Pratibha Syntex, which produces over 60 million pieces of apparel annually, recently won Woolworths' 'Supplier Excellence Award' for 'Supplier of the Year Sustainability 2019' and bagged the 2019 CO Leaders Award for setting trends in fashion. Fibre2Fashion spoke to CEO Ashwani Palaha about the company's sustainable initiatives.
Pratibha has been organising the Fairtrade Premium Programme since 2014 and works closely with farmers for organic cotton production through the Vasudha initiative. Do Indian apparel manufacturers realise that such ethical practices are the need of the hour?
With growing awareness about sustainability including people and planet across the world, demand for ethically manufactured products are increasing day by day. The number of sustainable apparel items available worldwide surged from 58,144 SKUs in 2016 to around 353,817 SKUs in 2018 (up by 508 per cent), indicating retailers' and consumers' increased enthusiasm towards sustainable products. The recent Pulse 2019 report also states that consumer awareness has increased towards sustainable products. With the increasing demand of consumers, the Indian apparel industry is realising the need of ethical practices. Under the Fairtrade Premium Programme 2019, we have distributed refrigerators, washing machines and other home appliance to our associates. With the support of Patagonia MEC and Prana, we have been organising the programme since 2014. The aim is to uplift the life of the associates and farmers, who are the actual contributors to the industry.
Tell us a little bit about your pilot tests of incorporating blockchain technology to improve traceability.
Sustainability is highlighted as a growing concern in the textiles sector and traceability has emerged as a feasible solution to this. We at Pratibha have realised this. We partnered with Infinichains, a blockchain company, to establish traceability through blockchain. Our pilot project has been successful. In this project, every garment has a tag with a QR code, which can be scanned through a credible app. With scanning the QR code, the entire journey of the garment from farmer to the end product is visible. One can donate directly to the farmer through a payment gateway or else the donation can be given for a cause like plantation, women's education, etc.
What have been the key findings and challenges?
In order to develop the tool, the major challenge was at the ginning level, where the hip lot is created with hundreds of farmers' cotton in the same place. The current process addresses it with an allocation basis. In the manufacturing phase, there is no challenge as such because our system is integrated, and all data is in SAP. We are now in the process of undergoing one more pilot where the journey will start from seed distribution to the end product.
Which are your major markets in India and abroad for organic cotton, fabrics and apparel? Where do you see the potential growing?
We focus on the quality of products. We aim for high quality, and hence we enjoy patronage of elite brands across the world. We export mostly to the US, Europe, Middle East and South Africa. Recently, we entered the domestic market with Reliance Retail. We are manufacturing knitted products.
What were your inputs for the report Empowering Consumers Through Transparency by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC)?
The report is like a bible for brands, retailers and manufacturers that are planning or implementing transparency in their processes. While the report compiles comprehensive understanding of what kind of transparency is most meaningful and useful to consumers, it highlights how it is being perceived and what impact the information will create in the minds of consumers.
This interview was first published in the November 2019 edition of the print magazine.
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