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ESG Outlook: Barry Tariq of Inno Knits on Why Sustainability is More Than Just Fibers

ESG Outlook is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on their company’s latest environmental, social and governance initiatives and their own personal efforts toward sustainability. In this Q&A, Barry Tariq, president of apparel and textile company Inno Knits, explains why consumers deserve sustainability explanations that go beyond fibers to a full end-to-end discussion.

Barry Tariq, president, Inno Knits

Name: Barry Tariq

Title: President

Company: Inno Knits

What do you consider to be your company’s best ESG-related achievement over the past 5 years?

Inno Knits take a holistic approach to tackling the issue of hazardous chemicals in the manufacturing chain, ensuring all waste products, including smoke, water and chemicals are disposed of properly. We use the Higg standard to assess our organization’s environmental and social sustainability throughout the supply chain, allowing us to identify ways to improve our performance.

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What is your personal philosophy on shopping and caring for your clothes? How do you try to minimize the environmental impact of the clothes you buy?

I shop for items that are made with recycled cotton or poly, or organic cotton. I always try to upcycle clothing and repurpose items. I also donate unused items to charity. This way it is not going into a landfill. I also look for the drop boxes that recycle your jeans.

How much do you look into a brand’s social or environmental practices before shopping? Any examples of something you did or didn’t buy because of this? 

Sustainable social and environmental practices are a big initiative for my company, and I follow those values when shopping. I was shopping for a new pair of jeans and bought them in recycled cotton.

Anything new you are doing to boost sustainability beyond the fashion industry?

The vegetables we eat at home are grown in our home garden and if I did not grow it, I buy organic. I am a big fan of solar and electric vehicles (EV) to reduce carbon emissions.

What would you say is the biggest misconception consumers have about sustainability in fashion? And since you work in this industry, do you find yourself trying to help clarify such misconceptions? 

The biggest misconception is the understanding of recycled fabrics and natural fibers. Consumers only understand organic or recycled, but sustainability is more than just fibers. It starts from manufacturing to the retailer—the whole supply chain. I do not think it’s confusing to consumers, it just isn’t enough information. Retailers are only explaining fibers, they are not showing the end-to-end carbon footprint. We in the industry know what is happening, and it is our responsibility to know what everyone is doing, but does the everyday shopper have the same information we have? No. They are focusing on the tag that only talks about fibers.

What was your company’s biggest takeaway from the Covid crisis?

Covid has reshaped the world. With remote working as the norm, we can save carbon emissions produced during commuting. With our natural resources limited, we can survive with low consumption. 

What is your company’s latest sustainability-related initiative?

We are constantly finding ways to reduce our footprint, first it was fabrics, then manufacturing processes. Now we are working toward reducing our practices and digitization, which can help reduce our share of emissions. Reducing our carbon footprint is part of our corporate social responsibility.

What do you consider to be the apparel industry’s biggest missed opportunity related to securing meaningful change?

There is not enough consumer knowledge on sustainable fabrics. Marketing is not heavily pushed when a brand is selling a sustainable garment.

A lot of brands are doing greenwashing and at least shoppers know with the same price points as regular products there is no way to get a true sustainable product. This has to stop. We need to take responsibility toward nature.