Sustainability
Thursday, March 5, 2015

Clean by Design

When producing 1 tonne of fabric, 200 tonnes of water are polluted during the dyeing and finishing steps. But who should take responsibility? And how can the fashion industry change today’s reality? Bringing these questions to the table was the NRDC Luncheon & Discussion on Sustainable Fashion in New York yesterday.

 

“There’s an expression that you know the colour in fashion next season by the colour of the rivers in China” recounts Linda Greer, of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  As director of the NRDC’s Clean by Design programme, she is on a mission to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry and that of its global supply chain. Moderating yesterday’s discussion, she was joined by panellists from The Northface, Loomstate and Kering to discuss how fashion can be sustainable. 

 

17 - 20% OF THE WORLD’S INDUSTRIAL WATER POLLUTION IS GENERATED BY THE
DYEING AND TREATMENT OF TEXTILES

 

Arising from a partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Clean by Design began back in 2010 with the promotion of easy-to-implement Best Practices at textile mills in Asia. As it is the early steps of a textile’s production cycle that are the most impactful on the environment, their approach was to tackle the problem at its source. An approach that proved to be not only logical but effective, from an environmental and economic stance. The mills were seeing 25% reductions in water use, 30% reductions in fuel use, and all within a return on investment of 8 months. Whilst also, attention grew around the lesser-known side of the textile industry; its’ environmental impacts, heavy use of water, chemicals and energy.

 

Eyeing up global expansion Clean by Design arrived in Europe. Completing an initial round of the programme in 2013, Stella McCartney became the first EU partner and the first luxury brand to implement Clean by Design at its textile mills. During yesterday’s NRDC panel discussion Laurent Claquin, Head of Kering Americas, went on to tell how the NRDC and Kering have since enhanced the programme’s methodology and are now rolling this out across the Group’s brands. Following an audit of each textile mill, specific Best Practices are provided that best fit with the mill’s line of activity; be it weaving, dyeing, finishing, spinning, or  alternative leather production. With the best practices already unlocking savings of up to 30% on energy use and GHG emissions at Kering, the results solidify the business case of sustainability.

 

Echoing this were the NRDC panellists at yesterday's event, their one decisive consensus being

SUSTAINABLE FASHION IS NOT JUST A RESPONSIBILITY IT ALSO ENTAILS OPPORTUNITY.