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Recognizing sustainability in the new context

Sustainability denotes meeting the present needs without compromising the future needs of natural, social and economic resources. The sustainability practices of manufactures is an imperative agendum for business, it is also becoming an integral part of the way product is marketed, purchased, operated and delivered.

Figure 1: Zahir Ahsan, Commercial Director at COATS Bangladesh.

Products manufactured, requires to put sustainability in policy and practice at all levels of their life cycle. To stay sustainable, it requires applying the BAT (Best Available Techniques) to reduce water consumption, minimize wastes generation and bring down energy consumption to lessen greenhouse gas emissions, etc.

The responsibility for sustainability lies to all stakeholders including, buyers, manufactures, raw material suppliers and the government. There should be business cases of sustainability along with the environmental and social dynamics.

Sustainability itself has a dilemma of both the costs and savings. Factories can get motivated either by direct savings from the costs of sustainability initiatives or return at product prices out of the investment made.

Figure 2: Kazy Mohammad Iqbal, South Asia Regional Sustainability Manager at Lindex HK.

Sustainability in the new context of pandemic:

Though the term sustainability was trending for years, it is growing even thicker in the current and apparent future situation. Attitude and response of buyers, connecting the business sustainability, have also been tested in the pandemic time.

A survey conducted by Populus (research organization) among UK consumers – 50 percent of consumers expect that the textile industry should become more sustainable, where only 19 percent of the polls it to go back the way it was pre-pandemic.

Figure 3: Anwarul Islam, Head of Sustainability Pacific Jeans Group.

It shows that consumers realize the positive impact of ethical fashion and are ready to push the industry towards a circular economy and sustainable supply chains.

A question now comes if the buyers and manufacturers rejuvenating the sustainability for textile and apparel in this new context.

Figure 4: Connected Components of Sustainability.

The TexTIMe 9th episode on ‘Sustainability in the New Context’ was conducted by Textile Today on 11th July 2021 Sponsored by COATS. Kazy Mohammad Iqbal, South Asia Regional Sustainability Manager at Lindex HK. Zahir Ahsan, Commercial Director at COATS Bangladesh. And Anwarul Islam, Head of Sustainability Pacific Jeans Group were present as Panelists. The webinar was moderated by Tareq Amin, Founder & CEO, Textile Today.

Kazy Mohammad Iqbal mentioned that “In the last two years, Covid has had a huge impact on the supply chain management of our RMG sector but we are still in a competitive position comparing with other manufacturing countries.”

Tareq Amin asked Kazy Mohammad Iqbal “As you work with a brand, you have seen that the market improved and deteriorated, do you think Covid has witnessed any transformation in the sustainability of the RMG sector?”

Figure 3: Kazy Mohammad Iqbal, South Asia Regional Sustainability Manager at Lindex HK.

He answered back that sustainability has become much more mature and we are dealing with this situation much better in the critical Covid’s time. You will notice that millions of workers are constantly working in this sector but their infection rate is much lower than in other sectors which means that our industries have been able to continue their activities hygienically, Iqbal told.

Anwarul Islam, Head of Sustainability Pacific Jeans Group said that to face the challenges of Covid, our industries have started emphasizing sustainability. All the linkages of the industry have started working together which was not seen before. Maintaining rules of hygiene, our workers have shown the most courage in tackling this challenge that made it possible for us to keep the factory running.

Figure 5: Areas of sustainability action.

Zahir Ahsan, Commercial Director at COATS Bangladesh Ltd. told, the textile sector disposes of 100 million tons (approximately) of waste every year, which is harmful to the environment. We are currently working to recycle this textile waste – is a big part of sustainability, he added.

He spoke about the 5 pillars of sustainability as – 1. Water, 2. Energy, 3. Effluent & Emissions, 4. Social and 5. Living Sustainability. Based on these points, COATS is running the “Pioneering a Sustainable Future” project. Throughout this project, COATS achieved a 40% reduction in water used for thread production, 7% reduction in energy use within manufacturing. They are passionate about recycling with a 25% reduction in waste by 2022 and going to ensure 100% recycled of all premium polyester thread by 2024. The values of the COATS Sustainability plan are already got well recognized, Ahsan told in the webinar.

Figure 6: Selected pillars and outcome of pioneering a sustainable future project by COATS.

Kazy Mohammad Iqbal said, “In European market mechanism, brands cannot increase product price all of a sudden. They are trying to categorize sustainable products and non-sustainable products, trying to promote and create awareness for sustainable products. Here we have a scope of increasing the value of our products by focusing on sustainable products since end users are willing to pay more for a sustainable product.”

He observed that our groundwater source is limited and so we have to think of alternatives like rainwater harvesting, waterless dyeing, water re-use, etc.

Zahir Ahsan observed that we are throwing eight million plastic pieces into the ocean every day, in every minute one million plastic bottles are being purchased around the world. That means plastic is a big concern for us and we need to think about how we can re-use and recycle plastic. In 2018, COATS launched ecoVerde which is 100% recycled premium polyester thread that comes from the flex of used PET bottle. One kg of PET fiber requires 67 plastic bottles which carbon footprint is very less. All polyester fiber plastics are in the process of being recycled by 2024, he added.

Anwarul Islam, Head of Sustainability Pacific Jeans Group observed that the initial investment of sustainability is costly but if we think of far-reaching, it can fetch many benefits in turn. For example, if we invest in 2021, we will start reaping the benefits in the next 4-5 years out of that investment.  We currently have two projects in the EPZ to recycle used water. According to the cost calculation, water recycling cost equals the usual process of water consumption. What we are gaining here is saving the natural resource.

We are also working on two solar projects with a production capacity of about 3.2 MW and 25 MW which will be completed by 2022.  One of our two industries is Platinum and another is Gold Certified.  At present, our Platinum Factory can save about 40% energy and 44% Water. Initially, it took a big investment to certify for ‘Platinum’ but now we are enjoying the benefits of saving Energy and Water.  We have also been able to stop the use of PP spray by using laser technology which has greatly reduced the use of water. The laser technology not only improved the product quality but also contributed to making the product sustainable.  We are also working on recycling. We have exported 25% organic products in the last 6 months which included 100% recycled content, Anwarul Islam informed.

However, in our country, we have a huge scope of working on recycling. If we can recycle the waste materials obtained from the garment, it will support us to overcome the cotton demand we now see.  We have already talked to a brand about whether our country’s cutting wastes can be recycled and hopefully we can start it soon.

Although we have many challenges, our owners are interested to become sustainable. Since it’s costly, it will be very easy to work on it if we can get government support along with the buyer, Islam added.

Finally, Zaheer said that it’s everyone’s responsibility to make the RMG sector of the country sustainable.

Watch the full video here:

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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