Blog: Leonie BarrieFirms urged to stay committed to Cambodia

Leonie Barrie | 17 November 2014

Apparel brands have been urged to stay committed to Cambodia after a 28% rise in the minimum monthly wage was agreed for textile, garment and footwear workers. From the beginning of next year, salaries will increase from US$100 to US$128. But trade unions say the new amount is far below their expectations, while manufacturers argue the figure is too high to be financially viable.

US apparel imports surged in September as retailers continued to stock up on holiday merchandise amid fears of possible disruption to shipments due to the ongoing dockworkers dispute at major West Coast container ports. Four of the top-ten supplier countries - China, Vietnam, Indonesia and India - saw strong double-digit gains, but Bangladesh sank for the seventh month in a row.

Meanwhile, in Myanmar, the US is teaming up with Japan and Denmark to try to improve labour rights and conditions - with the aim of making the country a more attractive sourcing and investment destination.

And a project launched last year with help from the European Union (EU) to increase skills and capacity in Myanmar's garment industry has recently seen local firms receive advice on boosting productivity.

Fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz has instructed its suppliers to ensure they do not use cotton from the Omo Valley region of Ethiopia, where there is an increased risk of land-grabbing - but admits it but cannot provide an absolute guarantee.

And a call for "greater collaboration for a fair and sustainable apparel industry" has been issued by the C&A Foundation - a private body affiliated with the global clothing retailer C&A - as it embarks on a new global strategy focusing on sustainable cotton and improved working conditions.

UK retailer Marks & Spencer is on a mission to become the world's most sustainable retailer through its ambitious Plan A environmental and ethical programme. The person in charge of implementing this globally is Adam Elman, head of Plan A delivery, who tells just-style about the initiative's challenging targets and the need for wider industry collaboration.

In the past six years apparel buyers have moved from avoiding commitment on toxic discharge to likely toxic-free production by the end of the decade. And China has moved from opposing legislation on hazardous chemicals to introducing a legally-enforced programme for eliminating them. Has the industry finally hit a tipping point? asks Mike Flanagan.

New research suggests environmentally friendly LED lighting also boosts productivity and increases profits in garment factories. By creating less heat than traditional lights, they help keep factory floors cooler, boosting worker productivity and reducing absenteeism.

And jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co is axing 500 jobs as part of a $143m deal to outsource some of its global business services including information technology, finance, human resources, customer service and consumer relations. The changes mark the latest phase of its global productivity initiative.

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