Most of us would like to erase 2020 from our life but this unprecedented year included few such things which were the need of the hour as well as gave satisfaction also that the world is now little more serious towards sustainability, saving nature and there is a rising concern for responsible business.
Textile and apparel industry pushed more for products which are supportive of health, can save from virus and this product range has a long variety right from antiviral masks to innerwear. Despite heavy pressure, all stakeholders across the globe reiterated their commitments; alongside new initiatives and progress in the various ongoing projects of sustainability continued as usual.
At the beginning of this year, it was being said that 2020 will be the year of sustainable business and despite all the odd challenges as well as issues of Covid, efforts for sustainable future continued.
Fast fashion was again ‘criticised’ at most of the platforms and use of technology in sustainable activities is now continuously growing. Various trade association/ bodies working for a sustainable industry conducted many activities in 2020. And as usual, brands, retailers also supported them and became part of their initiatives.
H&M Foundation and The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) extended their collaboration for 5 more years in a new initiative called the Planet First programme. Various stakeholders in a collective effort have invested US $ 100 million in partnership to reach a planet positive fashion industry. SAC and Higg Co. also released a new version of Higg Materials Sustainability Index
Similarly, Fashion for Good launched Viscose Traceability Project. Developed in collaboration with BESTSELLER and Kering, the project applies innovative blockchain technology from TextileGenesis™ (India-based Fashion for Good Innovator) to trace viscose in the textile supply chain spanning eight countries. Circular fashion was also a point of discussion throughout the year as this topic witnessed many webinars across the globe and various brands, raw material suppliers reiterated their commitment towards the same.
With the unprecedented pandemic, there were huge challenges also like disposal of masks and PPE.
About India, it is especially important to highlight here that a negative face of apparel manufacturers and buyers emerged strongly. The cancellation of orders and allied factors further forced apparel manufacturers to become reluctant towards their workers, the core strength of their business.
Overall missing support structure left migrant workers helpless and forced them to go back to their home states. As insisted by a lot of HR experts, HR teams of apparel factories have to be more resilient in this scenario by being transparent and more responsible to their workers and staff. But the sad part is that there is no progress in this regard.
Though both segments (buyers and exporters) claim they did their best in these conditions, it is a known fact that things could have been better. Few of the Indian companies supported their workers well, be it in terms of offering hostel facilities with food, offering monetary support or salary of months when factories were closed during lockdown, etc. Recently, steps taken by Clean Clothing Campaign in this regard have caught the industry’s attention. One can expect that now after bitter experience, things will improve on this front.
Through their reports, various international NGOs, as usual, tried to spread negativity this year also. Time to time, these reports came up with sensational claims against various companies without any definite base and created further furore.
Various Indian clusters continue to face the heat of authorities like National Green Tribunal (NGT) as there have been cases of violation of rules regarding pollution. Few unfortunate accidents (fire in factories, asphyxiation while cleaning tank etc.) have raised serious questions on the industry and spoiled its overall image.
On a positive side, it was a proud moment for Indian apparel industry as ABFRL positioned as Asia’s most sustainable company and globally ranked 8th in the Textiles, Apparel and Luxury goods industry. The company got this recognition for its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance in the 2020 edition of S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA).
Various surveys across the globe show that now customers are more curios and concerned to know about brands’ sustainable initiatives, CSR activities and that too in their entire supply chain. Global brands are avoiding Xinjiang cotton over Uighur ‘abuses’. So, there are enough reasons that in 2021, brands as well as manufacturers will surely focus more on sustainability.
Even in India, hub like Jaipur is geared up for a green/sustainable textile and apparel park as the garment manufacturers have realised that sustainability can bring more business to them.
Just a few days back, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India is not only on track to achieve its Paris Agreement targets but can exceed them beyond expectations. In-fact India has reduced its emission intensity by 21 per cent over 2005 levels.
On the other hand, in US, President elect Joe Biden is considered to be more environment-conscious and so hopefully, in 2021, we might see more strong development for a better and green world. And the fashion industry will support the same with a lot of sustainable activities. With strong steps by global leaders and with a growing importance of sustainability, more relevant actions in this direction are expected soon.