Blog: Leonie BarrieSocial and environmental goals still missed

Leonie Barrie | 18 July 2011

Despite industry-wide efforts to set social and environmental standards in the clothing and footwear industry, two reports surfaced last week to show that meeting these goals continues to be an uphill struggle.

Sporting goods giant Nike promised "immediate and decisive action" after unfair labour practices were alleged at two Indonesian factories making footwear for the company's Converse brand. It also acknowledged that nearly two-thirds of factories making products for Converse fail to meet the firm's own ethical standards.

Nike was also caught in the firing line along with Adidas, H&M and PVH in a Greenpeace campaign highlighting toxic water pollution linked to the clothing supply chain. The environmental pressure group said it had found the toxic chemicals in samples of waste water discharges from the Youngor Textile City Complex and the Well Dyeing Factory, by the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas.

US department store retailer Macy's Inc, meanwhile, has been fined $750,000 for continuing to sell children's sweatshirts, sweaters and jackets with drawstrings at the neck after a recall had been issued on the products. Earlier this month, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) set a new federal safety rule for drawstrings in children's outerwear, formalising long-standing voluntary guidelines into a mandatory standard.

Raw cotton's volatile price increases have also made many in the industry jittery. Yet research suggests consumers are actually willing to pay more than a potential fibre price increase would entail - especially for quality items.

The feedback comes as new figures forecast world cotton consumption is set to fall by 3% during the current season thanks to an ongoing slowdown in demand and a continuing switch to man-made fibres - but is set to rebound next year.

But in Egypt, where the garment sector appears to have weathered the political upheaval that swept through the country earlier this year, the key textile industry has been hit hard by the quadrupling in price of locally-produced yarn. While the government has not yet reacted to calls to stop cheap cotton imports, garment producers are directly sourcing their own cotton to avoid breakdowns in the production chain.


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