Here Are The Upcoming Deadlines For All Those Fast Fashion Brands That Made Sustainable 'Promises'

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | Features

Image: a female garment worker at a factory in Bangladesh. Image source

Over recent years there has been a marked increase in the amount of information readily available about the global fashion industry supply chain – and much of that information is sufficiently shocking. As consumers have gained more awareness around these issues, though, they have also started to demand more from the major fast fashion brands operating in marginalised parts of the world. Fortunately, this has forced many of those same retailers to admit their shortcomings and set deadlines for improvement.

Some of these deadlines form part of an overall collective mission such as the Bangladesh Accord or the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, while others are self-determined goals. And while it is great to see these sorts of steps being taken, it is also important for us as consumers to be aware of what these goals are and how the brands are tracking with relation to their targets. So below we're rounding up some of the important upcoming deadlines for fast fashion brands and what we know about their progress so far. With great power, also comes great responsibility.

This year
After the devastating Rana Plaza factory collapse killed 1,1,34 people on April 24 2013, the Bangladesh Accord was signed by many major brands like H&M and Zara as a means for improvement. This Accord is a binding agreement with the international unions IndustriALL and UNI Global Union, as well as local unions in Bangladesh. And, as part of the accord, an overall goal was set to bring a major portion of the country’s giant garment industry up to safety standards by 2018. That deadline is now upon us and yet the Bangladesh garment industry remains fraught with problems. So, as a result, the coalition last year announced an extension of its work until 2021.

In addition to the original Bangladesh Accord deadline, Zara’s parent company Inditex also put in place its 2014–2018 Strategic Plan for a Stable and Sustainable Supply Chain right across the board. This initiative essentially set out to pursue delivery of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards and the recommendations issued by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and IndustriAll Global Union. But now that we are reaching the end of the stipulated period, we are still to receive updates on how each of those supply chain goals are tracking alongside the guidelines.

As part of the H&M group’s Sustainability Report 2016, the Swedish retailer set a goal to collect at least 25,000 tonnes of textile waste each year and also to use only cotton that is sustainably sourced by 2020. According to PR Newswire, in 2016 43% of the company’s total cotton use came from sustainable sources. But that represents a more than 50% increase, which could be a steep climb for the fast fashion brand over the next couple of years.

Primark is another fast fashion brand that has set itself a goal for 2020 (January 1st 2020, to be precise) and that goal is a Detox Commitment. This commitment seeks to eliminate the discharges of all hazardous chemicals from the lifecycle and production procedures associated with the making of all products Primark produces or sells. This is part of Primark’s responsibility as a signatory of the Greenpeace Detox campaign and, as a result, the company has been required to implement transparency strategies within its global supply chains. One way the company has sought to achieve its goal so far is with a ‘Restricted Substances’ contract that all suppliers must sign. But we will likely need to see some independent audits conducted as well, to ensure that these goals are upheld before January 2020.  

This is the new deadline date set down for the Bangladesh Accord and its efforts to help improve garment worker conditions throughout the nation. Some of the proposed upgrades include installing proper fire doors, fixing electrical wiring, and making sure all buildings are structurally sound. However, while the remediation progress does show some improvement, the Accord’s most recent quarterly report also indicates that there is still much to be done – with fire hazards, deficient circuitry and a lack of structural load plans all common issues among the factories inspected. Furthermore, with brands like H&M previously accused of lying about their progress in improving factory safety in Bangladesh, it still remains to be seen whether genuine change will actually occur.

2030 and beyond
In its same Sustainability Report 2016, H&M also outlined its commitment to use 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030, as well as to become climate positive throughout its entire value chain by 2040. “We want to use our size and scale to lead the change towards circular and renewable fashion,” says Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability at the H&M group. “We want to lead by example… to ultimately make fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable. Our climate positive strategy is one way of doing this.” These goals are all noble, of course, but now we just need to see them executed in order to witness real change.


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