There are many news stories about the textile industry polluting the planet. However, there’s little reporting on how the industry is working together to address some of the issues for a sustainable future.
Individual companies work across the textile supply chain to produce reductions in the environmental footprint of manufacturing and to demonstrate stewardship of our planet. Some mills have participated in two global cotton lifecycle assessments conducted by Cotton Incorporated, which identified hotspots in the value chain. And many companies provide corporate stewardship reports. To go beyond reporting, more than 30 companies are now setting science-based targets as part of the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases and address climate change. In fact, the Science Based Targets Initiative released guidance for the Apparel and Footwear Sector on June 25, 2019, in Barcelona.
Academic research also addresses the challenges the industry faces. The Sustainability Consortium developed a series of toolkits and key performance indicators for consumer goods’ brands and retailers to use in measuring sustainability in their supply chains. Areas for enhancing performance were identified from those results. The group plans an online release of a “Wastewater Toolbox” later this year so textile facilities can share ideas for limiting pollution in textile waste.
Industry organizations ban together, too. Another way of assessing impacts is with several tools, known as the Higg Index, developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). The SAC is the largest global textile, apparel, and footwear organization and has over 200 members from manufacturing, retail, brands, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, and other allied industries. The Apparel Impact Institute, founded last year, leverages Higg and moves the industry beyond simply measurement and spreads mill improvement efforts globally.
Cotton Incorporated is an active member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and of The Sustainability Consortium.
Understanding environmental impacts can provide cost savings to the mills and manufacturers who produce cotton apparel and home textiles. Cotton Incorporated’s Technical Services and Implementation team helps facilities by performing environmental and cost savings assessments. These audits consist of walking through production and storage areas to identify easy-to-mend opportunities that negatively impact the costs of production, such as water and steam leaks, maintenance issues, control of materials (chemicals and fabrics), and energy waste. Sharing best practices could provide millions in cost reduction simply by reducing water and energy use within the facility.
Our best efforts happen when we collaborate.