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In El Salvador, Sustainability Comes With the Manufacturing Territory

When it’s deliver-or-die, supply chains become the lifeblood of a company. To that end, the fashion industry has embraced technology to navigate today’s hyper-complicated supply chain, with myriad solutions shaping the first, middle and last mile. Call it Sourcing 2.0.

Apart from getting attention for its proximity to the United States at a time when brands and retailers are looking to shorten their supply chains, apparel industry manufacturers in El Salvador have efforts in place to keep the sector sustainable.

For one, having a synthetic textile cluster in which the yarn suppliers, the fabric suppliers, the narrow elastics suppliers and the textile factories are all essentially within an hour’s drive from each other, cuts down considerably on logistics costs—and the emissions, waste disposal and energy usage that comes with it.

But more than that, companies in the synthetic cluster are taking their own measures to make the supply chain more sustainable.

At George C. Moore, a narrow elastics manufacturer that counts Under Armour and Fruit of the Loom among its clients, something as simple as recycling packaging doesn’t go without consideration. In its on-site recycling center, yarn, cardboard, cones and palettes find second lives.

“The boxes that our customers send back, we reuse them until they cannot be used anymore and we recycle it. We recycle elastic and reuse it,” George C. Moore marketing and innovation manager Elisa Torres explained.

For Pettenati, a Brazilian fabric manufacturer that’s also part of the synthetics cluster, it’s offering has been what’s kept sustainably-minded customers like Patagonia and The North Face doing business with them.

Apart from its investments in new finishing technologies that will be firsts for the region, Pettenati will put money toward solar paneling for its facility and systems for recycling water over this year and next.

“We have higher performance than the rest of the market,” Pettenati’s director of operations Francesco Pilenga, said, adding that the company has no problems with compliance and that it’s a member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. “We are a sustainable, fully compliant company at the price that was expected. There are no surprises, no hidden costs.”

Unifi, a leading manufacturer of multi-filament polyester and nylon textured yarns, has gotten a lot of attention in the sustainability space for its Repreve fiber, which is made using recycled plastic bottles.

The company has been in El Salvador for upward of six years and moving toward greater sustainability is an ongoing effort. For now, Unifi is considering using solar energy in the day and electricity at night to save on costs and consumption.

What’s more, as Jaime Campos, Unifi general manager said, “El Salvador is investing in renewable energy and investing in trying to attract more investors of the high-technology type.”

At TexOps, a textile manufacturer in the synthetic cluster, sustainability has a lot to do with scaling back.

“We should not produce garbage. If there’s demand for 100, produce 80. Let it sell out. We are over-producing garments,” TexOps CEO David Ha said. “We want fast fashion but we don’t want to over-produce it.”

The activewear-focused manufacturer, which produces goods for brands like Lululemon and REI, can ship out garments in as little as three days depending on the order, but won’t make bulk just for commodity’s sake.

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