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How do you ensure certified companies maintain sustainability standards? What is the frequency of inspection and audits that you run in a year with a partner?
We do not certify companies, we certify products. The Bluesign system was set up intentionally as a partnership that provides the ability to companies to manage risks and comply with the Bluesign criteria as part of a mutually agreed upon roadmap. This is the document that guides companies through their journey that is created following the first assessment. During the implementation phase, we maintain close contact with the company to ensure that the agreed actions are implemented. A company has to solve the critical issues before it can go forward into a system partnership and then continue to provide data on an annual basis. We guide and coach them through the process and do a follow up on-site assessment every three years. This allows the company the time to implement the more complicated initiatives.
This segment is beginning to get crowded. What is the USP of your company?
The USP is the systemic and holistic approach of the Bluesign system; the very thing we pioneered 18 years ago. The foundation of the system is the unique approach to Input Stream Management throughout the value chain. The support, insight and acceptance by the chemical industry builds a strong foundation for the entire industry. As a solution provider providing services, Bluesign is less seen as a control organisation, but more as a valuable partner to support companies on their journey towards more sustainable and transparent practices.
Traceability is also one of the key USPs of the Bluesign system. We can track a Bluesign approved garment from the fabric lot to the chemicals used in textile processing to the chemical supplier that supplied them. We have the Bluesign Academy to ensure that the system is updated with new emerging knowledge and findings to keep us relevant to the very dynamic textile chemical industry. And lastly but maybe the most important are our system partners. These partners with their expertise and experience help enrich this system. Thus, our system is a network of the frontrunner 'sustainable' organisations across the textile value chain and with its use, it becomes much easier for our system partners to comply with new regulations, findings and requirements in this ever changing world.
Where does India stand when it comes to sustainability in clothing and textiles?
India has a deep relationship with textiles from a social and cultural point of view. I think India has the ability to very much impact the future of the sustainability movement in the clothing and textile industry. There is great hope for the textile industry in India.
Bluesign started in 2015 with one chemical supplier in India. By the end of 2017, we had five Indian suppliers in our system with more on their way. If this trend continues, 10 per cent of our chemical suppliers will be from India by 2019. We are well equipped in India and are convinced there is a future market for Bluesign, especially in the cotton industry, and look forward to working with more textile companies to be part of India's sustainable future.
Also with the central government's "5F" vision declared in 2017 of Farm to Fibre to Fabric to Fashion to Foreign for sustainable textile value chains, India is taking the right steps on the path towards sustainability. The industry needs guidance to understand the vast amount of chemistry used that may pose a risk to the people and environment as well as the consumers. With expertise in chemistry, textile manufacturing and CSR, the Bluesign system is the only practical way to have sustainable and safe production with our approach of input stream management. Sustainability is a continuous journey and involves collaboration of expertise of various stakeholders in the complex textile supply chain. Bluesign with its expertise, vast network of system partners and various tools, such as Bluefinder, a search engine for 10,000+ safe dyes and chemicals for textile, Blueguide, a search engine for Bluesign-approved fabric, and BlueXpert, a resource-saving calculator, is looking forward to partnering with the Indian textile industry to achieve true sustainability.
Can certifications solve the issue of keeping the supply chain transparent and clean?
Certifications can help, but just a certificate will not solve the problems of the industry. A shift in the mindset of the industry is necessary if we are going to stop the polluting practices. The adoption of the best available techniques in textiles will be critical to reduce pollution and decrease resource use with resources becoming scarcer around the world.
What will be the agenda for the 5th Bluesign conference in Milan?
We are excited for the 5th Bluesign conference where we will focus on TraceAbility-NetworkAbility-TransformAbility. Given the size of the Bluesign system today, we believe there is a great opportunity to achieve all of these. There will be ample opportunites to build up personal networks up and down the value chain and we will have a wide variety of speakers who are expected to open the way we all think about the future of our industry, the health of the people in it and the planet we all dwell in. And to conclude with a favorite quote from Gandhi: "Be the change you want to see in the world". (HO)
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