it's an absolute claim against all other cotton/methods of producing. One        being referred to. Claims should
against businesses who breach             way to approach it might be to state: ‘X standard, which champions more          not mislead consumers about the
the rules governing consumer              sustainable cotton production, find out more at...’. It might be necessary       total environmental impact. In this
protection. The CMA can also              to explain in a summary what's specifically different about the standard.”       example, a brand would need to
accept an undertaking from a              Under the guideline of “must not omit or hide important information,” we         be clear what the Higg MSI relates
trader to stop breaches of consumer       pointed to the example of recycled polyester where, in most cases, we are        to, and then, if it wanted to make
protection law.                           actually talking about the downcycling of plastic bottles.                       a claim beyond the factory gate,
“Enforcement          orders      and     Mason told us: “Companies should consider how they are presenting the            have its own data.”

16 Apparelinsider

Without honesty, we’ll never
solve fashion’s problems

Global Fashion Agenda’s annual ‘CEO Agenda’ somehow manages to completely avoid the two
foremost problems facing the fashion industry.

” The language and
phraseology is so
similar at every
                        OPENHAGEN – Where were
                        the suppliers? That was the first
                        question that came to mind
                        when watching the launch of the
                        ‘Fashion CEO Agenda’ by Global
                        Fashion Agenda earlier this week.
                        For those of you unfamiliar with
                        the CEO Agenda, this is an annual
                        event where industry leaders from
                        the fashion sector come together,
                        discuss the huge social and
                        environmental problems facing
                        our industry, then go away for
                        another 12 months to continue
                                                             be difficult to tell otherwise (and
                                                             that’s no exaggeration). So, there
                                                             is talk of collaboration, of industry
                                                             transformation of enhancing
                                                             prosperity (who for?) and reversing
                                                             the impact of climate change.
                                                             How one can reverse climate
                                                             change impacts using a business
                                                             model which is based on producing
                                                             ever larger amounts of poorly made
                                                             clothing that have a decreasing
                                                             lifespan using finite resources is a
                                                             question the organisers of this event
                                                             have never quite got to grips with.
                                                                                                     on respectful and secure work
                                                                                                     environments and better wage
                                                                                                     systems. Laudable goals, one might
                                                                                                     argue, but then look at some of the
                                                                                                     organisations which are strategic
                                                                                                     partners (funders) of GFA. These
                                                                                                     include Bestseller, the SAC, and
                                                                                                     Fung Group, to name three.
                                                                                                     Last year, research by the Worker
                                                                                                     Rights Consortium (WRC) among
                                                                                                     Bestseller’s suppliers found the
                                                                                                     company was cancelling up to
                                                                                                     20 per cent of orders already
                                                                                                     completed or in process – without
event that one could    business as usual.                   Slow fashion is not a phrase one        compensation. The company was
be viewing the same     The language and phraseology is      is likely to hear at this conference    also found to be imposing price
                                                             any time soon.                          cuts of up to 25 per cent on the
event from five         so similar at every event that one
                        could be viewing the same event      This year’s ‘Agenda’ contained five     orders it is accepting.
years ago ”             from five years ago and it would     main themes, two of which focus         Fung Group is listed on the Covid-19

                                                                                                         www.apparelinsider.com 17

                                       If we are serious about improving and bringing about genuine change,               production in recent years,
                                       why not talk to a supplier about these issues given that suppliers are the         including the ending of the practice
” Natural animal                       ones being impacted by poor purchasing practices. If we want suppliers             of Mulesing outside of Australia
                                       to implement better wage systems and secure working environments for               (and even there, promising new
fibres, such as                        garment workers, we must look at poor purchasing practices. And yet, I             methods are being trialled to tackle
wool, leather,                         did not hear ‘purchasing practices’ mentioned once at this year’s event.           flystrike)? Why not reflect on the
                                                                                                                          fact that the silk industry has made
                                       The truth is, when developing its CEO Agenda, GFA doesn’t seem
down and silk                          interested in talking to suppliers. Instead, the discussions involved senior       an official complaint which is being
offer unique                           representation from the world’s leading fashion brands. They took part             reviewed by the Federal Trade
                                                                                                                          Commission over how silk is scored
                                       in a series of debates which included the same soundbites we have been
qualities, but                         hearing for the past ten years, re-hashed and repackaged for a new (or old         by the Higg MSI of the SAC?

their production                       in this case!) audience.                                                           One could also mention that last
                                       All speakers seemed at pains to justify the existence of the CEO Agenda,           year the global leather industry
can entail                             perhaps conscious that many of us have now twigged this annual event as            itself called for the SAC to suspend
force feeding,                         the greenwashing façade that it is.                                                the leather score on the Higg MSI.
                                                                                                                          Leather, let us not forget, is a by-
live plucking                          There was Patrik Silén, chief strategy officer at Asos: “We know that no
                                       individual company or brand can transform a whole industry, which is
                                                                                                                          product of the meat industry and
and unethical                          why organisations like Global Fashion Agenda and tools like the Fashion
                                                                                                                          the leather sector itself would
                                                                                                                          argue, with some justification,
slaughtering                           CEO Agenda are so important.”
                                                                                                                          that if it were not used in fashion it
                                       Or Dorte Rye Olesen, head of sustainability at Bestseller: “As a strategic         would be incinerated or landfilled.
practices, while                       partner, Bestseller supports the GFA and the Fashion CEO Agenda in our
                                                                                                                          On what sane planet is that better
the rising number                      collaborative work towards a more holistic, sustainable and prosperous
                                                                                                                          for the environment?
                                       future for all.”
of vegetarian and                      Patrick Ho, group managing director, Fung Group, said: “The Fashion CEO
                                                                                                                          Instead, the CEO Agenda opines:
                                                                                                                          “Animal farming can have a large
vegan consumers                        Agenda provides a blueprint for shared prosperity in a sustainable world.”
                                                                                                                          environmental impact because of
strengthens the                        And Helena Helmersson, CEO, H&M Group said: “I am convinced that
                                       the key to our success is to help the people and communities around us to
                                                                                                                          its land use and climate effects.
                                                                                                                          For leather production, the heavy
business case to                       grow and be empowered. Only this way we can grow in a way that is truly            use of chemicals for tanning is
                                       meaningful and create prosperity far beyond our company.”
protect animal                                                                                                            particularly hazardous.”
                                       In fairness to H&M, I have rarely heard a bad word said about the company
welfare ”                              from a CSR standpoint over the years (certainly not directly from suppliers).
                                                                                                                          Meanwhile, at the start of this week’s
                                                                                                                          conference, there was an interlude
                                       I am also reliably informed they have been paying bills to their suppliers
                                                                                                                          where the show organisers talked
                                       in Bangladesh in less then seven days this past 12 months.
                                                                                                                          of “lab grown leather.”
                                       Perhaps Helmersson can have a word or two with Bestseller and co as part
tracker of the WRC of businesses                                                                                          There are plenty of these new
                                       of this ‘collaboration’ process.
which during the pandemic have                                                                                            ‘vegan’ leathers on the market. The
                                       We also heard from Amina Razvi, executive director of the SAC. She said:           problem is, they are almost always
refused to pay in full for orders
                                       “The Fashion CEO Agenda helps set key priorities for the industry to work          held together by plastic, which is
completed and in production.
                                       together in unison, ultimately aligning our efforts so we can achieve our          derived from petroleum. Have
Half a dozen members of the SAC        common goals. That strategic framework is necessary to unite the industry          GFA ever stopped to consider the
also sit in this category, including   in addressing systemic issues that will lead to true industry transformation.”     devastating impact the petroleum
SAC co-founder Walmart. Walmart
                                       The SAC is a strategic partner of Global Fashion Agenda and both have              sector has on animals and wildlife?
subsidiary, Asda, was found last
                                       now formed the Policy Hub, together with the European Sporting Goods               The CEO Agenda goes on: “So, what
year to be demanding 40 to 70 per
                                       Industry (FESI).                                                                   about synthetic alternatives? Some
cent price reductions on orders
completed but not yet shipped          Among other things, this trio – for reasons we have never quite understood         man-made fibres look promising:
and on in-process orders via its       - are attempting to influence upcoming environmental laws around textiles          fibres such as polyester typically
UK-based brand, George.                and apparel in the European Union, including the proposed Product                  require less water than natural
                                       Environmental Footprint (PEF) rules. Pushing the tools of SAC spin-off             fibres, are often highly durable and
So tell us, GFA, where does all of
                                       organisation, the Higg Index, is obviously a large part of this process.           can be recycled more easily.”
this sit with regards better wage
systems? Put another way, how          It was no surprise therefore that the CEO Agenda chose to stick the knife          Recycled more easily? “Than
would a supplier facing these kinds    into natural fibres. “Natural animal fibres, such as wool, leather, down and       what?” is the obvious question.
of appalling purchasing practices      silk offer unique qualities, but their production can entail force feeding, live   Most recycled polyester on the
possibly be in a position to look at   plucking and unethical slaughtering practices, while the rising number of          market currently comes from
implementing better wage systems?      vegetarian and vegan consumers strengthens the business case to protect            plastic bottles in a process which
Somebody really isn’t connecting       animal welfare,” the agenda says.                                                  offers an extra life to a bottle which
the dots here are they?                Why not mention the amazing strides which have been made in wool                   would … probably be recycled into

18 Apparelinsider
issues in the fashion industry is
                                                                                                                        to produce less clothing which is
                                                                                                                        better made and lasts for longer.
                                                                                                                        This focus on impact by fibre type
                                                                                                                        by the Higg MSI and the industry’s
                                                                                                                        absurd obsession with ‘circularity’
                                                                                                                        are both complete red herrings
                                                                                                                        when placed against the monster
                                                                                                                        that is fast fashion. In fact, a cynic
                                                                                                                        might argue these twin focuses are
                                                                                                                        diversionary tactics, no more.
                                                                                                                        Consider that annual clothing
                                                                                                                        production has more than tripled in
                                                                                                                        the past two decades and that there
                                                                                                                        are several credible claims which

                                                                                                                        ” In reality, there
                                                                                                                        are huge impact
                                                                                                                        between factory
                                                                                                                        fibres depending
                                                                                                                        where they're
                                                                                                                        manufactured ”

something else. That’s one extra         “In reality, there are huge impact     chains – are not even invited to        say that more than a quarter of
life, as clothing, which will likely     differences between factory            the discussion table at events such     clothing produced is never actually
end in landfill or incineration          fibres depending where they're         as this. It does not happen when,       sold, and you begin to see the real
afterwards. That’s not recycling,        manufactured,” Kassatly said.          in place of meaningful, practical       problems facing our industry.
its downcycling. Language is             Of course, we all know that,           actions, we get empty, vacuous          The good news is they are not half as
important, GFA. So is research,          including the SAC and GFA.             soundbites about ‘transformation’       complicated as the SAC and co make
for that matter.                         So why not discuss? Why keep           and a ‘vision’ for the industry we      out. The bad news is brands don’t
Also consider this: as Veronica Bates    brushing these issues aside? Why       have been talking about for a decade,   want to know about solutions – ie
Kassatly recently pointed out in our                                            but which seems to get further away     less volume – that would hit profits.
                                         continue with this demonisation of
magazine, despite the fact that 93                                              with each passing year.
                                         natural fibres?                                                                Also consider that prices paid
per cent of all polyester is Asian,                                             Change can be confrontational,          to suppliers have continued to
                                         None of these are easy conversations
where production is at the high end                                             it can make people feel
                                         but then again, whoever said                                                   fall in real and sometimes even
of the environmental impact range                                               uncomfortable, it can lead to heated
                                         change was easy?                                                               nominal terms in recent years
(for water use etc), the Higg MSI                                               debate and cause division.
                                         It all comes back to honesty and                                               and it becomes abundantly clear
for polyester is based solely on self-                                          But we would all agree that these
                                         transparency, issues SAC and GFA                                               why garment workers continue
evaluated, best practice European                                               things are a necessarily evil if the
                                         talk about in spades but singularly                                            to be denied the living wage they
Union PET manufacturing - the low                                               chronic issues which continue to
                                         fail to demonstrate.                                                           deserve.
end of the range.                                                               hamstring our industry are to be
                                         Change does not come about when                                                Again, the solutions are far easier
Why not use Asian polyester                                                     tackled. Virtually all CSR problems
                                         huge, gaping issues such as poor                                               than we are being led to believe
production not European as the                                                  have their roots in poor purchasing
                                         purchasing practices are swept                                                 but they would require having the
benchmark? And remember, real-                                                  practices, even the brands speaking
                                         under the carpet. It does happen                                               kind of awkward, uncomfortable
world sourcing decisions are now                                                at this event would acknowledge
                                         when the people who produce our                                                conversations GFA and co simply
being made based on this data. We                                               that in private (so why not here?).
                                         clothing – the people who really                                               are not ready to have with brands.
would all agree it has to be truly                                              Meanwhile, the biggest thing we
reflective of impacts, wouldn’t we?      know what is going on in supply        could do to tackle environmental        It’s hard to believe they ever will be.

                                                                                                                             www.apparelinsider.com 19

Brands not                                                                                                                  ” They disclose
                                                                                   higher price tag doesn’t translate
                                                                                   into stronger transparency and
                                                                                   respect for workers’ rights.             robust efforts
                                                                                   Felicitas Weber, project director of     across benchmark

                                                                                   KnowTheChain at the Business &
                                                                                   Human Rights Resource Centre,            themes, such as
                                                                                   said: “In this third KnowTheChain
                                                                                   apparel and footwear benchmark
                                                                                                                            the steps they take

                                                                                   companies have recorded better           across different
                                                                                   scores, but the findings also
                                                                                   indicate that advances in company        sourcing contexts
                                                                                   policies, alone, are not effective.      to safeguard the

study finds
                                                                                   Companies continue to create an
                                                                                   environment in which abuse can           rights of migrant
                                                                                   thrive, revealing disregard for the
                                                                                   workers upon whom their profits
                                                                                                                            workers ”
                                                                                   rely. Companies are unwilling to
                                                                                   address root causes of exploitation
By MARK LANE                                                                       and retain purchasing practices that     social, and governance factors) that
                                                                                   often prevent decent work and living     has reached mainstream investing,
                                                                                   wages to be paid.                        it indicates that ESG investors are
The world’s top fashion brands are failing to                                      “To achieve a just recovery from the     failing to use their leverage on supply
safeguard workers in their supply chains, a new                                    pandemic the immense power and           chain matters. For example, US asset

                                                                                   wealth imbalances between workers        managers Invesco and Vanguard
benchmarking report has revealed.                                                  and companies must be addressed,         are the largest investors in Prada
                                                                                   and, crucially, companies need to        (5/100) and Foot Locker (13/100),
                                                                                   adopt a worker-centric approach to       respectively, two companies that have
                                                                                   prevent abuse. Disappointingly, our      continuously underperformed across
ONDON - The world’s top fashion           between Humanity United, the             findings indicate the apparel sector     different human rights benchmarks.
brands are failing to safeguard           Business & Human Rights Resource         is far from achieving this.              “Both investors have publicly cited
workers in their supply chains, a new     Centre, Sustainalytics, and Verite.      KnowTheChain’s third apparel and         the importance of tackling inequality
benchmarking report has revealed.         Key findings include:                    footwear sector ranking found luxury     - yet they failed to take proactive
KnowTheChain ranked 37 of the             • Supply chains are rife with            apparel companies score particularly     steps and use their leverage to
world’s biggest apparel and footwear      allegations of abuse, worsened by        poorly, averaging 31/100. Italian        address inequality in supply chains
companies on their efforts to tackle      the treatment of workers in the          luxury fashion house Prada’s score       and ensure decent working and
forced labor. On average, companies                                                has worsened over time, at just 5/100,   living conditions for the supply chain
                                          pandemic, and companies largely
did not score even 50 per cent in their                                            while peers such as the French luxury    workers who make the clothes we
                                          do not demonstrate how they work
efforts to address some of the worst                                               goods company Kering (41/100)
                                          to ensure abuses against workers                                                  wear every day,” claims the report.
forms of exploitation in their supply                                              and the German upper premium
                                          are remedied.                                                                     The benchmark also suggests more
chains. This includes the world’s two                                              brand Hugo Boss (49/100) have
                                          • There is a substantial gap between                                              robust practices are both possible
largest luxury goods companies,                                                    improved significantly since the first
                                          policy and practice, suggesting                                                   and profitable. Lululemon (89/100)
Kering (Alexander McQueen and                                                      benchmark in 2016. Also among the
                                          company efforts to end forced                                                     and Adidas (86/100) again topped
Gucci) and LVMH (Christian Dior                                                    bottom five companies is US-based
                                          labor are ineffective, and this allows                                            the benchmark, because, the report
and Louis Vuitton), and retail giants                                              Tapestry (16/100), the owner of
                                          companies to take credit while                                                    says, “they disclose robust efforts
Amazon and Walmart. Of serious                                                     Coach and Kate Spade.
                                          disregarding the plight of workers.                                               across benchmark themes, such as
concern were the low scores on the
                                                                                   The poor performance suggests            the steps they take across different
most worker-centric indicators.           • Luxury brands are among the
                                                                                   a lack of will rather than a lack of     sourcing contexts to safeguard the
KnowTheChain is a partnership             poorest performers, indicating a
                                                                                   resources: Prada offered US$100m         rights of migrant workers.
                                                                                   in dividends to its shareholders         Among other things, the report also
                                                                                   in early 2021 and Tapestry’s gross       calls on brands to adopt responsible
                                                                                   profits for the last quarter of 2020     purchasing practices that enable
                                                                                   alone equalled US$1.17bn.                living wages and decent work and
                                                                                   Notably, the largest investors in        disclose key data points such as
                                                                                   the lowest-scoring five companies        length of payment terms; and to
                                                                                   were all ESG investors. While            adopt supplier ratings received
                                                                                   this might be expected against           from independent parties, such as
                                                                                   the backdrop of a rise in ESG            Better Buying company reports,
                                                                                   investing (investing that includes       highlighting forecasting, costing,
                                                                                   considerations for environmental,        and payment practices.

20 Apparelinsider
You can also read