Earlier this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report detailing the sustainability efforts of 33 Chinese textile mills that saved $14.7 million in 2014 as part of its Clean by Design program. On September 15, the non-profit will expand the initiative to include more than 50 mills in Suzhou in the southeastern Jiangsu Province, just west of Shanghai.
“These new recruits will serve as excellent role models for others, especially once they’ve gained the return on investments typical of the program to date,” Linda Greer, director of Clean by Design and NRDC senior scientist, said in a blog post on the organization’s website, noting that the region is home to more than 600 mills.
Current participants in Shaoxing and Guangzhou make fabric for the likes of Levi’s, Gap and H&M and discovered that they could boost their bottom line by cutting water, energy and chemical use. According to the NRDC, the annual return per mill averaged $400,000, with the top five performing mills saving more than $800,000.
On hand to help in Suzhou will be the program’s newest partner, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which represents more than 30 percent of global apparel manufacture with members ranging from discount retailers Target and Kohl’s to sportswear giants Nike and Adidas to luxury labels owned by Kering.
“SAC’s membership is committed to benchmarking the environmental performance of factories in their supply chains with a common measurement tool called the Higg (a self-assessment suite that measures environmental, social and labor impacts and identifies areas for improvement); more than 3,000 factories and 300 mills are currently scored in the SAC database,” Greer noted, adding that Clean by Design dovetails nicely into the Higg. “Factories undertaking improvements in our program will see their Higg scores rise.”