The environment has played a crucial role in the apparel and textile industry this year. In the past twelve months, fashion has made its mark in the sustainability department. From Textile Exchange’s NSF Partnership to the development of the first recyclable garment factory, the apparel and textile industry has made significant progress for Earth’s well-being. Below are the industry’s groundbreaking environmental moments for 2016.
Completely circular garments are now a reality for the fashion industry. Re:newcell in September was granted $5 million to build the world’s first recycled textile pulp production facility in Sweden. Re:newcell’s new factory will reduce the use of harmful materials in supply chains. Recycling 1 kilogram of cotton would conserve 3.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide and 6,000 liters of water in the apparel manufacturing cycle. Instead of using synthetic materials, brands will have a more environmentally-friendly alternative for the clothing production process.
Companies’ sustainability efforts didn’t go underhanded on Corporate Knights’ annual Global 100 Index in February. French conglomerate Kering ranked 43rd on the list and came in second place for the textiles, apparel & luxury goods category, meanwhile H&M snagged the 20th spot and earned first place for the specialty retail category. Both companies hit their sustainability targets in 2015, contributing to their placement on the environmentally-friendly roundup.
Esprit, Swedish fashion chain KappAhl, New Look, L.A.-based fashion brand Sage Larock, Simons and Tesco joined the CanopyStyle Initiative, a campaign that enforces sustainable sourcing in the apparel sector. More than 60 fashion brands have pledged to the initiative and promised to keep endangered forests out of their rayon supply chains.
Textile Exchange teamed up with NSF International to elevate its sustainability goals in October. As a global not-for-profit organization, NSF International protects the environment by creating standards, and certifying products in the consumer goods industries. Textile Exchange collaborated with NSF International to improve sustainability in three categories, including fiber and materials, the supply network and integrity standards. NSF International’s investment helped Textile Exchange achieve a more environmentally-friendly supply chain.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) worked hard this year to reduce the apparel industry’s carbon footprint. The organization released the Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) Contributor as a new Higg Index tool suite addition in July. MSI assesses materials’ impact on chemistry, climate change, eutrophication and water scarcity. The tool contributed to SAC’s material sustainability data and impacted sourcing decisions for SAC’s 180-plus apparel company members.
Apparel manufacturing facilities gained a new sustainability performance program. Intertek collaborated with the Business Environmental Performance Initiative (BEPI) on the Supply Chain Chemical Management Module (SCCM), a tool that helps factories with their chemical management processes. SCCM focused on five initiatives, including common tools and standards, monitoring, capacity building, outreach and guidance. In addition to their partnership, Intertek opened the UK’s largest textile testing lab in April and BEPI teamed up with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) on chemical compliance standards in May.
Canopy Planet Society, a Canada-based non-profit, ranked Lenzing as the top sustainable wood sourcing provider worldwide. Lenzing was recognized for its alternative raw material initiatives and forest conservation efforts. The company created Tencel, which is a fiber produced from recycled cotton waste. Tencel demonstrates that a resource-efficient closed loop production process is possible in the apparel industry. Furthermore, almost all of the pulp used by Lenzing is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Deforestation commodities remain rampant in clothing companies’ supply chains and put some retailers’ revenues at stake. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) released a report in December, which highlighted that almost a quarter (24 percent) of retailers’ revenues remain dependent on deforestation commodities, including cattle products and timber products. Although $906 billion in annual turnover is in jeopardy, some retailers were recognized for cleaning up their supply chains. Marks & Spencer, Coach and Kering were recognized for their sustainability leadership in deforestation commodity categories.
In June, the U.S. Senate passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to improve sustainability in consumer goods. As an update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the legislation strengthens the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) chemical regulation efforts and oversees chemical manufacturing. With the act, apparel companies are encouraged to reduce chemical usage in their supply chains and seek alternative materials for apparel production.
Fashion designers now have access to a unified sustainable materials list. Non-profit Cradle to Cradle debuted the Fashion Positive Materials Collection, which is a digital resource of 39 materials that are circular and environmentally-friendly. The collection features many materials, including fabrics, elastics and yarns. Thirty-two of the materials on the list are Cradle-to-Cradle certified and each have been assessed based on reuse, renewable energy and water stewardship. With the list, fashion designers can work together to minimize hazardous chemicals and waste in the apparel industry.