The views presented here are of Mr. Peter Waeber; CEO, &sec=article&uinfo=<%=server.URLEncode(3407)%>" target="_blank">bluesign technologies ag, Switzerland

The challenges for tomorrow's textile industry

Increasing prices of raw material-due to scarce availability of resources-and active environmental protection are the challenges faced by a future-driven textile industry. Being successful in the market place requires taking responsibility when it comes to environmental and consumer protection and prioritizing the ecological footprint as a prerequisite in corporate strategies.

The bluesign standard optimizes the entire textile production process sustainably and reduces harm to the environment and to human health to a minimum. Decreasing production cost, increasing competitiveness and long-lasting innovation speak also for commercial success.

Global production of textiles

The relocation of the production due to globalization creates an additional level of complexity for the sustainable textile production, as different nations have different environmental laws-or even none at all. To secure a "clean" production by manufacturers, trade and brands around the world refer to the Restricted Substance List (RSL). But who can take responsibility of confirming compliance with the RSL? In contrast, the bluesign standard can secure a global transparent, safe and economical textile production.

Complex rules

The complexity of the textile supply chain is growing constantly in many of the producing countries. For example, the European chemical regulation Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) requests that companies autonomously report and register known and innovative chemicals. This is a complex and costly effort that tends to create competitive disadvantages. bluesign technologies ag's simple solution to this problem is providing its partners with its infrastructure and its constantly updated expertise in form of the bluesign standard.

Scarcity of resources

The global shortage of various resources such as water and non-renewable energy forces the textile industry to make sustainable and effective use of them. Fluctuating and constantly rising prices of raw materials become an unpredictable constant of corporate budgets, compromising the competitiveness.

Critical consumers

The number of demanding and critical consumers requesting transparent value chains and high-quality, harmless and environmentally safe products is constantly growing. This is a challenge that future-driven businesses have to accept long before politics, legislators or authorities force them into a new way of thinking.

Traditional test procedures tell half-truths

We all know the studies provided by the NGOs and several environmental protection agencies from around the world. Pollution caused by accidental spilling of wastewater into freshwater reservoirs, excessive pollution of the sewage. Not to forget the exhaust air; which is too often not purified. All these issues are not reflected by the finished product and cannot be detected. The consumer remains in the dark and purchases a seemingly risk-free product.

What about consumption of resources and working conditions?

Traditional test procedures-such as standards based on analyses, eco-labels or RSLs-mostly focus on consumer protection and thus aim at detecting potential harmful residues in finished products. However, the latter cannot be guaranteed by simply testing the finished product since the applied analyses at final production time can only assess a fraction of the problematic substances involved. A product inspection at the very end will always factor out the entire textile value chain, the work conditions or the careful management of resources like water, non-renewable energy or raw materials.

How relevant is it to test the finished product and thus only cover a fifth of the problematic substances involved? The educated consumer, the brand or the retailer need and want to know a lot more: How do manufacturers handle the necessary resources, exhaust or wastewater; are the workers sufficiently protected?

Environment, health and safety as a strategy

The future of the textile industry lies in the hands of brands and retailers that guarantee non-harmful products for people and the environment. Standards and industry initiatives help these companies establishing sustainable products without compromising functionality, quality or design.

Resource and environmental management

The way to a healthy textile future can only be via safe technology, sustainable handling of resources and effective consumer protection. This is no dream path, but rather a way which one must take and adhere to with determined conviction. Diligent care in dealing with natural resources is not primarily understood as a virtue here, but rather as something taken as a matter of course and demanded by the times we live in. Leading companies in the textile industry-suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and renowned suppliers of brand products-have recognised this fact and comply with standards and limits which benefit the environment, our health and safety.