Green initiatives support worldwide textile sustainability requirements

Green initiatives support worldwide textile sustainability requirements

With the world on one page on the need for environment consciousness and ecofriendly way of living, the fashion and apparel industry is expected to witness ‘sustainability’ as a major trend in 2016.  With a global market size of USD 3 trillion, the industry’s environmental responsibility is massive, this reports Fashionating World

The year 2015 has seen global bands, apparel manufacturers and retailer buckling up to draw a serious plan for action to reduce carbon emissions significantly. The effort will continue to see a bigger impact in 2016 setting a trend globally.

The fashion, apparel and textiles industry accounts for 10 % of global carbon emissions, being the second largest industrial polluter, after oil. According to Eileen Fisher, a clothing industry giant, fashion is a complicated business involving a long and varied supply chain, raw material, textile manufacture, clothing construction, shipping, retail, use and ultimate disposal of the garment. She opines fashion’s carbon footprint is huge and a assessing how much it is, by itself is an overwhelming task. A general assessment needs to take into account the obvious pollutants like pesticides used in cotton farming, toxic dyes used in manufacturing and great amount of waste discarded clothing creates while also looking at the extravagant amount of natural resources used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping. Moreover, organisations like the ‘Greenpeace Detox’ campaign, has challenged some of the world’s most popular clothing brands to eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals.

The major type of pollutant generated by the industry is production waste. It’s estimated that 15 per cent of textiles intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor. Second, is consumer waste. There has been a 60 % increase in fashion consumption in the last 10 years, with 150 billion new garments thought to be produced ever year. The rise in fast fashion has prompted designers, manufacturers and retailers to go overdrive to satisfy this consumer appetite. Consumers are also throwing a huge amount of clothes away. In Hong Kong, around 12000 garments enter landfills every hour.

Fashion globalisation has also resulted in garment trading across the globe in a container ship running on the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Besides, the current trend in fashion retail creates a great demand for quick and cheap clothes, which is another big issue. Textile dyes too are harmful as they create a chemical Fukushima in Indonesia and the Citarum River is considered one of the most polluted rivers in the world, partly because of the textile factories lined up on its shores. With 68 per cent of the industrial facilities on the Upper Citarum producing textiles, the adverse health effects on five million people living in the river basin and wildlife are alarming, as per Greenpeace.

Growing concerns over alarming level of pollution generated by fashion and textile industry has prompted developing nations to ink a deal to reduce environmental risks. December 2015 witnessed a landmark agreement between representatives of 195 countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, the COP21 deal, which comes into effect in 2020. It aims to ensure that global warming does not exceed 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, with an additional aim to cap this at 1.5 degrees C. A temperature rise of 2 degrees C could result in catastrophic environmental changes, such as extreme weather, accelerated melting of the polar ice caps and dangerous rises in sea levels.

Global fashion players like Nike, H&M, Levis Strauss, Adidas, Hugo Boss have welcomed this revolutionary agreement as a major step in reducing carbon footprint. In 2016, the initiatives taken by these major players will play a significant role in changing the trend across the globe. According to Hannah Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer at Nike, this agreement marks a transformative moment on the journey towards a low-carbon economy, providing the certainty and confidence businesses need to continue to pursue positive climate action. Reiterating his views, Pierre Börjesson, Sustainability Business Expert on climate at H&M too is of the opinion that the deal is a step towards a safe environment with continued growth and increased quality of life for more people around the world.

The deal has set an additional aim to cut global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade and companies like Kering are coming forward support the cause. In 2012, Levi Strauss announced its commitment to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 % by 2020. By 2014, the company achieved its mission by 20 %. The company will continue to update its climate strategy and targets in 2016. The part of Paris agreement is countries’ committed to raise USD 100 billion a year by 2020, to help developing nations mitigate and adapt to the consequences of climate change.

The carbon footprint generated by the production of raw materials like cotton and cashmere is massive as they consume huge amounts of electricity and water. The materials sourced from those regions of the developing nations that can face the early adverse impacts of any environmental change, such as flooding and droughts. Even production of rayon and viscose can lead to deforestation and companies must take note of these climatic changes to save the planet. Experts suggest the players to make use of alternative eco-friendly fuels while transporting goods to reduce pollution. Simultaneously, there is also a need for the end consumer to accept the individual responsibility towards environment to reduce carbon footprint that can be achieved only when there is an increased awareness about it and the consumer is encouraged to care for eco friendly products.

However, the concern for fashion brands in 2016 will be to balance sustainability and continuity of business growth as investing in renewable resources can be high. While global corporations like Google, H&M, Nike, and Yoox Group are already a part of this initiative. But it is to see if the initiative is also taken up with such promptness by fashion players across the globe. Though there are incentives from governments to follow a low carbon path however, concerns continue to loom large around the real costs that these investments will mean for businesses and finally if governments can make private sector accountable for its impact on the planet.

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