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The Textile Industry Needs a Sustainability Makeover

The global textile market size was projected at $1000 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.4% from 2021 to 2028. Increasing demand for apparel from the fashion industry coupled with the growth of e-commerce platforms is expected to drive the market over the coming years.

The textile industry is connected with 5 out of the 17 SDGs, – Climate Action, Gender Equality, Responsible Consumption & Production, Clean Water & Sanitation, and Decent Work & Economic Growth. Textile companies worldwide are actively contributing to pollution-reduction practices and setting up emission targets for controlling climate change.

The need of the hour for textile industry

Being among the most polluting industries in the world, the textile industry must explore ways of becoming sustainable to minimize resource use and pollution, improve the safety of workers and ensure the right of consumers to make an informed choice. Its supply chain includes agriculture, manufacturing, processing, fabric care, use, recycling, and disposal. The industry applies many of the most hazardous engineering processes, specifically, the wet processing industry, which produces huge amounts of effluents that are polluting our water base extensively. So, the sustainable development of the textile industries must keep in mind the negative impacts on the environment and proper mitigation plans must be implemented.

The future of sustainable textile largely depends on its ability to reduce the use of resources, such as land, water, and oil, ensure reuse and recycle of products to minimize waste. In addition, there are other aspects of sustainability that the textile industry should focus on, including protection of the environment and human health, occupational safety, gender equality, as well as meeting the demand of consumers for eco-friendly textile products.

Challenges for the textile industry on the pathway to sustainability

The biggest challenge for the industry include:

  • Achieving sustainability without losing competitiveness in the market
  • Accelerating the development of technological fundamentals of the industry – look for more sustainable technology options
  • Transforming from a low-price ready-made garment-producing industry to a producer of value-added items
  • Stimulating additional investment in independent R&D and improving industry-institute collaborations
  • Improving innovative capacity and providing the required resources to maintain those innovations

Key focus areas in the way forward to moving to a sustainable future

Green Sourcing

  • Introduction of new sustainability policies and processes for all the sourcing units which in return will add more value
  • Note the availability of raw materials which can be useful and sustainable for the long run in this industry and market
  • Comparison of the prices of sustainable and non-sustainable products and services can be a major element in the industry that can be considered to change its working system
  • To make the ends meet in terms of a green alternative, one should keep on influencing their market intelligence team to find sustainable and green alternatives for raw materials and more
  • Regular checkups and monitoring while evolving the sourcing strategy depending on the needs and demands of the assigned business is also crucial

Sustainable Production

  • Encouraging the responsible utilization of natural resources like water and energy in production processes which can be a major factor in changing this industry
  • Eliminating use of chemicals in processes like dyeing and coating and instead use natural dyes and fibers
  • Disposal and treatment of waste material along with high water recovery to avoid any imbalance that may be created
  • Adherence to guidelines to eliminate health risks of workers, as well as consumers
  • Strict adherence to and implementation of animal cruelty laws in the procurement of wool, silk, fur, etc.
  • Adopting renewable energy sources to power factories
  • Continuous replacement of older-generation machines with more energy-efficient designs

Stakeholder Engagement

  • Provide continuous training to employees on sustainability issues to improve awareness and knowledge
  • Associations should play a big role in increasing awareness and auditing various developing techniques that would not only benefit the associations but overall takes a step towards a better future
  • Increased dialogues and discussions with governments, associations, buyers, and other important stakeholders about sustainability in this industry to encourage multistakeholder collaboration

To achieve the SDGs without compromising the competitiveness of industries can be ensured through new product development, quality improvement, productivity improvement, cost control, and adopting green and eco-friendly initiatives gradually. All these competitive parameters of the industry will contribute to adopting the respective sustainable principles.