Textiles

Casting the dye for sustainable transformation

As in previous years, China and Bangladesh remain the top textile producing countries. Solidaridad continued activities in these countries by bringing best practices to scale and contributing to solutions for complex issues such as cleaner production, audit duplication and fair wages. With more brands looking out for new sourcing destinations, Solidaridad scaled up its contributions to a sustainable textile sector in countries like Ethiopia and Myanmar as well.

Number of workers affected by projects

 

Number of factories supported

 

Achievements

Brands and retailers are key players in the textile value chain that drive sector transformation through more sustainable buying practices. As part of the Bangladesh PaCT Programme in 2016, Solidaridad trained employees at the head offices of PaCT partner brands. In these follow-up workshops that started in 2015, buyers and designers gained a better understanding of the environmental impact of design and sourcing decisions.

Solidaridad continued working on the pilot project for fair wages, together with the Fair Wage Network, two brands and a few suppliers in China. In addition to direct dialogue and work with suppliers to improve wages in China, an extensive assessment of the partner brands’ buying practices is also part of this work.

Solidaridad strengthened engagement with the Dutch market and contributed to the establishment of the sustainable clothing and textile agreement for the Dutch textile sector which was ratified on 4 July 2016. As part of the steering committee, Solidaridad will play an active role in the implementation of the agreement.

Solidaridad’s work in China and Bangladesh focused on promoting broader adoption of sustainable production techniques at the supplier level. The Better Mill Initiative (BMI) in China achieved significant impacts. A total of 43 mills invested in improvements over a period of 15 months which resulted in savings of 6,600,000 tons water, 15,200,000 kWh of electricity, 144,000 tons of CO2 emissions and 72 million RMB in costs. PaCT in Bangladesh, implemented by International Finance Corporation (IFC) in partnership with Solidaridad, provided similarly impressive results.

Regional Commodity Programmes

  • China

    As the Chinese government is setting stricter regulations on emission (including wastewater discharge, air emission and sound hazardous waste management), and with increasingly surging production costs in the textiles industry, factories are seeking support from Solidaridad’s Better Mill Initiative.

  • East & Central Africa

    Solidaridad’s interventions for textile in this region have concentrated in Ethiopia, which is one of the fastest emerging economies in Africa and is evolving as a potential textile and apparel sourcing destination. Solidaridad is confident that growth of this industry has the potential to contribute to poverty alleviation, create jobs under good working conditions and provide livelihood opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people in the coming decade, particularly women.

  • Europe

    Solidaridad continued working to achieve sector level transformation by engaging more brands with sustainability and getting them to think about how they can be part of the solution through their design and purchasing practices. Sustainability in the supply chain is possible, but it needs scalability and engagement of the whole supply chain.

  • South & South-east Asia

    Solidaridad furthered its mission to bring established best practices to scale, with a particular focus on promoting the uptake of sustainable design, development and procurement practices at the brand level. At the same time, the organization also built on early initiatives in emerging textile-producing nations, where Solidaridad is playing a key role in ensuring that best practices and experiences from established industries can steer a path to sustainable growth.

Developments

The increasing demand for garments worldwide is leading brands to search for new sourcing destinations. In the last few years, Solidaridad has seen this labour-intensive sector become established in countries where there is sufficient availability of cheap labour. This encourages a “race to the bottom” which Solidaridad is trying to prevent.

With experience from the past 16 years, Solidaridad knows that a sustainable industry can also be a competitive one, which also allows for the sustainable economic growth of the least developed countries. In its role as transition manager at this early stage, Solidaridad started to bring key stakeholders together in Ethiopia and Myanmar including brands and retailers, producers, governments, knowledge institutes, the financial sector and civil society organizations to ensure sustainability is part of the sector’s growth strategy.

Production countries such as China and Bangladesh continue to be key in achieving a sustainable transformation of the global textile industry. The Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PaCT), the Fair Wage pilot and Better Mill Initiative (BMI) are clear examples of Solidaridad’s work in promoting a broad adoption of sustainable production techniques and working conditions at the supplier level. The programmes – both in their third year of implementation – reached around 180 suppliers.

Programme investments in thousand euros

 

Contracted partners per region excluding producer organizations

 

Partnerships

The key players in the textiles value chain remain brands and retailers, through which Solidaridad influences mills, factories and producers. In 2016, a total of 11 brands, including H&M, G-star, C&A, Lindex and Primark, worked with Solidaridad in an effort to increase textile value chain sustainability.

Since 2014, Solidaridad has had a strategic partnership with H&M. Besides supply chain improvement work, essential elements of this partnership include close communication and being a critical partner. A lot has been achieved through this partnership, yet there is still much to improve. Solidaridad needs to keep challenging stakeholders to take fashion sustainability to the next level.

In addition to brands, Solidaridad actively engages with multi-stakeholder initiatives including the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). Solidaridad supports SAC’s objective to move away from certification toward continual improvement of textile and apparel production through measuring and communicating impact and is part of the steering committee of the Social and Labor Convergence project supported by the SAC.

Organizations such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC), ASN Bank and the Dutch government continue to be key partners for Solidaridad. Together with ASN Bank, Solidaridad launched the second successful textile campaign in 2016. The Dutch government continues to support and enable Solidaridad’s work in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Ethiopia and the Netherlands.

Challenges

Solidaridad believes a comprehensive approach to textile supply chain sustainability will continue to change the industry. Programmes already have the support of multiple stakeholders including major brands, producers and governments. However, Solidaridad needs to engage with more and new stakeholders and align efforts to achieve true sector transformation. Developing programmes from the pilot to mainstream phase requires innovative strategies that will drive large-scale adoption by mills and factories across key sourcing regions. This will be a priority for Solidaridad's textile programme in the years ahead.

Tamar Hoek

International Programme Coordinator, Textiles