Crystal International Group achieved nearly 70 global and local awards for its commitment to responsible practices in 2022, with some connected to its sustainability initiatives. The Hong Kong-based global apparel manufacturer’s 14th sustainability report highlights accomplishments in 2022 and outlines what lies ahead.
“While the year was filled with challenges, we were more united than ever and with great resilience continued to make fashion sustainable in a way that is good for people and the planet,” Andrew Lo, Crystal International’s CEO, said in the report. “The sustainability mindset has been deeply ingrained in our core corporate culture for over 15 years and is part of every aspect of our operations. Our conscientious efforts and steadfast commitment to sustainability enable us to meet the rising expectations of our customers and various stakeholders.”
The report covers all 20 of Crystal International’s factories across five countries.
“2022 marks the successful end of our third global five-year sustainability targets. Since 2007, we have worked with all our factories and employees to successfully accomplish three cycles of 5-year sustainability targets,” Catherine Chiu, vice president, corporate quality and sustainability at Crystal International, said in the report. “My sincere thanks for the support from top management who have upheld and shown confidence in our sustainability beliefs and goals, allowing us to accomplish one milestone after another.”
Crystal International introduced its first global five-year environmental targets in 2007 and completed its third iteration last year. It achieved a 17 percent reduction in carbon footprint per garment, outpacing its goal of 10 percent, with 2017 as the base year. It also outpaced its goal (8 percent) of reducing freshwater consumption per garment by 25 percent and planted 3.03 million trees since 2007, on par with its goal of one million every five years.
“Over the past 15 years of our sustainability journey, we have accomplished challenging yet remarkable achievements and evolved into a pioneering garment manufacturer,” Lo said. “Looking ahead, we are formulating Crystal Sustainability Vision 2030 (CSV2030) as our next key milestone to continue to move forward. Referencing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and considering stakeholder concerns and industry traits, CSV2030 will provide a strategic direction for all our operating facilities in devising sustainability initiatives.”
Crystal International’s five-pocket jeans were the first and only product to achieve net zero certification under the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency (HKQAA) Net-Zero Certificate Scheme. A decarbonization strategy was implemented throughout the manufacturing process, including laser technology, solar PV, advanced front-loading washing machines, a pre-drying hanger system, and energy-saving dryers. The company saved 4,015 chemicals per year and efficiency improved 5 percent.
In 2022, a smart warehouse was launched in Crystal International’s denim factory in Vietnam after a year of construction and system development. Storing fabrics and manufactured goods, the new warehouse features an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), which moves pallets in and out of storage without human labor. The unit-load AS/RS doubled warehouse storage while taking up 30 percent less space than the traditional setup. Switching to a smart warehouse halved the staff needed on-site, which Crystal says gives workers more time to focus on high-value tasks and maintain inventory accuracy by minimizing human error.
Smart laundry, an innovation hub in its denim factories, is another example of Crystal Denim’s finishing technologies and its integration with sustainability. The automatic denim chemical spray machine used in the Vietnam denim factory prevents workers from being exposed to a chemical irritant. It replaces the hand-spraying of potassium permanganate, which can pose safety concerns, to abrade denim fabric.
Another traditional—and harmful—denim finishing process the company eliminated is sandblasting, replaced by laser technology, which saves an average of five to seven liters of water per garment. These technologies have also benefited Crystal International’s washing processes in terms of resource conservation. The use of eco-efficient ozone technology enables its denim jeans to be bleached without any water or chemicals. Crystal’s denim factories have been switching to advanced automated front-loading washing machines that consume 40 percent less water, up to 30 percent less chemicals, and about 15 percent less energy than conventional models.
“We still have a long way to go on our net zero fashion journey, but I am confident in walking together with our dedicated employees, like-minded value chain partners, supportive suppliers and other committed stakeholders,” Lo said. “The pursuit of sustainability will pave the way to our winning edge in stitching a greener fashion future.”