Sustainability, along with traceability and transparency has been a key challenge for the textile industry for some time now. The area of sustainability in the fashion and textile industry has been challenged more than ever due to the resources that it uses and the contribution it makes to the economies. The industry produces about 8% of the global greenhouse gas emissions while generating less than 2% of the global GDP. If the fashion industry continues along these lines, it will consume more than a quarter of the total carbon budget that would be necessary to limit climate change to 2°C by 2050.
In a recent study by The Economic Intelligence Unit, about 60% of executives pick sustainability as the top strategic priority for their organization. In an exclusive webinar, the India Fashion Forum, powered by Cotton Council International, brought along a consortium of industry experts from some of the leading fashion organization of the world who shared how they have been addressing the needs of sustainable supply chains in the area of textile and clothing.
The webinar began with a presentation by the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol™. Presented by Stephanie Thiers-Ratcliff and Tara Luckman from Cotton Council International, it shared the Protocol’s journey from being a sustainable production center to building a recognized standard for US cotton.
“The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol™ was started in July 2020 and we are very proud to work with some of the leading brands. We have more than 500 growers signed on to the Protocol, and we expect upto 7% of the US 2020 crop enrolled, that is equivalent to about 1 million bales of cotton. We also have 17 merchants and coops, 225 mills and manufacturers and 20 brands. In India, 18 companies have signed on already,” stated Stephanie Thiers-Ratcliffe, European Director, Brands and Retailers, UK, Cotton Council International.
As the third largest producer of cotton in the world, cotton farms in the United States have been committed to continuous improvement for decades. US cotton aims to achieve these goals by banking on new technology, producer funded research and a continuous improvement program by the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol™. The Trust Protocol proves, measures, and verifies US cotton’s continuously improving sustainability credentials, giving brands and retailers the critical assurance they need that the cotton fiber element of their supply chain is more sustainably grown with lower environmental and labor risk.
“Joining the trust protocol guarantees immense benefits to brands and retailers. The most important thing that you will receive as a member is quantifiable and verifiable data that will help you to analyse how your use of US cotton is allowing you to progress against your environmental goals as a business. Brands and retailers can easily join the program by registering at trustuscotton.org,” revealed Tara Luckman, Sustainability Advisor, Cotton Council International.
The presentation was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Prem Sadhwani, Prem Sadhwani, Business Development Director, International Antimicrobial Council. The panel discussion was joined by a slew of industry experts from some of the leading fashion organization of the world who shared how their respective organizations have been addressing the needs of sustainable supply.
Arvind Ltd., has adopted its sustainability policy in 2015, with core focus on manufacturing. “We decided to convert our manufacturing business into a more sustainable one. We wanted to do it in a fundamental level so that even a layman could gauge it. e.g., we shifted focus to recycle water. We have also reduced our dependence on non-renewable sources and have been progressively banking on renewable energy sources. As a whole, we have been incorporating alternative solutions that are more responsible and can help us make our products sustainable,” says Abhishek Bansal, Head of Sustainability, Arvind Limited.
ABFRL’s sustainability policy is propelled by the philosophy of sustaining business in the long term without compromising on societal and environmental responsibilities. “Our sustainable frame work is not only about business responsibility but also includes stakeholder engagement as well. We endeavor to bring all our stakeholders – customers, suppliers, vendors, society, investors, etc., – on the same definition and understanding of our sustainability policy,” states Naresh Tyagi, Chief Sustainability Officer, ABFRL.
ABFRL’s sustainability policy was started in 2012 and focused 10 aspects, right from energy, carbon footprint, water conservation, to green building, CSR and safety. “For us, it is not something that we do separately but rather it has been etched to our business DNA since day one. And we have been successful in achieving significant results. In just three years, we reduced our energy grid consumption by 33%. Also, 42% of our energy for manufacturing is derived from renewable sources,” he adds.
As a young brand, Myntra has been addressing the need of sustainability through products of its own brands, supply chain machinery and through the platform where demand and supply meet with respect to sustainability. “For most of our brands, we have developed sustainable capsules like waterless or dye-less. We have also shifted to sustainable rayon, recyclable labels, and starting this year we are going for BCI, the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world,” elucidates Neetu Jotwani, Vice President, Sourcing /Product/Business, Myntra Jabong India Pvt. Ltd.
Myntra has also launched a multi-cultural lifestyle brand called Taavi which is completely artisan led. The brand embodies the traditional textile craft of India such as Kolkata’s Kantha and Odisha’s Sambalpuri Ikkat. The brand has been collaborating with various NGOs and local artisans to make Indian textile and embroidery more popular in the country.
“We also have a responsible sourcing programme that ensures fair wages, safe working environment, etc. On supply chain machinery we have been trying our best to opt for alternative solutions that are sustainable. Two of our fulfillment centers have recently been solar paneled that provides about 35% of the total energy requirement of the two FCs,” she adds.
GAP was founded with the sole motto of doing more than just clothes. The company has been very proactive about concerns like sustainability, employee engagement, equality, etc. “Last year, we had modernized our mission and purpose statement which is currently inclusive by design. We take that to mean that it is inclusive of the planet, the people who make our clothes and our customers as well. We look at both social and environmental sustainability. We look at water consumption as well as green house gas emissions in our supply and value chains. We also have a very natural focus on raw material sourcing and understanding the impact that the materials that we use have on green house gas emissions and water consumption,” says Agata Smeets, Director- Sustainability Sourcing Strategy, Gap Inc.
Gap Inc. is also one of the founding signatories of the UNFCCC and has recently taken two new steps to advance its sustainability journey to reduce carbon emissions – signing the G7 Fashion Pact and landing its new Science Based Target to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Concluding the webinar by talking about the industry trends and changes in consumer preferences triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tara Luckman, said, “We are in an interesting, heightened time of awareness for social and environmental injustice around the planet. Coupled with unemployment and insecurity triggered by the pandemic, the retail world has witnessed immense change. Consumers are spending more carefully – making fewer and considered purchases of products that are going to last. They are increasingly open to new experiences and opting for most cost savvy options like second-hand trading. This is creating an interesting dynamics for brands. Should they be taking a share of this new emerging markets for circular business or should be focusing on investing in design and manufacture of products to ensure that they are going to meet the changing consumer needs of quality, re-usability, resale, etc. So we can see quite an interesting time around decision making for sustainability.”