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China’s Textile Sector Gets More Sustainable, and it’s Saving the Country Billions

Conserving natural resources and reducing an environmental footprint have become top priorities for China’s textile sector.

On Tuesday, World Bank Group member International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released cumulative results of their collaborative Green Textile City Initiative in Shanghai. Due to the initiative’s progress, 23 textile mills in the Suzhou area alone developed 138 factory projects in 2016, conserving $8.4 million in operating costs for chemicals, energy and water.

Co-established with leading fashion brands in 2013, the Green Textile City Initiative promotes environmental efforts in textile factories based in the Guangzhou, Shaoxing and Suzhou vicinities.

The initiative, which falls under IFC’s China Water Program, provides sector-level capacity building and technical training for more than 100 textile factories in the cities. Following the training, half of the trained mills created their own resource efficiency projects and reduced costs associated with resource use. As shown with Suzhou’s results, these projects collectively saved 30,000 tons of coal (or its energy equivalent) and 4 million cubic meters of water annually.

China’s textile sector produced $267 billion worth of exports last year and remains one of the world’s largest textile hubs, so improvements in the area of sustainability are vital.

“This joint initiative with NRDC is a good example of how we can leverage partnerships and expertise of multiple stakeholders to scale up resource efficiency in manufacturing supply chains,” IFC resource efficiency lead for East Asia and Pacific Navneet Chadha said. “A sustainable textile industry will benefit the private sector while supporting a better environment in China.”

Continuing efforts toward international sustainability, the IFC announced on Friday progress on its Vietnam Improvement Program (VIP), an effort which helps Vietnam-based garment suppliers, including Target Corporation and VF Corporation, improve their resource efficiency and minimize operating costs. Since early 2016, 28 Target and VF garment suppliers jointly invested $9.9 million in resource efficiency efforts, while conserving $15 million in energy, water and chemical operating costs in their factories. The program is expected to be fully implemented by 2019 and could jointly save 562,000 tons of greenhouse gases on an annual basis.