Responsible manufacturing over the years has grown out of a concept and has made its way into policies of many reputed international brands. Environmental and social compliances are no more optional. Any large buyer before selecting a supplier ensures that all the compliance aspects are met by the factories. Any failure in these aspects are a strong ground for rejections. According to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 66% of the customers globally are willing to pay extra for goods and services from socially responsible companies. The number has gone up from 50% in 2013 to 66% in just two years and since then has grown even more.
How this aﬀects the textile and apparel industry? The pressure on brands for sustainability has its eﬀects on the whole supply chain. Textile mills and production houses are the parts of supply chain with the highest human and raw material interaction, which makes it most vulnerable to environmental violations and labour rights violations. Manufacturing any textile product involves taking raw materials from the environment, converting them into a product, and ﬁnally disposing them back to the environment. The outcome of the entire process is exhaustion of non-renewable raw materials and waste accumulation, which either incur expenses related to disposal or else pollution. The sector emanates around 1.2 billion tonnes greenhouse gas emissions annually. Hence, incorporating economic, social and environment sustainability, the triple bottom-line-approach into the supply chain has become an integral part of many textile and clothing companies.
The foundation of sustainable manufacturing is laid with responsible sourcing. Raw materials that are sourced from sustainable sources are generally more expensive that the main-stream sources. Moving onto manufacturing, the processes where human interaction is present demand protection of labour and human rights. Ensuring this can lead to lesser working hours and extra infrastructural expenditures towards the employees. Textile mills mostly run round the clock with multiple shifts, this puts up a huge challenge for them to maintain proﬁtability. This is the reason most lapse of sustainability are observed in manufacturing. Maintaining sustainability while working with low margin is the biggest challenge for the manufacturing industry.
Besides this, textile mills are infamous for the eﬄuents that the industry generates. Eradication of these eﬄuents from the process of manufacturing is not currently feasible and viable. Also, technologies like dry state dying have not matured enough to be widely used by the industry. The magnitude of importance of waste management is such that the government has special reforms and laws drafted specially for it. Government policies like the Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) has put even more monetary pressure on the textile industry. Many environmental groups have argued against the release of pollutants into the air and non-judicious cutting of trees for cellulosic ﬁbers. This has put restrictions over the orthodox methods of production.
Thus, the textile industry is held responsible for the consumption of water and energy, use of hazardous chemicals for textile production and processing and the discharge of eﬄuents, polluting the environment. Cumulating all the factors above, textile manufacturing has emerged as the most aﬀected sector by the idea of sustainability. The Government of India has also projected the future of the textile and apparel industry to be sustainable.
Streamlining the business supply chain requires huge investment in infrastructure, human capital, and technological knowledge, system-level changes in existing standards, certiﬁcations, regulatory frameworks and most importantly, change in consumers’ behaviour towards sustainability. Rethinking innovative solutions in the processes of product manufacturing in the textile sector is the need of the hour.
Adopting the best standards while sourcing, that are fair, transparent and widely accepted, puts the manufacturers in-line with the ideology. Organizations can partner with various Government Research & Technology Institutes for optimizing their production facilities and enhance their material management. CITI appreciates the eﬀorts that the Government of India has made towards spreading awareness for sustainability and responsible manufacturing. At the same time, there are a lot of challenges which industries are facing due to lack of clarity of compliance norms and considerable amount of time being spent on getting them cleared. Government may work towards simplifying these laws in order to reduce compliance related load and also handhold the small units in implementing it. To encourage Sustainable and Responsible Supply Chain Management System more and more incentives needs to be introduced. Central and State Governments can support small and marginal textile units by setting up infrastructure for attaining sustainability in textile clusters like Common Eﬄuent Treatment Plants (CETP).
Responsible manufacturing is the way forward and with the joint eﬀort and collaboration of all the stakeholders in the value chain, I am sure Indian textile industry will become sustainable in all aspects in a short span of time.