When a 16-year old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg addressed the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September 2019, strongly advocating for action against the harm that human beings in their race for ‘more’ had inflicted on the earth… the world stood up and took notice!
A thought that the environment is in danger which was germinated about two decades ago at the turn of the century by a few crazy earth lovers, has finally become a movement, as the clamour around the environment is getting louder by the day. From everyday living to business operations, each and every sphere is being impacted.<
Not only environmentalists, but also Governments have joined the movement with serious talk on pegging responsibilities and making commitments to change and reduce the use of natural resources for arresting the impact, before it is too late.
Our industry is no exception and to be honest, the textile sector is admittedly among the most polluting industries in the world. Who can forget the harrowing pictures of blue rivers in China where denim was being washed, or the sick workers where sandblasting was a practice.
Even in India, the Tirupur industry was forced to halt operations for many months in 2011, as pollution norms were being violated at the processing units. Post the outcry, many new and stricter norms were put in place, not only in Tamil Nadu, but all over the country.
The fashion retail industry, in its blind quest for mass manufacturing of cheap clothing at the fastest possible time, is contributing to pollution, more waste and negative environmental impacts. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has found that textile production emits 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, while the United Nations estimates that 10 per cent of total global emissions come from the fashion industry.
Significantly, research group McKinsey claims that the average consumer in 2014 purchased 60 per cent more clothing compared to 2000, but each was disposed of much sooner thus contributing to greenhouse gases, as they sit in landfills for years. And if the clothing is of synthetic fibre, which actually makes up around 60 per cent of current fashion, then the garments sit in landfills for hundreds of years, as they are non-biodegradable. As of today, only 15 per cent of clothing is recycled or donated.
But have things really changed? Are companies transparent in their follow-up? Is there a true commitment? These are critical questions that are yet to be answered, as few companies openly discuss their initiatives and even fewer companies are willing to be audited for environmental compliance.
On the global platform, most of the big retailers and brands are willingly publishing ‘Sustainability’ reports, tracing their journey and commitment to the environment. On the manufacturing side, there are companies like MAS Holdings, Esquel Group, DBL, Brandix, EPIC, Hirdaramani Group who not only practise sustainability but also publish reports that outline their initiatives and future goals.
Sadly, in India, only the Arvind Group has made its sustainability initiatives public and is willingly open to scrutiny and change for a better tomorrow. More and more textile and garment manufacturing companies in the country need to come out and talk about the way forward.
The importance of a circular economy and changing systems to respect the environment cannot be underplayed and time for retrospect and action is now!