Insights from Chinese textile manufacturers

The fashion industry is cleaning up, and so are Chinese textile manufacturers.  Right now there is an opportunity to lay the foundations for a clean and circular business model in China.  A new report by China Water Risk has found that the shift is happening, but not as fast as it could.

The report entitled “Insights From China’s Textile Manufacturers: Gaps to Overcome for Clean & Circular fashion”, which was sponsored by C&A Foundation, analyses insights collected from an online survey of China’s textile manufacturers.

The anonymous survey was well received with over 140 responses in just three weeks. 85 of the responses were complete and analysed in the report. These 85 come from a wide range of regions and factory types thus forming a rounded on-ground consensus of challenges China’s textile manufacturers’, as well as what assistance they need from stakeholders.

The survey found that manufacturers are largely on track on going clean and tackling their water risks, as well as starting to move to circular models. Indeed, 98 % say they are taking actions to “be green”, 74 % are recycling water, 88 % have upgraded their wastewater equipment and 84% upgraded equipment for chemicals. As for the circular economy, 72% see business benefit in moving to it.

While manufacturers are clearly moving towards the clean and circular model, the survey found they still face significant regulatory, operational and reputational challenges, as well as knowledge gaps.

“Our survey identified three overarching wishes from manufacturers to help overcome their challenges. They are: 1) more training, 2) more help with sourcing, and 3) more financial support. However, the underlying issue common to all of their challenges and wishes is how to be compliant within the current low-price business model”, says Dawn McGregor, from China Water Risk.

These insights raise the fundamental question of whether the current business model is sustainable. Will the fashion industry move the supply chain to another country with lax environmental regulations or work with Chinese manufactures to build a new clean and circular business model? The answer remains to be seen.

The full report is available in English from China Water Risk