Is going green (or greener) in your company at the top of your to-do list? How do you plan to get there?
It’s hard to find the how in achieving your sustainability goals. Especially in fashion where the supply chain looks like that mess of tangled wires that hide out behind your desk. Throw in the environmental impacts along the way and you’re really got a headache.
How do I untangle this mess?
Where do I start if I want to go green?
Good question. To make the biggest difference, we need to know what the biggest negative impacts are and where exactly they lie.
In fact, focusing on impacts which aren’t significant could get you in quite a bit greenwashing trouble. Unintentional trouble, but still trouble nonetheless. For example, focusing on efficient waste management when actually water is the biggest issue. Good intentions, wrong issue, and you’ll get called out for it sooner or later.
To avoid this, you need to understand the issues in your supply chain. And to do that, you need to understand your supply chain.
Understand your supply chain
Let’s start with materials. Are we focusing on wool, silk, polyester, or cotton? Each material will have its own production and its own impacts.
As cotton accounts for almost 50% of the world’s textiles, lets use it as an example.
Cotton can be less impactful than other materials. Wool, for example, releases far more greenhouse gasses (mostly from the sheep), and requires more energy for its production.
But, cotton is still considered a huge environmental bummer. I mean, it takes 2,700 liters to produce one t-shirt. That’s enough water to suffice a person 900 days of drinking water.
Green marketing tip: Know your good and the bad in your supply chain! A cotton t-shirt, for example, requires 2,700 liters of water to make. That enough water for a person to drink for 900 days! (Tweet me)
So, after we’ve identified which supply chain to look at, we need to identify where the impacts lie in the supply chain.
A generalised supply chain of a cotton t-shirt looks something like this:
During the production of raw materials, the cotton crop is grown and cultivated. This step is known for its demand of land, water, preservatives, and a lot of pesticides.
The yarn production on the other hand consists of spinning and weaving the cotton crop into yarn. This process requires an abundance of energy and chemical use which leads to fiber waste, noise pollution and emissions.
Grey cloth production involves the weaving and knitting of yarn into cloth which primarily requires chemical use and leads to waste.
The cloth is then handed over for the pre-treatment, dying, bleaching, and printing during the textile finishing. This step is particularly cringe-worthy when it comes to the amount of water needed for the processes.
Lastly, the textile is then brought for Make Up. This involves the cutting, assembling, finishing and packing of the product.
Green Marketing Tip: Where are the relevant impacts of your product? Don’t talk about waste when water is the issue! For example, with conventional cotton waste impact is minimal but water use & pesticides have major impacts. Focus on what matters! (Tweet me!)
Now that you know the supply chain, where do the main impacts lie?
We’ll be talking about this and some steps you can take to reduce your impact in part 2.
Moreira Cardoso, Albino Andre. “Life Cycle Assessment of Two Textile Products .” Wool and Cotton , Sept. 2013.