Simple Improvements in Wet Processing Can Increase Sustainability, Save Textile Industry Billions

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by | Nov 3, 2021

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(Credit: Pixabay)

Wet processors in the textile, apparel and clothing supply chain can make simple and practical improvements to increase sustainability and gain financial benefits, according to a report from Planet Tracker.

The report, which was produced in collaboration with the Apparel Impact Institute, says a one-time investment in processes that lower the environmental footprint of wet processing facilities could produce 11.5% in yearly water savings and cut greenhouse gas emissions by almost 11% while saving an average of $369,500 annually. Planet Tracker says the payback of such an investment could take a little less than 14 months.

If such improvements were done across the industry it could lead to savings of $6.1 billion a year.

The report says changes are simple to implement. They include installing meters, reusing cooling water and wastewater, maintaining steam traps and improving insulation.

Factors such as lack of access to information on how to make changes, bank loans, understanding to potential cost and environmental benefits and insufficient pressure from regulators and consumers hinder such improvements being made.

As sustainability issues increase across industries and with more focus on reporting and tackling problems like Scope 3 emissions in supply chains, the pressure to make changes is increasing. The report says those issues should encourage companies to assist their suppliers in making changes.

Both transparency and Scope 3 emissions are problems that the textile industry is trying to tackle. According to the 2021 Fashion Transparency Index by Fashion Revolution, there 62% of the 250 largest brands publish sustainability reports on their own brands, but that drops to about a quarter of them reporting on processing and manufacturing level.

Regarding emissions, while most brands have reduced Scope 1 and 2 emissions more than 90% of the industry’s emissions are Scope 3, which a recent report by Climate Board and Textile Exchange found little progress on making improvements in that area.

The Planet Tracker report says companies can issue ESG, sustainability or green bonds to get funding to wet processors. Brands can also cultivate long-term relationships with suppliers to help them get financing for projects. Companies should also push for consistent environmental transparency from their operations as well as those of their suppliers, according to the report.

The report shows that investors can help advance improvements by directly investing in the supply chains of textiles producers and to take advantage of joint ventures or pooled debt to affect change. They can also pressure brands to make improvements in the supply chain transparency and to invest in making sustainable improvements. They can also seek partnerships with organizations like the Apparel Impact Institute to seek external investment opportunities, the report says.

“This creates a huge opportunity for investors to facilitate a key environmental transition for wet processors through a range of funding mechanisms, as well as other parts of the textiles manufacturing chain such as garment manufacturers,” according to Catherine Tubb Ph.D., senior investment analyst at Planet Tracker and author of the report.

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