The textile industry has a high demand for energy, water, and chemical use. It also produces a lot of waste. It’s one of the most polluting industries and greatly contributes to climate change. 

The amount of water consumed by the textile industry annually is equivalent to enough drinking water for one person in 2.5 years. Moreover, clothing and footwear production are responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is greater than the shipping and aviation industries combined. Lastly, the industry pollutes oceans by releasing 0.5 million tonnes of microfibres every year from laundering. 

For all the damages the textile industry is causing the environment, it will be affected in return. This article will discuss the number of ways climate change can affect sustainability in the textile industry.

Hotter working conditions

Rising temperatures worldwide have an indirect impact on the productivity of workers, especially those who live in hotter climates. In Indonesia, the growing production of the textile industry slowed by 7.65% because of hotter working conditions. 

In higher temperatures, textile workers can experience heat stress, leading to physical discomfort and fatigue. When workers are hot and uncomfortable, they are less likely to be able to focus and perform tasks effectively. This can lead to decreased productivity and increased errors.

A hot workplace can also lead to dehydration, which may cause symptoms like dizziness and headache that can destroy productivity. It can also exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease, which can make it more difficult for workers to accomplish tasks.

An excessively hot workplace is not conducive to productivity. The rate of absenteeism from workers may increase and more workers may quit their jobs, leading to a large hit to productivity.

Changes to precipitation patterns

Significant changes to precipitation patterns, like increased droughts or floods, can be costly to the textile industry. Droughts can lead to crop failures and scarcity of raw materials, such as cotton, used to create textiles. Floods, on the other hand, can damage crops and disrupt transportation, making it difficult to get raw materials to textile mills and finished products to consumers. 

In addition, extreme weather events can disrupt the supply chains of textile manufacturers and raise the cost of production. Overall, changes to precipitation patterns, whether moderate or extreme, can cause disruptions and increase costs for the textile industry. 

Damage to infrastructure

With climate change comes extreme weather events. The frequent occurrence of super typhoons, hurricanes, and cyclones is a huge threat to infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and ports that supply chains worldwide depend on. If transportation routes are blocked or disrupted, it can make it difficult for textile manufacturers to transport raw materials and finished products to and from their factories. 

Moreover, damage to power infrastructure, such as power plants or transmission lines, can disrupt the operation of textile mills and factories, leading to production delays and increased costs. Like damage to crops, damage to infrastructure can increase the operational costs of textile manufacturers, negatively affecting profitability and competitiveness.

Disruption of supply chains and logistics

The 2021 Suez Canal obstruction has reminded the world how important supply chains are in running the global economy. According to Lloyd’s List, the mega-ship Ever Given held up $9 billion worth of trade every day it was blocking the man-made Suez. This significant disruption of the global supply chain was the result of human error and could’ve been avoided. Disruptions due to natural calamities brought upon by climate change, however, can feel inevitable.

For the textile industry, disruptions to supply chains are also costly. Extreme weather events can slow down or completely disrupt supply lines through flooding or the destruction of critical infrastructure. Transporting raw materials or finished goods becomes less efficient and the overall carbon footprint of the industry swells.

Greater demand for sustainable production

The effects of climate change vary from one industry to another, but there’s one effect that applies to all — increased demand for more sustainable textile production. As climate change worsens and makes sustainability more challenging to achieve, it also makes the demand for sustainability stronger. 

As mentioned, the production of textiles is a major contributor to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The industry also plays a role in deforestation and the release of microplastics into the environment. As the consequences of these become more apparent, governments, institutions, and consumers will demand more companies to exert effort in reducing their impact on the environment.

This increased demand will compel the textile industry to adopt more sustainable practices, such as the use of renewable energy, reducing waste production, and increasing operational efficiency.

Conclusion

Understanding the impact of climate change to businesses is important in achieving sustainability. In the textile industry, and every other industry, sustainability is largely dependent on efficiency and feasibility. When the effects of climate change make it more challenging for manufacturers to become efficient, sustainability becomes harder to achieve.