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ZDHC Promotes Sustainability in Ethiopia’s Textile and Apparel Sector

ZDHC has launched its first project in Africa aimed at strengthening capacity in Ethiopia’s textile and apparel industry.

As part of a private-public partnership between the German government and Dow Europe GmbH, the ZDHC Foundation will lend its expertise to help ensure a safer and eco-friendlier textile and apparel industry in the country, which has a small but growing manufacturing base.

The two-and-half-year project will be conducted in collaboration with Bahir Dar University. ZDHC said its role is to incorporate chemical management in the university’s undergraduate curriculum and establish training and consultant infrastructures. The goals is to make Ethiopia’s textile and apparel sectors more sustainable and to protect workers, the environment and local communities.

ZDHC noted that Ethiopia’s textile and apparel industry has experienced rapid development–in the past five to six years, the industry has grown an average of more than 50 percent annually. This has been achieved through ambitious governmental plans and several bilateral trade agreements that have put Ethiopia in a favorable position to become a hotspot for textile and apparel sourcing in Africa.

However, ZDHC said this acceleration in development comes with sustainability challenges that must be addressed. Two main challenges have been identified–education skill gaps in the textile industry and lack of awareness of chemical management. The project aims to bridge these gaps and in a joint effort build expertise for better chemical management in Ethiopia’s textile and apparel industries.

This project is a milestone for ZDHC, being that it’s the first project in Sub-Saharan Africa and the project goes hand-in-hand with its vision of widespread implementation of sustainable chemistry, driving innovations and environmental best practices in the textile, apparel, leather and footwear value chains.

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Dow’s expertise lies in producing and selling high-quality chemicals, and while this project goes beyond the scope of the company’s core businesses, it increases its commitment to take more responsibility for its business impact along the whole value chain. Dow will contribute management, give input to training curricula and schedules, and conduct parts of the training from the company perspective for the project. The company is also offering support to ZDHC and the education sector.

The project will be implemented by GIZ GmbH, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Corporation and Development. GIZ is a service provider in the field of sustainable development with expertise in the textile sector in general and chemical management. Additionally, GIZ’s Sustainable Textile Project (eTex) is already established in the Ethiopian textile sector and chemical management assessments of several companies have already been conducted. GIZ’s role in the project will be to coordinate stakeholder engagement and contribute best practices from other countries.

The ZDHC Foundation oversees implementation of the Roadmap to Zero Programme and is a global multi-stakeholder initiative of more than 160 contributors within the fashion and footwear industry. ZDHC uses collaborative engagement to drive a holistic, industry-focused and practical approach to sustainable chemical management.