Blog: Leonie BarrieCrunch time for corporate responsibility

Leonie Barrie | 30 August 2011

Environmental pressure group Greenpeace is continuing its campaign against hazardous substances in the apparel supply chain with the release of new research that suggests traces of toxic chemicals have been found in clothing from brands including Adidas, H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Tests on garments and fabric-based shoes from 14 global brands bought and manufactured in locations all over the world revealed the presence of nonylphenol ethoxylates, which break down to form nonylphenol and are harmful to human health.

Swedish fashion chain H&M is also investigating a series of mass faintings in a Cambodian factory making its clothes - as a new report suggests that although working conditions in Cambodian garment factories are continuing to improve, there are still persisting worries over discrimination, overtime, and occupational health and safety.

A survey of 186 factories by the International Labor Organization's (ILO) 'Better Factories Cambodia' initiative not only believes the sector's challenges will be "difficult" to resolve - but also suggests the number of strikes also remains a concern.

Meanwhile, Spanish fashion retailer Zara has told just-style it will consider appealing some $700,000 in possible fines stemming from a Brazilian Labour Ministry investigation into "slave labour" conditions at one of its suppliers, after insisting it wasn't aware of the violations. It says the workers were employed illegally by a subcontractor.

And Marks & Spencer is taking two new steps to boost the sustainability of its clothing operations. The retailer is extending its Better Cotton project in India, which will help to improve the lives of 20,000 farmers in the country and deliver an extra 21,000 tonnes of Better Cotton fibre over the next three and a half years.

Its sustainable raw materials specialist Mark Sumner has also spoken to just-style about the launch of a new traceability programme called String, which will track every single clothing product it sells from raw material through to store.

Apparel companies are being invited to trial the latest version of an environmental assessment tool aimed at enabling them to benchmark and measure the sustainability of their products. The 'Apparel Tool' is the latest update to the Outdoor Industry Association's (OIA) Eco Index, and will be ready for piloting in September.

And a new sourcing directory has been launched to boost the textile and apparel trade in the United States and the six trading partners who make up the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). The online tool is designed to help manufacturers in the region to reach retailers, brands, and importers sourcing from the multi-billion dollar apparel industry.


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