Business

Rising Need For Ethical Behavior and Sustainable Practices

Beth Gerard intern Rethink Rebels

Hi!

I’m Beth,

a Fashion Technology Student

from the University of Leeds,

here to question the norm

and learn how to create

change in the fashion industry.

Read more

Discussing Boohoo, Reformation, and solutions for a sustainable future for the fashion industry

This crisis has highlighted the many flaws of the current fashion industry and indicators show that many businesses will not survive. We rapidly learned about one-sided order cancellations and the rippling effects through supply chains leading to further social issues…

First, we will zoom into customers changing relationships with brands. We will discuss examples in the fashion industry, highlighting the unbalanced system of fashion and what exactly is wrong here. Lastly, we discuss short, medium, and long-term solutions and visions for a sustainable future for your brand.

Boohoo slavery practices

Consumers have huge power to sway decision making and surveys show that over 50% of people would choose a more sustainable product over another and especially the younger generations, aka Gen Z “desire brands that not only minimize their climate change impact but actually put sustainability and transparency at the center of their brand and product strategies.”

Gen Z “desire brands that not only minimize their climate change impact but actually put sustainability and transparency at the center of their brand and product strategies.”

Which is a really positive and promising affirmation. The way Gen Zers consume and relate to brands is influenced by the behaviors of brands. Companies should be attuned to three implications for this generation: consumption as access rather than possession, as an expression of individual identity, and as a matter of ethical concern. See below an overview of how today’s young generation differs from the other generations.

Boohoo: slavery practices in the UK

Do you still believe nobody cares about working conditions in garment factories? Read the article from BBC on Boohoo, one of UK’s biggest retailers. Their level of compliance is appalling beyond measure: Wages below minimum, excessive overtime, illegal immigrants. We tell you, this is happening in a few hundred factories, if not thousands. All located near Leicester, UK. Most shocking perhaps that this has been for years an open secret, the government is aware of these malicious practices. Some people even complained but without any luck of getting through. For the government, Boohoo is a symbol of the UK garment industry….but not anymore now it’s out in the open. Naturally, the retailers are fleeing. Next, Asos, Zalando. Nobody wants to be caught out. From hotshots to depression in less than one week.

Perhaps, with the sweatshops out of business, legitimate factories, paying reasonable wages while providing decent working conditions will be able to compete.

Reformation: racism practices in the USA  

Another example of a rapid downfall is Reformation. Long time, top of the world’s sustainable brand found itself in the spotlight of accusations of racism. After a post about donations to BLM organizations, a former employee shared her experiences with racisms in the company. The post blew up to a point Reformation couldn’t ignore it. A few days later CEO Aflalo commented with “I’ve failed” and detailed the initiatives the brand would be taking moving forward, such as launching a diversity and inclusion board. Later, founder Yael Aflalo posted a statement to the brand’s website announcing her departure from the company. “Over the past few years it has become clear to me that I am not the right person to lead a business of Reformation’s size and scope,” Aflalo said in the published statement. The implications of this on the future of Reformation will be interesting to see and how they act in the future will be key to saving themselves and sustainable fashion.

It is clear that ‘sustainability’ is no longer enough and brands who want to survive need to be holistic, a force for good, that fights injustice.

So what should fashion businesses do now?

  1. Commitment to ethics, inclusivity, and diversity

Sustainability & ethical behavior: Have a strong focus on workforce protection, health and safety, and environmental programs. Make sure you have a traceable supply chain, you know who makes the garment, where the processes take place, and even where the fiber comes from. Focus on respectful and secure work environments and promote better wage systems. Have an inclusive and diverse approach, including in the board and management team to make a difference.

For example, Prada requested Ava Duvernay to join as their co-chair of diversity and inclusion advisory council after it was blasted for selling a line of figurines criticized for evoking racist imagery. Read more.

  1. Holistic cooperation

Work together with NGO’s such as Clean Clothes Campaign, Fair Wear Foundation, Unicef, to name a few to check your sustainable strategy with. Make sure you get their input, work together with local NGO’s, governments to really make an impact where it’s needed most. For example, like Levi’s, workgroups, consortium, NGO’s and test your strategy & smart action plan. Read more here.

Supply chain relationships are important here. This is a real opportunity for brands to work together with their suppliers, creating conversations, and making two-sided decisions. With many initiatives and governance available for companies to take part in, the message is that collaborating will allow them to build much stronger and effective sustainable practices.

  1. Transparent Communication

And be trustworthy. Be aligned with association members, employees, and customers. Involve them and ask them what they think. How companies act now will determine future popularity and success with consumers.  They should build trust by being honest and acting ethically. “In a survey of almost 6,000 consumers in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, and China, consumers indicated that they very favorably viewed brands that paid their furloughed employees, repurposed facilities to produce PPE, or donated to their communities.”

Further, from a business perspective, the director of sustainability at Zalando SE, Kate Heiny, says there is a “clear link between sustainability and continued commercial success,” And that the “current and future customer base are calling for more sustainable choices in fashion,” Reassuring the industry that this is the right way forward.

If this isn’t enough reasoning to be prepared for sustainability, we can soon expect wider enforcement of sustainable policies by government, currently with the “moving forward with mandatory reporting and transparency requirements, as seen in France, Germany, and the European Commission” meaning harmful practices will no longer be kept hidden leading to accountability and change.

So what does the future of fashion look like?

Looking at this situation, Sanjeev Bahl (Founder and Chief Executive, Saitex) notes that “The pandemic has forced all of us to take a step back and reset our priorities. One key takeaway that has clearly emerged is that a new transparent model that showcases verified sustainable practices will have an edge over other traditional business models.”

Questions about a holistic approach or transparent communication? Or anything else? Write them down in our comments below. Do you like this? Perhaps you like our previous article on How the textile industry impacted by the corona crisis.  Do you see mistakes? Let us know! Do you want to stay informed? Sign up for our Newsletter or social via Facebook and Instagram.


Transparent fashion supply chains

Transparent Supply Chains Explained. Is This Fashion's New Norm?

Rachel founder Rethink Rebels

Hi!
I’m Rachel
You have gifts to
change the fashion 
industry into a sustainable one
and my job is to help you
using these gifts.

Read more

Transparent supply chains is the norm for responsible companies. Rethink Rebels believes transparency is the first step to transform the fashion industry because of the simple thought “If you know what’s wrong, you can change it for better”. But why, oh why, is it so darn difficult to get transparency? Let us get down to the bottom of it.

Naked transparency

Fashion’s complex global production network

Fashion. One of the most complex global production networks. Global supply chains are opaque and consumers lack information. A simple ‘made in China’ label doesn’t say much about if the garment worker has a good job making the T-Shirt, now does it? We simply don’t know. We are increasingly disconnected from the people who make our garments. Did you know that 97% of our garments are made overseas? Feels a bit like we took ‘see nothing, hear nothing’ too literally, right? And yeah, we say we. Because we all buy clothes and have a common responsibility here…

We want transparency. Bad.

There is a growing trend of global apparel companies adopting supply chain transparency. Step by step brands starting to publishing the names, addresses, and other important information about factories manufacturing their branded products. For example G-Star Raw & H&M are showing this on their website already. Check out our post about Mud Jeans and how they report on transparency here.

At the same time, consumer interest in transparency has increased. The conversations and comments of consumers on social media have a growing impact on the perception and the sustainability performance of fashion brands. For example asking your favorite brand #whomademyclothes organized by Fashion Revolution. In response more companies make traceability a part of their value proposition and communication.

Gstar factory overview

Above picture shows the factories of G-Star

 

Transparency as tool for sustainable production

Transparency is a powerful tool for sustainable production and promoting corporate accountability for garment workers’ rights in these global supply chains. Brands and manufactures are enabled to identify challenges and risks along their supply chain. Also to get a better understanding to manage opportunities and introduce more sustainable practices. Transparency makes supply chains more efficient and enables more informed business decisions. Lastly, transparency equips companies with data which they can use for external communication and show the impact of products in a credible way.

Transparency Pledge

In 2016, 9 labor and human rights organizations formed a coalition to advocate for transparency in apparel supply chains as a first step. In 2017 the transparency pledge was signed by G-Star Raw, C&A, Zeeman and Esprit. In November 2019, 8 companies joined this pledge:

Okimono, Alchemist, Marlies Dekkers, Kings of Indigo, Kuyichi, WE fashion, Schrijvens Corporate fashion and HEMA. Yay! More to follow please.

Transparency pledge signees

Goal: Creating a supply chain standard

Simply said, signees promise to make their production locations known in a place that is accessible to citizens. Brands show their factories and sub-suppliers that are needed to manufacture a garment and update this regularly. By getting companies to publish standardized, meaningful information on all CMT (Cut Make Trim) factories it’s possible to create a common minimum standard for the supply chain.  Each company that signs this pledge commits to these steps within 3 months of commitment:

  1. Full name of all authorized production units and processing facilities (processing factories include printing, embroidery, laundry, and so on)

  2. The site addresses.

  3. The parent company of the business at the site

  4. Type of products made (apparel, footwear, home textile, accessories)

  5. Worker numbers at each site (by category: less than 1000, 10001-5000, 5001-10.000, more than 10.000)

Taking it further

Overall companies are increasing visibility in the supply chain, which is good. The focus still lies mainly on the processing and garment manufacturing stages. We need to address the complete supply chain with all chains involved. Think about manufacturing including wet processing such as dying and printing but also knitting, weaving, raw material processing and production. It’s a step into the right direction. Because we believe that little achievements produce big results. We are moving into the right direction and together we are able to transform the most complex global production networks into a sustainable one. Ready for the challenge?

Check here all transparent international production locations at Open Apparel Registry: https://openapparel.org/

Ready for to dive deep? Have a look at Fashion Revolution’s ‘Fashion Transparency Index 2019’.   

Do you want to know more or do you have questions for Rachel? Feel free to do that in the comments below. Do you see mistakes? Let us know! Do you want to stay informed? Sign up for our Newsletter or social via Facebook and Instagram.


5 Tips For A Sustainability Report People Actually Read

Rachel founder Rethink Rebels

Hi!
I’m Rachel
You have gifts to
change the fashion 
industry and my job
is to help you
using them.

Read more

Why no one is reading boring sustainability reports? Well, maybe because it’s wrapped in dense corporate documentents that no one cares to read or feel involved in? (including the sustainability professionals from within…). As Mud Jeans does everything different, they completely tackled that boringness and made this sustainability reporting a nice to read filled with rich storytelling features.  We share and highlight 5 tips derrived from their report.

Reporting on sustainability of your organization becomes more important than ever. Investors globally continue to be concerned about climate change risks and the transition to a low-carbon economy. (Read here) But also citizens and potentially customers want to feel good about the companies they buy from. (Read here) Let’s dive into Mud Jeans’ sustainability report and learn why it’s actually being read instead to end up as desk (top) filling material.

Sustainability report Mud Jeans

MUD Jeans is a Dutch jeans brand, BCorp certified, selling circular jeans with recycled and organic content. Their goal is to make 100% zero waste & recycled jeans by 2020.

1. Transparency & Traceability

The first thing what strikes us immediately is that full transparency and traceability is given, no holding back or excuses to share. For instance; they work with 3 supply chain partners only. But also it includes names and locations of factories, locations and even it’s owner names. Also for each product/process each appointed certificate is named and explained. To start the report with interesting environmental rescues, saves and figures are presented. It that shows the massive impact this business makes in a positive way.

Some highlights

WATER: As we might know already, on average about 7000 liters water per pair of jeans is used. MUD Jeans uses 1500 liters of water to produce one pair of jeans, saving 5500 liters per jeans. This amounts to nearly 300 million liters of water in the past 3 years.

CO2: On average 8% of global greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions are produced by the apparel and footwear industries. MUD jeans emits 61% less CO2 than other regular denim brands. 61%! This amounts to 700.000 kilos of CO2 avoided in the past 3 years.

Recycling: 12.000 Jeans are saved from landfill in the past three years.

MUD jeans SDGs

Within MUD jeans’ circular denim, they contribute to achieve the above mentioned SDGs

2. Aligning with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In 2015 all United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and planet. At its core, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been set. These are an urgent call for action by both developed and developing countries in global partnership. “Ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests”, according to the UN members.

Did you know that during the integration of these 17 goals during the COP21 in Paris, the owner of MUD jeans Bert van Son got the opportunity to share their story during COP21 at l’Université de la terre!? Being a BCorp organization, and contributing to several SDGs, MUD jeans is making sure to use their business as a force for good. SDG12 – Responsible Consumption and Production is closely aligned with Mud Jeans’ mission and vision. This goal aims that business activities are developed within a sustainable way of consuming and producing. 

For example with their award winning Lease A Jeans concept, they offer customers a sustainable way of consuming and both it’s sustainably produced. They are creating awareness about the current state of the world in particular to fashion and apparel and they share why they do things in a different way.  Sustainable fashion means long lasting, high quality products that don’t need to change every season. Therefore they set a goal to grow until they reach a production level of 500.000 jeans/year and from there on they will stabilize their growth.

3. Storytelling

Throughout the report pictures and rich stories are being told to inspire the reader. Like above mentioned Bert’s story on his mission on COP21, but also the pictures of the makers are proudly presented and explained. Or on the part of Fair Factories whereas Mr. Habib Ben Mansour, owner of Yousstex International the garment supplier, likes to say that MUD Jeans makes ‘noble products’.

Personally I love the story on a team trip to Spain: “Two years ago, in 2016, Team MUD drove to Valencia in Spain to bring our first 3.000 returned Lease A Jeans to the recycling factory. During this tour we followed the recycling process and witnessed how new denim fabrics were born.” They include some personal pictures of this trip in the report to get a good feeling of how much fun they had, how inspirational it was for them including the interns and it’s clear how much they love to do what they do. 

And that is the power of storytelling: to really inspire and talk to the hearts of the readers. Make them a part of your story and part of the journey. 

MUD Jeans I made your clothes

4. Define Bold Goals

Definately MUD jeans is not afraid to set some heavy and bold goals with a clear time frame. Like their extensive 2020 goals:

– 100% of all components of MUD jeans are designed for recycling

– All fibres used in MUD jeans are preferred fibres as stated by the textile exchange preferred fiber or material benchmark

– By 2020 we want to develop one jeans fabric which is 100% recycled. Ambitious: we know!

– For 2020, through an LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) we will map the complete consumption of water throughout the supply chain and set specific goals concerning reduction.

– We will expand our take-back scheme beyong the free-shipping zone and include more shops to increase the volume of jeans recycled.

…and many more! SMART goals have been set. Now the readers will likely follow seeing you accomplishing these goals!

5. Interact with your stakeholders

Not only does MUD jeans interact with its consumers, retailers, supply chain partners and workers, academia & NGOs (such as Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation, Circle Economy, B Lab, AMFI, Saxion, Fontys), influencers and other denim brands. As we see Bert or his colleagues always interact with their audience during a talk, showing pictures and movies. But also sharing pictures from MUD jeans groupies the love to brag with. Also there is an enormous internal interaction going on at team MUD as well. Did you know they have wednesdays and fridays company runs, drive electric and bake their own bread?

What we really loved to see is their organised webinar to go into detail about their first sustainability report. Eva Engelen, CSR manager at MUD jeans explains it future forward: “With our first sustainability report, ever, we will look at the past and the future. As a circular denim brand and BCorp, we have a big impact, of that we are sure. However, being a scale-up we have not been able to precisely measure this impact, which we will do in the near future. Modern transparency is what we live by. In this light, we are extremely proud and excited to share with you how we strive to be more sustainable and circular.” Check out this webinar! Check out MUD jeans full sustainability report here.

Questions about sustainability reporting and/or MUD jeans? Write them down in our comments below. Do you like this? Perhaps you like our previous article on Australian fashion brand Maggie Marilyn ditching plastic polybags.  Do you see mistakes? Let us know! Do you want to stay informed? Sign up for our Newsletter or social via Facebook and Instagram.


Maggie Marilyn no plastic

Fashion Brand Maggie Marilyn Beats Plastic Polybags. Read here how.

Rachel founder Rethink Rebels

Hi!
I’m Rachel
You have gifts to change
the fashion industry
and my job is to help you
using them.

Read more

How do you know if ‘green’ disposable plastic products, marked bioplastic, biodegradable, or compostable are actually a good choice for planet & people? All the different terms are confusing. We need clarity. And we need it fast.

We all know that plastic is made of artificially created chemicals that don’t belong in our world. Plus they don’t mix well with nature. These plastics are a big source of pollution, in our water and food, creating toxic health hazards for communities as well as killing marine wildlife.

Plastic packaging biodegradable

The Solution To Plastic Polybags

Maggie Marilyn, a sustainable fashion brand from New Zealand uses biodegradable cassava polybags. They are made from the cassava root, vegetable oil, and vegetable polymers and are produced in Indonesia. These bags, created for them by ComPlast, decompose back to nature and dissolve in water. Maggie Marilyn explains “Some manufacturers of petroleum-based bags will add plant-based materials to the plastic and also claim these as “biodegradable”. A very frustrating piece of greenwashing!”

Currently, these bio-based polybags are commercially compostable (99.5% plant material) and they are developing towards home-composting. These bags completely biodegrade back into the environment without creating any type of microplastics (as the petroleum-based plastic do). Maggie Marilyn shares more detailed information on their website and by doing so, they hope to encourage other brands and retailers to demand more on this specific issue that is holding us back from being more accountable to our waste. Sharing = Caring!

Currently, these bio-based polybags are commercially compostable and hopefully soon for home-composting.

Maggie Marilyn ComPlast biodegradable bag from 100% natural products

Recycling bio-based plastics

The volume of bio-based plastics is still too small for separation or separate collection. But hey, isn’t this just like electric cars? At first, nobody bought one because there was no charging point. But then, nobody is going to install charging stations if there are no electric cars… Just the same case with the recycling of bio-based plastics. It’s ultimately up to waste companies to break through that problem. Overall, it is expected that by 2020 the share of bio-based and biodegradable plastics will increase to 2.5% of fossil plastics production (read here more about this). That’s only a half a year away from now…

Facilitate Consumers’ best behavior

Collection and sorting, which starts at consumers and their behavior, largely determine the (energy) efficiency of waste management systems. To facilitate consumers to choose the right route of disposal for packaging waste, pictograms can be used to indicate the preferred disposal route.

New Plastic Economy Ellen MacArthur

Six key points so that plastic never becomes waste

The New Plastics Economy (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) has defined six key points to catalyze change and shift towards a circular economy where plastic never becomes waste:

  1. Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority

  2. Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging

  3. All plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable

  4. All plastic packaging is reused, recycled (rPET), or composted in practice

  5. The use of plastic is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources

  6. All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and rights of all people involved are respected.

Questions about polybags & plastics? Write them down in our comments below. Do you like this? Perhaps you like our previous article on plastics in a circular economy.  Do you see mistakes? Let us know! Do you want to stay informed? Sign up for our Newsletter or social via Facebook and Instagram.