A global research project based on data from 1800 to 2018 by Gherzi Textil Organisation, Switzerland, and Gapminder Foundation, Sweden has come up with remarkable findings that would go a long way in tackling poverty. The findings.

Textiles played a dominant role in lifting people from extreme poverty, for women's empowerment and for economic development, more than a century ago in today's wealthy countries. And textiles still are. But there are trade-offs. New business models and steep growth of the industry are putting pressure on people and nature.

It is unfortunate that the industry gets a selective-often skewed- attention from the media. The headline grabbing coverage ranges between glamorous portrayal of fashion and drudgery of sweat shops. The industry's leverage on the most important targets of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is seldom discussed.

Historically, the textiles industry was the corner-stone of development for most countries. It remains the world's foremost industry with a vast impact on the socio-economic development of many countries. The global apparel and footwear industry was worth $1.7 trillion in 2017, and growing at 2 per cent annually till 2022. If it were a country it would be the eighth largest economy after Italy.

Textile is the main lever for nine of the SDGs.

o No poverty

o Zero hunger

o Good health and well-being

o Quality education

o Gender equality

o Decent work and economic growth

o Industrial innovation

o Reduced inequalities

o Climate action

Environmental issues

The textiles industry has a massive impact on the environment in terms of resource consumption (land, water, energy) and pollution (air, water). Today's consumerist society is driven by instant gratification characterised by excess textile consumption. Our wardrobes are overflowing with clothes we will seldom wear. Then, these garments end up in charity, used clothes collected from retail and finally in third world countries to do "some good for the poor." According to an estimate an average American discards 70 pounds of textile waste every year, leading to the receiving countries  drowning in "fashion for free."

Andrew Brooks of the King's College London, has beautifully documented the grey trade in used clothing and its adverse impact on Africa's cotton & textile industry, in his book Clothing Poverty-The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Used Clothing. Social and health issues This became known to the wider public in 2013, when Rana Plaza in Bangladesh crashed and 1400 people died. Brands were made responsible for this catastrophe-which was right, but not completely. Brands do not employ people in production countries to manufacture textiles and garments.