If you had to rate the global textile industry in terms of sustainability, how would you rate it in a scale of 1 to 10? Please elaborate your answer.
I don't think it's possible to judge any one industry as being good or bad the world over. Even here in Europe, it's not so long ago that the rivers were still very polluted, though this has changed greatly in the last 30 years, as everyone can see. Becoming sustainable isn't a 5-minute job, but has to be seen as a dynamic process. It's a question of providing an impetus, so that the textile industry in developing countries can also catch up in terms of sustainability. That takes a certain amount of time - time that we in Europe needed as well, to make that progress. What's important from my point of view is to keep up the momentum and try to get better every year - not only because of state regulations but above all because of a company's own sense of responsibility.
What are the latest technological innovations going on in the field of textiles? Can you tell our readers a bit about that?
As an applied research institute, we regard ourselves primarily as a partner for the industry's small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). These SMEs in particular benefit from the practical solutions which our interdisciplinary teams of specialists work together to develop. Thanks to the close cooperation between textile engineers, chemists, medics, biologists, and physicists, we are able to provide and optimize a diverse range of products and procedures for a wide spectrum of sectors in line with individual requirements.
One of the things we are working on at the moment is an "artificial uterus", which provides sensory stimulation for premature babies and helps them to avoid missing out on anything in their development.
Another exciting project is to do with improving underwear for use on future space missions. The German astronaut Dr. Alexander Gerst is currently carrying out wearing tests with "Spacetex" materials on board the International Space Station (ISS).
You credit the success of Hohenstein Institute to your grandfather who started the venture in 1946. What valuable inputs or learning have you got from him?
My grandfather already essentially formulated the secret for the success of the Hohenstein Institute when it was founded in 1946, and this still holds true to this day. On one hand, we have the fundamental principle of "unity of research, service and continued education". Through our research work, we have always kept pace with the times, which has enabled us to identify and meet the current demands of the markets when it comes to testing and certification services, as well as training courses. On the other hand, another factor for success is our focus on textile products of all kinds and their use in a great variety of areas of work and life. This gives us, and thereby our customers, the benefit of extensive expert knowledge, which in combination with our interdisciplinary approach, is unique in the world.
Can testing and certification help companies achieve sustainability in their supply chain? To what extent is this effective?
Over the past 20 years, the independent testing and certification of textile products has assumed significantly greater importance. This is due to both consumers being much more aware of product quality and to the changes which have taken place in the global flow of goods.
How important is transparency and traceability in the textile supply chain?
Environmental protection and social responsibility have become far more important in recent years for global textile brands, trade enterprises, and manufacturers along the textile value added chain.
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