Life Cycle of Textiles

Starting in the 1970s, most of the production in the ready-made garment sector has been outsourced to developing countries –primarily because of lower labour costs.

Nowadays, almost every Western brand-name corporation involved in the sector uses outsourcing. Developing countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Cambodia realize significant export earnings from garment production for Western clients.

The Rana Plaza incident in 2013 underscores the complexity of hard and soft regulation for sustainability: Decades of focus on occupational health and safety in sewing practices and factories were not sufficient to catch deficient building regulations and enforcement.

Since the 1990s concerns about sub-standard working conditions have played a major part in encouraging MNEs as well as SMEs to adopt Codes for Responsible Production and Conditions in the supply chain. It has also drawn governments’ attention in producing states to the problems and stimulated national regulation and enforcement. Within the EU this has stimulated the use of GSP+ schemes requiring compliance with ILO labour standards.

These diverse types of private, public and collaborative regulatory activities offer empirical data on form and effectiveness. Our investigations of ready-made garments offers insights into regulatory approaches. These insights form the basis for our recommendations on reshaping organizational change in order to uptake sustainability concerns.

Our research in this sector starts with two influential brands originally stemming from Europe: H&M and G-Star. Within H&M the research will focus on the life cycle of summer shirts in order to include the short-term dynamics of fashionable textile products. Within G-Star, which is less depending on seasonal fashion influences, we will focus on the life cycle of blue jeans. Both product groups have a globalized supply chain with major production volumes from Bangladesh and India.