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Textile Industry & Sustainability

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Sustainability practices can have environmental, social and economic impacts across the textiles industry. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the ways that manufacturers can converse, reduce costs and generate goodwill.

H&M's Sustainable Movement

Clothing manufacturer H&M, a Swedish multinational retailer, has pulled off some pretty amazing feats since being founded in 1947, including working with Donatella Versace and Madonna, but their move toward more sustainable fashion is what's drawing the latest accolades from fans.

H&M's 'Conscious Initiative' introduced a collection of red-carpet looks--created from more sustainable materials, including organic cotton, hemp and recycled polyester--to its store. The company has even incorporated a sustainability tab on its website, highlighting its efforts to protect the environment and help turn the fashion industry into a greener industry.

Sustainability, the practice of using business practices and manufacturing methods that do not destroy natural resources, is a concept impacting more than just the textile industry. It reaches into every sector on the planet, from food sourcing for restaurants to energy consumption by hotels.

Sustainability in the Textile Industry

Considering the scope of the textile industry, one of the largest industries in the world, sustainability is not only an important concept, but companies have the opportunity to make a huge difference environmentally, economically and socially.

Sustainability is frequently illustrated through the idea of reduce, reuse and recycle, encouraging individuals and businesses to reduce their consumption of resources, such as water, land and oil; reusing products, such as a refillable water bottle; and recycling materials, such as paper, glass and aluminum.

The textile industry has many reasons to place an emphasis on sustainability, including reduced costs, protection of the environment and sustained goodwill from its customers for eco-friendly practices.

Let's take a look at a few of the current issues impacting sustainability in the industry.

Current Issues

There are several sustainability issues facing the textiles industry, including:

1. Environmental sustainability: There is a great demand on water in the textiles industry for processes such as dyeing and finishing fabrics. Having enough water to manufacture textiles also requires a greater use of energy and creates environmental issues such as toxicity in contaminated water. Other environmental concerns are:

  • Use of unsafe pesticides and chemicals
  • Animal welfare issues, from sourcing raw materials
  • Pollution through air and water transmission
  • Waste products ending up in landfills
  • Packaging that is not recyclable or biodegradable

2. Material sustainability: Companies like denim giant Levi Strauss are working toward sustainability throughout their manufacturing, including the use of sustainable fibers from which they can make garments. Levi's has started using recycled plastic to make their world-famous jeans. They and other companies can also consider the following:

  • Blending cotton with other fibers to reduce its environmental footprint.
  • Using hemp, which is durable and uses less water to produce.
  • Considering synthetic, eco-friendly fibers
  • Seeking out recycled fibers or recycling their own

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