Blog: Leonie BarrieNew sourcing hubs the solution to avoid Xinjiang cotton?

Leonie Barrie | 15 February 2021

As the global apparel industry continues to grapple with the challenges of severing possible links to the use of forced labour in China’s Xinjiang region, new research suggests the way forward is the development of new sourcing hubs. The capacity to trace products back to their source must also be significantly strengthened.

Concerns about China’s role in apparel supply chains also saw the country’s exports to the US drop 23.6% last year – marking a decline for the third successive year.

Yet China continues to reign supreme as the cheapest supplier of apparel to the US, with its per-unit cost for clothing falling 20% in 2020 to a ten-year low.

While Covid-19 dealt a body blow to Bangladesh's apparel industry last year, one fast-expanding segment fared surprisingly well: denim. In 2020 it took the top spot as the largest overseas supplier of denim to the US, the latest trade data shows.

Bangladesh is also at the heart of a new initiative to capture and reuse textile waste, with H&M Group, Marks & Spencer, and C&A among more than 30 brands, manufacturers and recyclers taking part.

UK-based retailer Marks & Spencer has also launched the first denim range to meet its new sustainability standards, with all products made of 100% responsibly sourced cotton, 86% less water, and more sustainable indigo dyes. 

Former US President Donald Trump may be out of office, but the first initiatives of the new administration of President Joe Biden have been to encourage the American manufacture of clothing and textiles – just in a different way from his predecessor.

The newly implemented African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to have minimal positive impact in the short term for the continent's garment and textile manufacturers

Amid a boom in e-commerce sales, warehouses must be adapted to keep up with demand. Implementing automated systems can help ensure that supply chains are as efficient as possible

VF Corporation, owner of brands including The North Face, Timberland and Vans, has unveiled new sustainable packaging goals, including a pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic packaging, including polybags, by 2025.

And T-shirt and activewear maker HanesBrands plans to exit its personal protective garments (PPE) business and is weighing up options for its European innerwear unit.

Meanwhile, in other news, Merino wool brands are working with growers committed to regenerative agricultural practices; more countries have joined an initiative to drive better purchasing practices; and Lectra is to acquire US rival Gerber Technology in a EUR300m (US$360.8m) deal.

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