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Burberry’s Sustainability Bond Raises Issues About Fashion’s Relationship With Chinese Cotton | The Fashion Law

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A few weeks earlier than Chanel made headlines for its newly-issued 600 million euro ($699 million) sustainability-linked bond, Burberry introduced that it could difficulty “the first sustainability labeled bond issued by a luxury company.” In furtherance of its “longstanding commitment to sustainability and dedication to using its position and influence to drive social and environmental improvements,” the British kind revealed that it could supply up a sterling sustainability bond with inexperienced strings hooked up. 

Burberry says that the £300 million ($385 million) debt instrument – which will probably be due in September 2025 – is topic to targets set out in its Sustainability Bond Framework, making the bond the most recent effort within the socially accountable debt market, which Bloomberg says is “increasingly grow[ing] beyond utilities, banks and governments” to incorporate the likes of vogue homes, luxurious automakers, and telecommunications corporations throughout the globe. 

As for Burberry’s bond and applicable sustainability framework, it proves attention-grabbing for a number of causes, together with the particular language in regards to the kind’s sourcing of cotton. In its Sustainability Bond Framework, which was issued on August 2020, Burberry notes that one in all its core objectives comes within the type of making certain cotton sustainability. Or extra particularly, Burberry goals to “procure 100 percent of cotton more sustainably by 2022, using a portfolio approach, [which] includes working with partners, such as the Better Cotton Initiative and Textile Exchange, as well as exploring new sources, including organic and regenerative cotton.” 

According to the Sustainability Bond Framework, “Leather, cotton and cashmere production account for c.30% of the Group’s overall environmental impact, and this production has significant impacts on rural livelihoods and ecosystems within Burberry’s supply chain.” As such, the kind is working to wash up its act. 

The emphasis on cotton, particularly, is worthy of consideration, because it doubtlessly thrusts Burberry into the midst of a bigger battle over cotton popping out of China and its headline-making Xinjiang area, what place native and Western corporations, alike, are more and more being criticized over their alleged ties to compelled labor. 

Fashion Brands & Chinese Cotton

Right across the time that Burberry revealed its sustainability bond, the U.S. authorities was mulling potential new import restrictions on items coming from Xinjiang, a  main cotton-producing area within the northwest of the Chinese mainland that has been the topic of media and regulatory consideration in mild of alleged human rights abuses that are available in reference to the nation’s apply of mass detentions and compelled labor that targets as many as 1.eight million Muslim Uighur and Kazakh minorities. 

On September 14, the Trump administration confirmed particular import bans on a variety of various kinds of items which might be made and/or processed in sure state-owned amenities. Among these black-listed merchandise? Cotton that’s produced and processed by Xinjiang Junggar Cotton and Linen Co., Ltd. 

Despite hypothesis about far-ranging prohibitions on cotton and different merchandise popping out of  Xinjiang, the U.S.’s cotton-specific import ban is proscribed in scope. Regardless, it serves to place a highlight on Xinjiang’s sturdy cotton sector as an entire – which accounted for a whopping 85 % of all Chinese-grown cotton in 2019, with China producing about 22 % of world cotton provides, according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies – and the large-scale reliance by Western manufacturers on the area’s output. 

“Global fashion brands source so extensively from Xinjiang that a coalition [of more than 170 human rights and trade groups] estimates that it is ‘virtually certain’ that as many as one in five cotton products sold across the world are tainted with forced labor and human rights violations occurring there,” the Guardian reported this summer season. “Virtually the entire [global] apparel industry” – excessive vogue and luxurious names, included – “is tainted by forced Uighur and Turkic Muslim labor,” largely as a result of issue that comes with tracing the origins of clothes and their composite elements in multi-national manufacturers’ sweeping provide chains.

Against that background, there’s a rising quantity of “pressure on brands and retailers to pivot quickly to identify and contract with other cotton supply sources in order to avoid [potential] major disruptions to their supply chains,” according to Cozen O’Connor attorneys Danielle Garno, Samuel Mogensen, and Heather Marx. They observe that whereas the latest bans enacted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection do “not go as far as to ban the import of all cotton products from China into the U.S.,” they, nonetheless, put the business as an entire “on notice that cotton and other products from this region are becoming controversial, and that further negative state action may follow should the situation persist.”

“Indeed, the European Union is already working on legislation mandating due diligence on environmental and human rights issues across the supply chain,” they state, recommending that vogue corporations “be proactive in identifying potential problems or areas of vulnerability in their supply chain, and [be] prepared to engage with stakeholders to consider improvements as these issues continue to grow in importance.” 

With this in thoughts, the approach being taken by Burberry – which has centered on overhauling its workings in the case of sustainability after coming under fire for physically destroying tens of tens of millions of money of unsold merchandise as not too long ago as 2018 – is a compelling, albeit almost-certainly-challenging, one. 

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