There is a growing awareness of the impact textiles have on our lives – from waterproof jackets that protect mountaineers to organic cotton blankets that wrap tiny newborns. A growing number of citizens expect textiles to be made responsibly, with care and consideration given to workers and the environment, as well as to the end users of the products
When and how does that care and consideration take place? When done correctly, it begins at the source, before the product is even made.
“Product stewardship” is a concept that’s been around for decades, and is an integral component of the Responsible Care® Initiative, an internationally recognized guideline used by the chemical industry for more than 30 years. When practiced holistically, product stewardship considers everything that goes into a textile product, starting at the chemical level, which is as important and impactful as the textile itself.
There are three essential goals that drive product stewardship: reducing a product’s environmental, health and safety impacts – at all touchpoints. This means that true product stewardship happens throughout the entire production and supply chain – with data continually traveling upstream and downstream – as well as throughout the product life cycle.
Most consumers aren’t aware of how many chemicals are used in textile production. Chemicals enhance textile products and provide desirable properties like anti-pilling, moisture wicking, fabric strength and water repellency. When there’s proper product stewardship, then formulators, chemical manufacturers, suppliers of raw materials and trims – basically anyone who contributes to the final product – are all part of a transparent exchange of information that complies with the criteria to continuously improve the manufacturing processes and do less harm in the three impact areas.
While you may not be aware of all this behind-the-scenes work to address environmental, health and safety concerns in textile products, it is worth your time to research textile manufacturers and brands, and support those working to continued improve how textiles are made, and which chemicals used. As the demand for more social and environmental transparency grows, so will the ongoing effort by companies to lessen their impact. The care and consideration put into producing and purchasing textiles that are safer and healthier for people and the environment can only benefit us all and future generations.