A lot has happened in the last 20 years. The last Volkswagen Beetle rolled through production. Redbull dropped a man from the stratosphere. Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPod, followed by the iPhone. Facebook launched its social platform. The last 20 years were witness to technologies which changed communication and information sharing as we know it today.

However, there is a general consensus that not enough has happened to move the textile and apparel industry into the environmentally and socially responsible position that has increasingly been demanded for by consumers. The current industry demands are pushing players to implement sustainability policy reaching throughout their supply chain, while increasing traceability, transparency, and accountability. Brands especially find themselves under pressure to provide more information about their products and the product manufacturing process. Moreover, the growing number of certification institutions are finding they have to move quickly to improve their systems to support the low regulated industry in meeting global requirements.

The challenges that the industry is currently facing are multifaceted; fast-fashion has taken over the industry by storm and is the only segment of the fashion industry that has experienced market growth in the past 15 years. As the purchasing power consumers within India rapidly increases, it is projected that these consumers will make active decisions to seek out information in order to increase their positive influence and reduce negative impacts on the environment and society.

In India, issues for the textile and apparel industry is compounded as the industry expects to see a rise in both domestic consumption and export demands. From 2000 to 2019, India’s textile industry attracted 3.19 billion USD in Foreign Direct Investments. This rise in demand is not expected to slow in the next 20 years. Instead, it is predicted that the market will grow to reach 300 billion by 2024.

These predictions are in large part substantiated by the Indian governments support through the New Textiles Policy 2020. Under the Prime Ministers vision of “Make India”, the policy sets forth a plan to develop a competitive textile industry which is modern and sustainable. To this aim, the government is preparing to construct a 1,000-acre mega textile park.

The future outlook of the Indian textile industry is largely positive. However, questions remain; how can sustainable solutions be implemented effectively, and are sustainable solutions worth investing in?

While the textile industry contributes to 5% of India’s GDP and employees 100 million people, until now an environmentally conscious industry has not been taken seriously because it seemingly conflicts with India’s national priority of economic development.

The Sustainable Resolution (Su.Re) is a first step in moving India towards a more sustainable textile industry. Su.Re is an initiative launched by the Union Minister for Textiles, Smriti Zubin Irani, along with India’s 16 largest brands, and the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI), in August of last year. The signatories have pledged to work towards reaching goals outlined by the 5-point action plan. Brands have pledged to gain a better understanding of how their products impact the environment; to develop a sustainable supply chain by putting the priority on certified raw materials; they have pledged to make positive material purchasing decisions and ensure material traceability; and to communicate initiatives through labeling, product tags, or campaigns. The fifth point sets out the expectation that these measures should shift a significant percentage of the signatories’ supply chains to a sustainable chain, meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for responsible consumption and production (SDG-12) by 2025.

However, one glaring point missing on the 5-point plan set out by Su.Re is a necessary amendment to safe chemical usage and safe production processes. The five-point plan focuses heavily on material sourcing and traceability, and overlooks the importance and impact of chemicals throughout the apparel manufacturing process. The use of safe chemicals is a necessary part of a responsible supply chain as well as a necessary point to meet the goals of becoming an environmentally conscious industry. From creating the perfect shade of blue to shaping the stretch of nylons, developing a chemical composition to meet the garments and industry needs is a key component throughout apparel production.

THE BLUE WAY path paved by Bluesign for the past 20 years has encompassed these chemical and environmental topics when they were not yet trending topics in the textile or apparel industries. While many organizations are now recognizing a need to react, Bluesign has been acting 20 years ahead of time.

For the last 20 years, Bluesign has been advocating for and developing solutions to meet this demand; 20 years before the consumer demand was perceived from the industry. The Bluesign benchmark is 20 years in the making, and today it is the most efficient way to implement Best Available Technology and guarantee compliance with new international regulations, without compromising on functionality, quality, or design.

What sets the bluesign® SYSTEM apart from other services is its Input Stream Management approach. The foundation of the Input Stream Management approach is simple; if the materials, chemicals, and processes throughout production is clean and safe, the product produced will be safe. Through this, it is possible to ensure responsible production practices. Previous solutions tested a finished product and allowed for little flexibility if standards were not met. 20 years ago, Bluesign’s Input Stream Management approach was a revolutionary idea and a first mover towards an industry mindset shift; shifting away from testing a finished end product, to setting criteria along the way for components and processes. Most notably, the bluesign® SYSTEM has implemented a sleek and efficient assessment process, in which the globally accepted standards are integrated in determining a products compatibility with the Bluesign and the industry benchmark.

By undertaking goals towards the reduction of resource waste and reduction of emissions, organizations are actively increasing efficiency and improving their overall bottom-line, creating environmental benefits that are in-line with the nation’s economic development interests.

Bluesign, its extensive expert base, experience, and partners, have created a robust solution that combines sustainable practices with solutions that provide the industry with economic benefits. The bluesign® SYSTEM is holistic and comprehensive, encompassing the needs throughout the value chain and the end-user.

This scientific systematic approach establishes Bluesign as the industry leader for chemical verification, sustainability, and conscious production practices in the textile industry. Today, the idea of a transparent supply chain is moving towards the norm. However, with processes and supply chain transparency comes the need for industry tools to simplify the communication and collaboration along the many horizontal and vertical levels of a supply chain.

 

To meet the third point of the 5-point plan, in which the signatories pledge to make positive choices when choosing resources and ensure traceability, Bluesign provides a web-based platform, the bluesign® CUBE. The CUBE allows for all organizations in a supply chain to connect with each other and create a responsible supplier network. The primary and paramount feature of the bluesign® CUBE is its efficient facilitation of traceability of an organizations supply chain.

Additionally, point four of the 5-point plan does not address how the signatories will communicate their sustainability claims and labeling procedures to avoid greenwashing. In line with the Bluesign Input Stream Management mindset, when organizations are able to keep track of their production input usage, they will be able to measure and understand their output. This software suite and verification tool can generate data verification for Environmental Key Performance Indicators (eKPIs) which are of unparalleled value in creating reports for shareholders, stakeholders, and consumers. Data measures in reduction of emissions, discharge, and increases in resource efficiency creates the ability for sound data driven business strategies and established trust with consumers.

As India takes steps towards a sustainable textile industry, it should take two key points into consideration:

First, as the government takes steps towards developing its New Textile Policy 2020, possibly through the creation of mega textile parks, it is the hope that India will consider strategic sustainable implementation, and especially considers the importance of safe chemical usage throughout the textile supply chain. Technological upgrades, enhancement of productivity, and product diversification are set as goals of the New Textile Policy 2020. There is a considerable return of investment when sustainable and clean processes and Best Available Technology is implemented early on.

Second, when implementing labeling measurements, it is necessary to establish how these claims will be verified. Organizations should have to stand behind their environmental claims with data and facts and figures. Transparent data generation throughout the supply chain is the most fluid and efficient way in which verified data can be established. Moreover, a verified supply chain can reduce a company’s risk of finding itself in the middle of a PR nightmare.

Su.Re sets the stage for an industry push in selecting sustainable and environmentally responsible approaches. Through increased resource efficiency and reducing emissions, a sustainable textile industry will open itself up to innovation, and directly contribute to the national Indian economic development goals.

As Renata Lok-Dessallien, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in India states, “The future of design is foremost about design with a future. Without sustainable supply chains, the fashion industry will become less and less viable.”