Blog: Leonie BarrieSustainability moves gather momentum

Leonie Barrie | 29 October 2012

In the first of several sustainability initiatives revealed last week, UK clothing retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has pledged to eliminate all hazardous chemicals from its entire textile and clothing supply chain by 2020, in a move that also paves the way for the development of new ways to produce its products.

The retailer has spent the past three months hammering out a new set of chemical commitments in conjunction with environmental pressure group Greenpeace, whose 'Detox' campaign last year prompted a number of leading apparel brands to invest in a toxic-free future. As part of its plans, M&S will phase out all Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) by 1 July 2016.

And US retail giant Wal-Mart has extended its sustainability goals with plans to buy 70% of the products it sells in its US Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores from suppliers who use its Sustainability Index to share the sustainability of their products. From 2013, Wal-Mart said it would use the index to influence the design of its US private brand products.

Also gaining momentum last week were efforts to create a private fund or insurance product that would provide support to garment workers affected by factory closures and non-payment of wages and benefits. The Global Forum for Sustainable Supply Chains convened a multi-stakeholder meeting driven by Adidas.

Meanwhile China's clothing and textile industry - already undermined by rising costs and competitors snapping at its heels - could be especially vulnerable to fallout from a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute brought by Mexico. The case claims Chinese government subsidies and tax-breaks for its textile and clothing sector break WTO agreements - and if a disputes settlement panel is set up to make a ruling, Beijing will be under pressure to end them.

Talk by apparel retailers, brands and importers on both sides of the Atlantic about increasing the amount of product they source closer to home is the topic of a new report released by just-style. But is such a move realistic and is it likely to prove more than a passing trend? The research 'Is there a future for garment near-shoring?' looks at the key drivers, benefits and challenges of moving apparel manufacturing closer to markets in the US and western Europe.


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