Interview with Alexander Wessels

Face2Face
Alexander Wessels
Alexander Wessels
CEO
Archroma
Archroma

Can you let us know about the latest technological innovations taking place in the textile chemicals business?

Sustainability is a key motivating factor in technological innovations available to textile mills and brand owners, and a demand for more eco-conscious fashion is impacting developments in the textile chemicals business. For example, Archroma recently launched a range of "biosynthetic" dyes for cotton and cellulose based fabrics - known as "Earthcolors" - which are derived from almond shells, saw palmetto, rosemary leaves, and other natural products. Earthcolors make use of agricultural waste products that would otherwise be sent to landfills. They can be used to provide rich red, brown and green colours to denim and casualwear. Consumers are also asking for transparency and traceability of products used in clothing. To help address this, Archroma will put all the information about individual batches of colour from the Earthcolors range on the tags attached to each item of clothing. Each tag incorporates a chip with all the information on it. That information can be accessed by the prospective buyer in a shop using the near field communications (NFC) technology in their phone. We believe that this is the first time NFC is being used in this way.

2014 saw price rises in the textile chemicals industry? Can you elaborate on that?

The main driver for increase is the growing pressure from increased environmental controls in the production of important raw materials and dye intermediate chemicals in Asia, especially in China. This leads to shortages and steep price increases for such chemicals in Asia, impacting the whole dyes value chain worldwide.

How can water conservation be a part of textile dyes and chemicals manufacturing?

It is well known that the production of textiles from fibre to finished garment involves significant water use. Archroma is working to introduce technologies such as "Advanced Denim" that let customers strengthen their own sustainability efforts through less water use and recycle of water used in the production process. We have also introduced a sustainability calculator called "One Way" to give customers a systematic approach to the selection of chemicals and production processes. It allows customers to assess the cost, performance and environmental profile of evaluated products and processes. Water conservation is also possible at the textile dyes' and chemicals' manufacturing stage. That is an area we are focusing on in our own operations. Archroma opened its first sustainable effluent treatment (SET) facility for a textile operational site in Jamshoro, Pakistan at the end of 2013. With an investment of 371 million PKR, the facility not only supports substantial recovery of 80 per cent of water, but also allows effluent treatment based on zero liquid discharge, fulfilling Pakistan's very stringent national environmental quality standards (NEQS) requirements.

Sustainability has always remained high on your agenda. Can you share with us some insights about sustainability in Archroma?

Sustainability will remain a core driver of Archroma. We will remain actively engaged in supporting environmental initiatives and organisations dedicated to promoting sustainable solutions in the textile industry, such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the ZDHC - 'Joint Roadmap Towards Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals'. Archroma also supports the industry's leading environmental and consumer safety standards including BlueSign, OekoTex, and GOTS. To support our customers' sustainability efforts, our R&D labs continually work at developing new products to eliminate and substitute hazardous substances. We have a team of chemists fully dedicated to textile chemicals in Archroma's product stewardship departments, and an international network of specialised product safety labs in Switzerland, India, Pakistan and China. For example, we recently introduced a fluorine-free water repellence solution for cotton with performance comparable to C6 technology. We are about to launch an expanded range with solutions designed for synthetic fibres. Our efforts are regularly recognised with the highest certification standards or well-established industry standards. For instance, in 2012, we received the 'ICIS Innovation' award for our Advanced Denim concept. In October 2013, Archroma received the prestigious ICIS 'Best Business Innovation' award for One Way. With the award, ICIS recognised Archroma's strong commitment to innovation with world-class quality standards, high service levels, cost-efficiency and sustainability. In terms of ensuring greater sustainability in our own operations, we hold Global IQNet and SQS certification to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series). Archroma opened its first sustainable effluent treatment (SET) facility for a textile operational site in Pakistan in 2013, further proof of our commitment to constantly aim for more sustainable solutions.

I would like to quote one of your earlier statements - "Further consolidation in this market (paper- and textile- chemical markets) is inevitable." Why do you think so?

The supply field is still quite fragmented in our industries, and that certainly creates the condition for further consolidations.
Published on: 10/02/2015

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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