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Dyeing & printing blind spots in sustainable supply chain
Oct '12
Mr Ma Jun
Mr Ma Jun
Despite major global apparel brands making tall claims of following sustainable practices in production of garments, the resource intensive fabric dyeing and printing sector remains a blind spot for these clothing brands.

A joint report released by Chinese environmental NGO’s like Friends of Nature, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Green Beagle, Envirofriends and Nanjing Green Stone reveals that environmental management for many brands just reaches to their first tiers of suppliers, which is usually just cut and sew factories.

For the environmental performance of their most polluting materials suppliers, their understanding has limits and some brands are not even clear about who these suppliers are. Therefore, sustainable apparel has this dangerous blind spot – fabric dyeing and finishing enterprises, who lower their environmental standards in the race to win orders.

Speaking exclusively with fibre2fashion, Mr Ma Jun – founding director of Beijing headquartered Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs revealed in detail what he calls a blind spot in the sustainable apparel supply chain of the global clothing retailers.

He says, “China has many companies and a huge capacity for dyeing and printing of fabrics, which makes it a challenge to control water and ground pollution and conserve water and energy, makng compliance a difficult task. Although there are strict environmental norms, many choose to cut corners in order to save on costs and bag orders”.

He adds, “Most of the apparel brands and retailers do not extend their environmental standards up to dyeing and printing of fabrics, but do so only till the cutting and sewing of garments. This is where the environmental violations take place, which is why we urge these retailers to keep a close on the upstream dyeing and printing sector and make it a part of their sustainable initiatives”.

Informing about as to how these agencies are trying to improve compliance standards, he reveals, “We are trying to engage both – apparel retailers and stake holders in the textile value production chain in a dialogue. We are trying to convince all of them that environmental impact of their activities needs to be curbed, by not only talking about their challenges but by also providing solutions”.

The NGO’s sent evaluation forms to 49 global apparel brands of which only 11 retailers or brands like Nike, Esquel, Disney, H&M, Levi’s, Burberry, Adidas, C&A and others have responded by saying that they have started environmental management of their printing and dyeing suppliers. The report goes on to state that the other brands still need to extend their management into this sector.

The apparel brands which are complying with environmental management practices, regularly interact with these NGO’s and check for data available with these NGO’s on the enterprises which are polluting the environment, in order to keep a check on their suppliers. They also encourage these suppliers to have their operations audited by these NGO’s.  

Speaking on the ways and means to check environmental destruction by the fabric dyers and printers, he says, “The government should provide incentives and apparel retailers should also encourage these dyers and printers to upgrade technology and reduce both - water use and pollution”. 

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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