Maeen Md. Khairul Akter,
Managing Editor, Textile Focus
The future success of business is forecasted to rely on the adaptation of green technologies and strategies. Green is an all-purpose term used to indicate sustainability, recycling, cleaner production, eco-friendliness and business ethics. Major MNC’s are planning to become green to the most possible extent by the next 1 or 2 decades. MNC’s are aiming towards greening their whole value chain through sustainable sourcing, recycling and viable strategizing of business. So next big change taking place in the longer run for the manufacturing industries in the next decades is the greening of their production process and business strategy.
Studies from different multi-national companies’ sustainability plans for future reveals their resolution for green investment. This green investment is sometimes referred as clean investment, typically involves with the selection of investments in companies with sustainable and environmentally friendly practices and products/services. While some clean technologies offer improvements that increase resource productivity and efficiency, others decrease environmental impact. MNC’s operating in the clothing and textile trade are meant to adopt the same trend as they move towards sustainability. Major clothing buyers from Bangladesh like H&M, Wal-Mart, NEXT and others are also planning to go green and ensure a sustainable value chain to provide green products and services to the customers at an affordable price.
Green Technology Investments Abound
Textiles has been termed as one of the most polluting and hazardous industry (especially cotton cultivation and dyeing-printing-finishing industry). But according to business insiders, this will not be the same in 1 or 2 decades as the MNC’s operating in this trade are aimed at green technology investment; letting off technologies that have detrimental effects on environment to technologies that are more eco-friendly and sustainable. The implications are to use less resources, operate sustainably, closed loop supply chain and such innovations. The major strategies involve:
- Source Reduction: This is the goal of reducing pollution and waste by changing production and consumption patterns.
- Sustainability: This is an effort to meet societal needs with methods that can continue to be used into the future indefinitely without depleting or damaging natural resources.
- Innovation: The focus is on developing alternatives to types of technology that have been shown to be harmful to the environment.
- Cradle-to-cradle design: This involves the creation of products that can be re-used or reclaimed, thus ending the cradle-to-grave cycle of manufactured products.
- Viability: The aim is to create an economic activity center that focuses on products and technologies that are beneficial to the environment, thus increasing the speed at which such technology and product concepts can be implemented.
Major Fashion Retailers Going Green
H&M and Wal-Mart together operates more than 15,000 outlets worldwide creating a great influence on the consumer clothing market. Hence, their business decisions sets an unavoidable impact on the suppliers. H&M is the largest clothing importer from Bangladesh accounting more than $2 billion a year and Wal-Mart is the biggest importer from the US.
The H&M Group has taken another step towards taking on a ‘closed loop’ business model by pledging to use 100 percent recycled or other sustainable sources materials in its products by 2030. The fashion company has also pledged to become climate positive throughout its entire value chain by 2040 and aims to
reduce more greenhouse gas emission than its value chain emits. In order to reach this goal, H&M Group has committed to switching to 100 percent renewable electricity, obtaining a climate neutral supply chain for tier 102 suppliers by 2030 and will focus on energy renewable and address “unavoidable emissions.” In 2016, 26 percent of H&M full product range was made from recycled or sustainable sourced materials and 43 percent of its total cotton use came from more sustainable sources.
The group aims to only use sustainable cotton by 2020 and recycled and sustainably sourced materials by 2030. To reach this ambitious goal, the group aims to annually collection at least 25,000 tons of textiles in its global stores by 2020 through its garment collecting initiative. The H&M group also aims to improve the working conditions within the fashion industry by scaling up its industrial relations and fair living wage programs. These programs are currently being implemented in 8 production countries. 140 supplier factories are implementing improve wage management systems, affecting 250,000 workers and 290 supplier factories are currently part of the workplace dialogue programs, which affect 370,000 workers.
All these initiatives from H&M are planned to ensure a sustainable future for the next generation so that they can enjoy fashion without bothering about the resources and environment.
Wal-Mart on the other hand is laying out its environmental map for the next several years as it tries to satisfy customers who want green products at affordable prices. The company will use a combination of energy-efficiency measures and expand its use of clean and renewable sources to reduce emissions in its operations. Wal-Mart says it will be the first retailer to have an emissions-reduction plan approved by the Science Based Targets initiative in partnership with the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015. The Science Based Targets initiative is a partnership with World Wildlife Fund, World Resources Institute and others. Wal-Mart also will work with suppliers to scale back emissions by one giga-ton by 2030, which it says is equivalent to taking 211 million cars from the road a year.
Wal-Mart plans to work with industry groups and others to ensure that workers globally in sectors like clothing and electronics are not forced to pay fees to land jobs and are not taken advantage of by recruiting agents. It plans to train suppliers to monitor whether workers are being exploited.
In the UK a number of fashion retailers have focused on sustainable fashion, using sustainable or recycled materials, as well as working to improve supply chain methods and ethical standards. This is a key issue, as garments account for five per cent of consumer expenditure in this country and it is estimated that they spend £46 billion per year on imported clothing.
Green Transformation for Manufacturers
From the textile and clothing manufacturer‘s point of view there will be immense pressure from the retailers to adopt green technology and policies so that they can acclaim their supply chain sustainable. As a results the green and eco-friendly materials and technology would be high in demand in the next decade. Pollution and waste water problems in the textile industries of Bangladesh are still a big issue to resolve but there is no way but to improve it if we want to remain competitive in the market. The whole textile-clothing supply chain will be adopting technologies that support business ethics of the major retailers throughout the next several years.
The infographic depicts the issues in the textile and clothing industries that has to be improved/transformed to be ready for the green transformation of the supply chian.
There is no way but to become sustainable for the manufacturing industries and the time has come for the transformation as the major retailers have already started to change towards greener business approaches. According to the global clothing market dynamics there is nothing other than the compliance and productivity issues that can set back the exports from Bangladesh. Hence, early preparation for green investment would be way to go to have the upper hand. Many of the big textile and clothing manufacturing groups have already taken initiatives to set-up green factories which is a good sign. The challenge will be diffusion of green technologies as such examples or institutional arrangements are scarce here. So the approach must be holistically considered starting from the institutes to create awareness and appropriate knowledge base so that the proper technologies, materials and processes are transferred in the industries for a green and sustainable industrial future.