Sustainable development is defined as “development which meets the needs of the current generation without undermining the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). While sustainability can be comprehended as a State of balance between social, economic, and environmental health of a community or nation or the earth; sustainable development is a process to attain the sustainability (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). Hence, only through integration and acknowledgement of economic, environmental and social concerns sustainable development and thereby sustainability can be achieved.
Textile & Clothing (T & C) Industry which is one of the oldest and fast-growing industry is heavily intertwined with environmental, social and economic impacts in society and hence attaining sustainability is an emerging challenge faced by the industry. T & C industry, owing to its excessive dependence on natural and chemical resources is highly criticised for its environmental issues like pollution, production waste, usage of hazardous chemicals, dyes, over usage of water, etc. The sector is also faced with social issues like child labour, worker abuse, gender inequality, health risks of textile workers & their low competitiveness & skills, domestic labour laws, etc. Hence, it is inevitable to inculcate sustainable development process throughout the life cycle of textile products.
Some of the practices which has to be followed by companies in order to achieve sustainable development are as follows:
- First and foremost, technology and innovative methods have to be leveraged. Incorporate more eﬃcient methods of manufacturing such as: lean manufacturing methods and use of integrated monitoring systems with the support of IT. Adopt Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, which is an advanced & integrated monitoring systems.
- Secondly, continued focus on R&D, better management of manufacturing lifecycle and an environment friendly approach in the entire value chain. Thoughtful research and strategies are to be developed to attain the right solutions to bring about sustainability.
- Thirdly, companies and Government can build an ecosystem for a sustainable future by adopting the right sustainability standards & certiﬁcations, adhering to stricter compliances, developing educational institutions for research and development, awareness creation amongst stakeholders and supportive policies from the Government.
It is heartening to know that recently, there are growing concerns amongst the stakeholders of T & C value chain in bringing about sustainable development. Globally renowned T & C manufacturers started adopting sustainable practices like eco-friendly production processes, eﬀective utilisation of limited natural resources, less amounts of hazardous chemicals & pesticides, bringing traceability in sourcing & animal welfare, lean manufacturing methods and are introducing the practice of 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. They are continuously evolving their products, systems and processes by adopting modern technology and innovations. Many textiles industrial parks have introduced the concept of zero liquid discharge plants. Thus, even though bringing sustainability in T & C was regarded as a major challenge earlier, is now viewed as a compatible goal.
Governments via their policies have acted as a growth driver facilitating adoption of sustainable practices. Recently passed ‘Circular Economy’ package by European Union Council is yet another milestone in this direction that would pave way for the development of sustainable T&C brands. Government of India has also shown keen interest in bringing about sustainability by launching the ZED Certiﬁcation Scheme (Zero defect Zero Eﬀect programme), appealing to various textile manufacturing units, especially MSMEs to participate in quality improvement and compliance. Tirupur is one such industrial cluster that saw a turnaround in their businesses after the implementation of sustainable technology where large and small businesses collectively invested and borrowed technology from various parts of the world and set up Central Eﬄuent Treatment Plants. Tirupur industries have attained the zero liquid discharge criteria. Although it came with a price, where many small and medium businesses have been aﬀected, yet the industry is reviving rapidly with the government aid.
Along with adoption of sustainable practices, assessment of sustainability is also crucial for all stakeholders in the textile value chain. The triple bottom line approach focuses on all the three Ps, Proﬁt (economic), People (social), and Planet (environment), by which companies can assess their bottom lines over a period of time. For the success of this model, systematic collection, assimilation and analyses of data of the entire value chain is needed, which gives insights into actions and supply chain. The signiﬁcance of such a model is to inculcate a sense of responsibility towards society and promote larger societal value along with economic beneﬁts. Also, it will enable ﬁnancial-social-environmental viability which is very essential for the success of the company in a holistic manner.
I am sure with a conducive policy environment along with Government schemes for technology upgradation and innovations, Indian T&C companies can also adopt sustainable developmental practices and achieve sustainability.