Are Dyeing, Finishing All That Bad? How Firms Track Textile Sustainability

·3 min read

June Fiber Uptake, Innovation Race: Cotton programs are reaching wider scope.

Cotton sustainability program Better Cotton has further broadened its growing community, per an annual report released last week. In the 2020 to 2021 cotton season, the Better Cotton training program reached more than 2.9 million cotton farmers in 26 countries. With a membership base of 2,400 in 2021, the program saw a 14 percent jump over the previous year. Altogether, the program represents about 20 percent of global cotton production. According to the organization, retailer and brand members sourced 2.5 million tonnes of Better Cotton accounting for 10 percent of global cotton production — a 47 percent increase on 2020 sourcing volumes.

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The organization also celebrates the return to its in-person events with its “Cotton + Climate Action” event happening June 22 to 23 in Malmö, Sweden.

In the innovation space, as WWD reported, Infinited Fiber Company (an innovator to Patagonia, H&M and Pangaia) recently picked a paper plant in Finnish Lapland for its planned 400 million euro textile fiber factory. Meanwhile, Climate Neutral Certified (a vetting criteria for Mara Hoffman, Reformation and more) made headway in new verticals, recently certifying a vertically integrated industrial-scale herb production in Sweden.

Also recently, ISKO Denim teamed with British designer and LVMH Prize finalist Bethany Williams, offering up denim fabric for her six-piece exclusive capsule collection (which includes vests, jackets and more) with Browns. All pieces utilize at least 65 percent recycled materials.

Chemical Catch-Up: Chemical certifying bodies are diving deeper on data.

In the quest for information and the advancement of emissions reduction goals, multistakeholder initiative Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals — with support of industry bodies, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Textile Exchange — initiated a study on the chemical impact in textiles and leather goods.

Relying on interviews and survey data from ZDHC’s some 170 contributors, conducted by research consultancy Systain, the study found that 6 to 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are related to the production of textile chemicals.

Calling the dyeing and finishing processes the “primary driver” of GHG emissions in the textile value chain, the study hopes to identify action areas where the industry can achieve a 45 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from textile fiber and material production by 2030.

“This study confirms that, sustainable chemical management will play an important role in reducing the GHG footprint of the fashion industry. Whether it’s the evaluation of the sustainability attributes of bio-based alternatives versus fossil-based chemicals or finding and evaluating more effective and efficient textile wet processes, ZDHC’s tools and guidance will be critical to the effort,” said Scott Echols, ZDHC program director.

On the other side of chemical management, Bluesign and an alliance called the “Sustainable Chemistry for the Textile Industry (SCTI)” teamed up to develop a sustainable chemistry index that Bluesign will manage and maintain.

The goal is to provide a new standard language guide for chemical suppliers, manufacturers, brands and NGOs navigating restricted substances, so that ratings are clearer and confusion is mitigated.

For example, instead of stating whether a process is “free of a certain substance” (which Bluesign already goes beyond), the index will clarify how substances stack up on circularity, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released during production, the source of the raw materials and more details to complement a company’s overarching ESG goals.

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