Corporate / SME | Interviews

Charting a Sustainable Path: How Bluesign® Leads the Industry Towards a Greener Future

Published: April 26, 2024
Author: TEXTILE VALUE CHAIN

Bluesign emerged as a trailblazer in the industry when it was established in 2000, embodying the spirit of the new millennium. The changing global mindset towards environmental impact propelled the company to challenge conventional practices within the industry. The urgent call for action in the face of escalating environmental degradation due to human activities became increasingly apparent. 

During an interview with the TVC Media Team, Mr. Rufenacht Daniel, Chief Executive Officer, and Ms. Katharina V. Mayer, the Director of Customer Relations, shared insights into their roles. 

Daniel, an accomplished leader with a wealth of experience in sustainability, corporate responsibility, and communication, is known for his exceptional skills in strategic planning and management. On the other hand, Katherine, who serves as the regional CRM Director for the Indian Sub-Continent at Bluesign®, leads a team dedicated to guiding clients in the textile and apparel industry towards sustainable and responsible practices. With over a decade of expertise in customer relations and business development, she collaborates with global brands, retailers, and manufacturers to drive positive change in the industry.

Could you provide some information on Bluesign? What is the primary function or purpose of Bluesign?

We are happy to be at this trade fair as all the major players in the textile industry are here. This is important for Blue Sign because we’re a total sustainability solution provider. We help companies throughout the textile industry reduce their impact on people and the planet.

How Blue Sign Works: We focus on what we call Input Stream Management. This means using the right chemicals from the beginning of production to avoid problems later.  Many companies currently use harmful chemicals and then test the final product to see if there’s a negative impact. Blue Sign’s approach is to eliminate those chemicals from the start.

We also provide a variety of services to help companies become more sustainable. These services go beyond just chemicals and look at the entire production process, including resource use and worker safety.

The Importance of Sustainability: We’re not currently on track to meet global sustainability goals.  Chemical use, plastic waste, and general waste are all major problems. Blue Sign offers several services to help companies address these issues.

Legislation and Traceability: Legislation around sustainability is increasing around the world.  Blue Sign helps companies prepare for these regulations by providing traceability through a digital passport system. This passport shows where materials come from and the garment’s performance in terms of CO2 emissions, water use, and other factors.

Blue Sign Partnership: We partner with companies throughout the textile industry to continuously improve their sustainability practices.  We are not a certification company that simply says something is right or wrong. Instead, we work with companies as partners to help them reach their sustainability goals.

The Blue Sign Label: Our system results in a label for finished products. The Blue Sign Approved label means the fabric and chemicals meet our standards. The Blue Sign product label can be found on garments in stores.  These labels will soon include QR codes that provide consumers with more information about the product’s sustainability.

How are Indian brands responding to this? How many Indian brands are currently registered with Bluesign?

We already have over 140 brands on board, mostly in Europe and the Americas, with some Chinese brands joining recently. Now we’re setting our sights on India.

Many manufacturers and chemical suppliers in India are already part of the Bluesign system. The challenge we face is with the fashion brands here. Unlike global brands, local Indian brands tend to be less aware of international sustainability regulations.

However, the Indian market is massive and its brands hold a lot of power. Partnering with them is crucial to reducing their environmental impact. That’s why we’re exhibiting at this fair and setting up meetings with potential brand partners.

The biggest hurdle for these brands seems to be a lack of intrinsic motivation. Consumers here aren’t necessarily demanding sustainable production yet. But all the brand CEOs I’ve met understand the importance of sustainability. They just need the right tools and partners to implement it effectively.

In my 30 years in the garment industry, I’ve come to believe that Bluesign is the way to go. It eliminates harmful chemicals from the very beginning, promoting sustainable production throughout the entire supply chain. There’s really no good excuse not to adopt it, especially considering the looming deadlines for sustainability goals.

The industry is moving beyond just reducing our footprint. We’re entering a phase of “positive” production. This means things like generating more clean energy than we consume. It’s a bit early for widespread adoption here, but some brands are already exploring how to design garments with a positive environmental impact from the very beginning.

For India’s textile industry, the first step is establishing clean production sites and processes. This involves assessing mills and implementing impact services at their level. This is a practical approach, and with Switzerland’s good relationship with India, I’m confident we can make significant progress here.

How do you modify sustainability practices?

I’ve been working in sustainability for 30 years now, and I talk to a lot of sustainability managers. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that for sustainability to truly succeed, it needs to be both a top-down and bottom-up approach. Here’s what I mean:

  • Top-down commitment is crucial. If the company’s leadership isn’t convinced about sustainability, it’s very difficult to make progress. The CEO and CFO need to be on board – they’re the ones who allocate budgets and give the green light for initiatives.
  • But that’s not enough. Even with leadership buy-in, people on the ground need to understand how to implement sustainability in their day-to-day work. That’s why I’m excited about our collaboration with the MSC Sector.

We’ve developed an e-learning program. It’s not about creating awareness of sustainability (they already know it’s important) – it’s about showing them how to integrate Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles into their work on the ships. This is a practical guide that explains the “how” and “what” of sustainability in their specific roles.

This program is just eight weeks long, with two sessions per week.  It’s a manageable amount of time for busy seafarers, but it provides a strong foundation in ESG practices. Here’s what makes this collaboration even more exciting:

  • Simple, actionable tools: We’re providing practical guidance that people can use right away. Our goal is to equip seafarers with the knowledge and tools they need to make a real difference.
  • Collaboration, not competition: We recognize there are other sustainability systems out there. We believe in finding common ground and working together for the greater good.

This is a powerful combination – top-down leadership, practical training for workers, and a collaborative approach.  I’m confident that by working together, we can transform the industry and create a more sustainable future.

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