A lot has been said on environmental protection. But, at the same time, a lot has been done to protect the environment, particularly in the fashion industry which is the second biggest polluting industry. Seeing the massive thrust in this regard from brands, associations, vendors and trade bodies in post-Covid era, several interesting developments have taken place to show the seriousness of the stakeholders towards environmental preservation.
Here is how fashion industry is accelerating its efforts towards planet protection…
Just to have a glimpse of what is being done presently in the space, let’s talk about USA first that has recently proposed New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act which, if passed by the state legislature, will be the first fashion sustainability law in the country!
The law seeks to amend the New York General Business Law that requires fashion manufacturers and retail sellers that do business in New York State and have annual worldwide gross receipts exceeding US $100 million to disclose environmental and social due diligence policies, processes and outcomes on their websites.
Similarly, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence. The proposal aims to foster sustainable and responsible corporate behaviour throughout global value chains, establish corporate sustainability due diligence duty to address negative human rights and environmental impacts.
Apart from official organisations, trade bodies are also constantly active like the Initiative for Global Solidarity, a project set up by the German Government, which has provided around €1 million to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). This project aims to accelerate industry-wide convergence and also covers environmental assessment methodologies in the apparel sector.
Buyers’ significant tilt is also there…
Anticipating the importance, taking note of various reports and plenty of activities, apparel brands and retailers, irrespective of their size and location, are proactively working to save the environment. In line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 on partnerships, brands and retailers are convinced that collaboration through international initiatives within the textile industry is key to the creation of value and is the way to help reduce the environmental impact throughout the industry. Here are three examples of some such collaborations taken up by various brands.
Implementing such partnerships, just a few days ago, Barcelona-based leading fashion brand Mango announced that it is taking one step further in its journey towards environmental and social sustainability. In just one year, Mango has almost doubled the percentage of sustainable garments in its total production. The brand makes its commitment to sustainable fashion visible through the committed label, which includes all its garments with a lower environmental impact.
“Aware of the environmental impact of our product, and in line with our goals and international commitments, we work garment-by-garment, promoting the use of fibres with a lower environmental impact in our collection,” said Toni Ruiz, CEO, Mango.
In 2021, Mango also implemented a new water management strategy to reduce consumption and increase the efficiency of this resource. This initiative will allow the company to achieve best practices for chemical management in wet processes throughout the production chain which will help protect consumers, workers and the environment. It has also committed to reducing the Scope 3 emission by 35 per cent which it produces in its supply chain.
London-based Capri Holdings Limited, a global fashion luxury group, has said that operating responsibly helps it to lower its impact on the planet and to promote industry-wide environmental change. It has also signed the Science Based Targets (SBT) Initiative Business Ambition for 1.5°C, committing the company to set science-based targets across its operations and supply chain in alignment with reduction requirements to keep warming below 1.5°C globally.
Its environmental commitments cover a wide gamut like climate change, energy & emission; supply chain traceability & compliance; sustainable packaging & reducing waste; responsible water use & chemical management. It also has a goal of 10 per cent reduction in key suppliers’ aggregate water use by 2025
Having 200 stores across Europe, America and Asia, Amsterdam-based apparel brand Scotch & Soda announced plans to introduce sustainable packaging (for delivery packaging and in-store) and by the end of 2022, it will package at least 1 million of its garments globally with bioplastic bags. It is currently using plastic polybags.
There are many more such examples of various buyers across the globe and their efforts are also pushing/motivating their global suppliers including India.
Has India upped its efforts?
India is also pacing up with the global trends as manufacturers are closely associating with global fashion buyers to figure out how their processes can have lesser impacts on the planet! Apparel Resources (AR) connects the dots b/w various developments and explores the efforts of the Indian vendors…
As brands have set their targets to become carbon-neutral in the coming few years, 100 per cent renewable energy indirect operations is among the major thrust. India’s leading exporters were already doing a lot for the environment and, with the growing thrust of buyers, exporters’ efforts are also increasing be it water and energy saving, the maximum use of natural resources and minimum carbon emission.
India’s top apparel exporter Shahi Exports has a target of 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2026 and for that, it is using solar energy, wind energy and investing in energy-efficient infrastructure. It is using agro-waste as biomass fuel for steam generation through boilers. It has also converted most of the high-speed diesel-fired boilers into agro-waste or PNG-fired boilers. Thanks to carbon-neutral energy consumption, the export giant has avoided 103,000 MT of GHG emissions. “The new facilities of the company incorporate green building design principles from the planning stage, be it using sunlight illumination on the production floors leading to minimal energy consumption. New factories are being designed to use the maximum amount of daylight and good ventilation,” said a statement of the company .
Similarly, Radnik Exports, one of the respected apparel exporters, increased its solar energy capacity to reduce the consumption of electricity, “We have replaced all old machines and are investing in automation to reduce electricity usage,” its spokesperson commented. The company has also taken initiatives not just in nearby areas of their premises as its efforts are not limited to their own units but for the society at large. Radnik has planted around 20,000 saplings in the last few months while the company’s target is to plant 2 lakh saplings in one year. It has also taken the responsibility of taking care of ponds in Ghaziabad.
Sachin Shah, MD, Avadat Apparels, Ahmedabad said that this growing thrust on environmental concern is now like an established trend as big as well as small buyers are asking for the same more than they used to ask before! There is significant environmental concern developing across the globe as a lot of big events, meetings, discussions brainstorming sessions are taking place with the focus on saving the environment.
“Buyers are motivating us to support the environment as much as possible and this is also a reason that we have decided to invest in Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD). I must say that all of us have to understand deeply how we can contribute to saving the environment. There can be many ways for this including complete control on wastage as well as control of the carbon footprint,” he said.
Working majorly with European buyers, Avadat Apparels is SEDEX approved and is one of the leading jeans manufacturers. The company is also focusing on recycling denim for its own brand for the Indian market.
Panipat-based home textile company Mahajan Overseas is continuously active towards environmental supporting aspects and its Director Pranab Mahajan commented, “As overall scope/need of sustainability is growing, buyers are also expecting more and environment is among top priority. And every small to big step matters which is helping to save environment. We are also setting up many such indoor plants which produce oxygen.”
The interesting thing is that buyers are not letting go of any aspect which is related to environmental concerns especially when it comes to using organic material. Endorsing the same, Vijaya Kumar, MD, CBC Fashions Asia, Tirupur said his company is also focusing on products based on recycling and organic material. He stated, “Our efforts regarding the environmental concerns will increase in the next fiscal.”
Investing in environmental infrastructure is also becoming important as it is also related to financial sustainability and helps companies to reduce their costing. And growing investment in solar energy by many textile and apparel companies is one such example. Now many companies are investing in solar energy.
Pranab Mahajan said, “Priority is to save nature but it is possible when we are sustaining financially also. So there is a need to save resources and invest in infrastructure in a way that it should have cost advantage too. Solar plant, water harvesting are some of the good examples of such investments.”
Medium-level companies are also contributing…
Whatever developments take place among top-level buyers and exporters, later or sooner most of such development also happen for medium-level buyers and exporters or become unavoidable for them also.
Sharing this observation, Rajendra Bhatiya MD, India Today Fashions Jaipur added that different types of compliance, various sustainable initiatives, and a variety of CSR activities are interconnected and support each other. “When an organisation is focusing on the environment, it also shows that the organisation is following compliance,” he said.
Having certifications like Sedex, CTPAT, etc., Disney approved India Today Fashions is known for following compliance and has a system in place for rainwater harvesting.
It is also worth mentioning here that many small exporters having limited resources or facing liquidity crunch are still not much active in this regard but they are sure that whenever they will have more financial resources, supporting the environment will be among their top priorities.