Sustainability: Textile Suppliers Reflect on Industry Eco Agendas in the Short & Long-term
These days, if you want to see sustainability in action, look out the window. Smog has lifted in Los Angeles to reveal a skyline view, in Venice dolphins are swimming in clean water canals, bald eagles soar over Denver, and in Toronto the family of fox that settled into a downtown neighborhood recently now have their own security detail to protect the fun-loving brood from human city-dwellers.
Along with free-range wildlife, consider that daily carbon emissions have plummeted since COVID-19 shutdowns took effect. According to Nature Climate Change, daily carbon emissions are down 17 percent from January to early April. Pictures from NASA satellites in space illuminate the spectacular change in the atmosphere in just two months time.
It appears that while coronavirus has brought us to our knees, the natural world is flourishing.
The question for the textile community right now is, with PPE the industry’s focus as the battle with COVID-19 continues, will sustainability measures adopted by textile companies during past decade now take a back seat? Or, as the silver lining of the pandemic shines in the form of nature’s rebound, are eco-responsibility and best practices production more important than ever?
Here’s what textile suppliers have to say in response:
Mike Joyce, President & CEO, PrimaLoft
“As we re-enter our new normal, we have an opportunity to re-enter in a more responsible way. Virtual business may allow for less traffic and petroleum consumption, positively impacting CO2 levels. I am convinced that this will play a significant role in our business practices going forward. We know our planet has an incredible ability to self-heal. It has been demonstrated over the last 12 weeks. Our industry needs to focus on how to re-start while not reverting back to old practices. Let’s try to keep our gains.”
Chris Parkes, President, Concept III
“Since mid-March the environment has been given a break and the change in the environment has been remarkable. This will be a message for the outdoor industry to show that sustainability works and consumers will respond to that message because they want to work with brands that are doing things to keep the planet thriving. Now we need to focus on how we involve the industry culture around sustainability and move that forward. ”
Jean Hegedus, Sustainability Director, The Lycra Company
“In the short-term, I believe the initial focus for most companies will be stabilizing their businesses, sorting out inventory issues, and understanding what consumption will look like going forward. Recent consumer research seems to indicate a shift in the consumer’s psyche toward more mindful shopping – looking for more durable clothing that will last – if that’s the case, it will certainly encourage more sustainable practices.
So, while the immediate focus will be on stabilization, in the mid-to long-term, we believe the industry’s efforts toward sustainability will only accelerate.”
We know our planet has an incredible ability to self-heal. It has been demonstrated over the last 12 weeks.
Stephen Kerns, President, Schoeller Textil USA
“In the early days of the outbreak, people were scrambling for ways to make more gowns and face masks in the short term, but now there is in general more consideration and care being taken around material sustainability – from face masks being washable without disintegrating to medical gowns with membranes to just having the peace of mind of knowing that nothing you’re putting on is bad for you or others.
“We haven’t heard from our customers that they’re not going to continue with sustainability efforts. Their processes are in place and running well. Customers are being more diligent and pragmatic about from whom and what they are buying these days.”
Jay Hertzig, SVP Global Sales/Marketing, Unifi
“Sustainability is here to stay. We’ve spoken with our brand partners about their plans when retail returns to normal, and all continue to be committed to their sustainability initiatives and goals. Several of our customers are utilizing REPREVE recycled polyester in their production of masks, gowns and other critical PPE products. There is still a strong commitment to sustainability, and we believe it will be even stronger post- COVID-19 as the world focuses our health as a society, as people, and the overall health of the planet.”
Bob Buck and Tom Band, Chemours
“Chemours has recognized the need to embrace more sustainable products and processes since its inception as a company in 2015 and reinforced this view with the creation of its 2030 Corporate Responsibility Commitment goals. This situation has highlighted sustainability even more as businesses ‘restart.’”
David Karstad, VP Marketing, Polartec
“With climate change and other issues that effect our environment and health going forward, sustainability will be one of the pillars by which we innovate around these challenges. That’s not going to change. What might change is the desire to put energy and resources into making the next innovation sooner rather than later based on how we view materials needed to survive as humans. For example how we think about how much petrochemicals we need and how we think about what we have in our closet.”