Meet Sung Yi Hsuan: Finalist Redress Design Award 2017

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GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of Redress Design Award 2017 (earlier EcoChic Design Award). Redress Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Thursday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Sung, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Sung Yi Hsuan i

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
It comes from my upbringing and family culture that making the best use of everything is a matter of course and was simply about frugality. Through giving second lives to goods (and this is not limited to clothes), I discover the joy of being content. In other words, sustainable fashion and design is a living attitude for me.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
I was inspired to juxtapose discarded mass-produced, fast fashion items with the age-old technique of weaving to symbolise a spirit of awakening in a time of anxiety.  I applied the design techniques of up-cycling and reconstruction to damaged industry textiles and secondhand clothing waste.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_China_SungYiHsuan_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
1) It is good to be encouraged to discover the potential of waste; I learned to take every resource seriously.
2) Through my participation in the Redress Design Award I’ve found out more about how many resources it is possible to save by slightly altering our design process. This was highlighted on a large scale through a visit we took to the TAL manufacturing facility in China.
3) I also learned that communication is a vital element to change. By knowing more specifically about what our consumers need, we can avoid much waste.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
In my point of view, raising the public’s awareness of environmental issues can be the best starting point. Consumers should be better educated with how and why they should change their fashion attitude into a more sustainable way of consumption, and I believe it’s our duty as designers to do this.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
It might be thought as something uses only natural materials, thus a little boring.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Design should always be motivated by making the world better and making our lives easier.

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
I am planning to further my studies.

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You can follow Sung’s work on Instagram

The 30 Redress Design Award 2018 semi-finalists will be announced on 17 April at when Redress will also open up public judging for the People’s Choice Award.

Find a screening of the Frontline Fashion documentary in India here.

After the Binge the Hangover

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International Fashion Consumption Survey

A new survey, commissioned by Greenpeace, of the shopping habits of people in Europe and Asia finds that regularly buying too many clothes, shoes, bags and accessories has become an international phenomenon. This is especially striking in China and Hong Kong, but is also widespread in Europe, with up to half of consumers buying more clothes than they need and use.

Overconsumption of fashion is now deeply entrenched in our everyday culture, both in old European economies and in emerging ones such as China. In many ways, China is currently leading this trend, with more than half of Chinese consumers owning more clothes and bags than they need. Almost half of Chinese consumers buy more than they can afford – and more than makes them happy, and around 40 percent qualify as excessive shoppers, shopping compulsively more than once a week. Young, high-income women are the most vulnerable. The spread of online shopping and social media makes people even more susceptible to overconsumption.

These people are not shopping because they need something new – their motivation is the longing for excitement, satisfaction and confidence in front of others. Shoppers also seek to release stress, kill time and relieve boredom.

However, shopping does not make them happy; people already own too much and they know it. Around 50 percent report that their shopping excitement wears off within a day. A third of the East Asians feel even more empty and unfulfilled afterwards. They also seem to know they are on the wrong path; around half of consumers are hiding their purchases from others, fearing accusations of wasting money or other negative reactions.

Shopping behaviour is widely influenced by people’s social environment and media consumption. Social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook or WeChat in China are driving shopping mania, especially among young digitally connected East Asians. Browsing fashion blogs or following friends and celebrities triggers even more buying. After excessive shopping people experience regular tiredness and boredom – the binge is followed by a hangover.

About this survey

For this survey commissioned by Greenpeace, independent survey institutes Nuggets, TNS and SWG asked European and East Asian consumers about their shopping habits (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Italy, Germany) – how often, where and for how long they shop for clothing. We also wanted to know why they go shopping, what triggers them to buy new clothes – and whether they get fulfilled by doing so. All surveys are representative and were carried out between December 2016 and March 2017 amongst at least 1000 people aged 20 to 45 in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Italy and Germany.

Download the Greenpeace Germany report here:

After the Binge, the Hangover – International Fashion Consumption Survey

*This story first appeared on Greenpeace

China Using Electron Beams to Treat Textile Wastewater

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Image Credit: Nuclear and Energy Technology Institute, Tsinghua University, Beijing

Textile dyeing accounts for one fifth of all industrial wastewater pollution generated worldwide and much of it, particularly in developing countries in Asia, goes untreated. Now, China is employing electron beams to treat effluent from textile dyeing plants, ushering in a new era for radiation technology.

“Despite advances in conventional wastewater treatment technology in recent years, radiation remains the only technology that can treat the most stubborn colorants in wastewater,” said Suni Sabharwal, Radiation Processing Specialist at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). “The problem is that the technology exists in developed countries, while most of the need now is in the developing world.”

To bridge the knowledge gap, the IAEA ran a coordinated research project on the technology, including its transfer to several countries, mostly in Asia. Chinese researchers, for example, have benefited from the advice of experts from Hungary, Korea and Poland in the adoption of the technology and the construction of the plant, said Jianlong Wang, Deputy Director of the Nuclear and Energy Technology Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing and the principal researcher behind the project.

The new plant in Jinhua city, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, will treat 1500 cubic meters of wastewater per day, around a sixth of the plant’s output. “If everything goes smoothly, we will be able to roll out technology to the rest of the plant and eventually to other plants across the country,” Wang said.

Before opting for radiation technology using electronic beams, Chinese researchers had run an extensive set of feasibility experiments using the effluent from the plant, comparing electron beam technology with other methods. “Electron beam technology was the clear winner as both the more ecological and more effective option,” Wang added.

Other countries with large textile manufacturing industries, such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, are also considering introducing the technology with the assistance of the IAEA. India is already using gamma irradiation to treat municipal sewage sludge.

In standard wastewater treatment, bacteria are used to digest and breakdown pollutants. However, the molecules in textile effluent cannot be treated with bacteria. To color textiles, compounds with large, long and complex chains are used. Wastewater from the industry can contain more than 70 complex chemicals that do not easily degrade.

By irradiating the effluent using electron beams, scientists can break these complex chemicals into smaller molecules, which, in turn, can be treated and removed using normal biological processes. Irradiation is done using short-lived reactive radicals than can interact with a wide range of pollutants and break them down.

Chinese researchers are also considering the use of electron beam technology to treat residues from pharmaceutical plants that produce antibiotics. These residues are currently handled as hazardous waste because they contain antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes that cannot be destroyed using conventional technologies, such as composting or oxidation. Research has revealed that electron beam technology can effectively decompose the residual antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes, Wang explained. The establishment of a demonstration plant at an industrial scale is planned for later this year.

*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands

More Companies to be Assessed in Second Sustainable Cotton Ranking

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Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK, Solidaridad and WWF have released the list of companies that will be assessed in the new round of their Sustainable Cotton Ranking to be published in October 2017. The second edition of the ranking will include major companies from all continents, including from countries such as China and Brazil, and online companies such as Zalando and Amazon. As in 2016, the ranking will score companies on their policy, traceability and actual uptake of sustainable cotton.


On the Target List

This year the scope of the ranking will be broadened. The target list of companies (PDF) has been expanded to offer a more global representation of consumer-facing companies estimated to use more than 10,000 metric tons of lint cotton annually and include companies from emerging markets and online retailers.

Creating a list of the largest corporate cotton users is challenging as most companies do not publish the volumes they use in their products. PAN UK, Solidaridad and WWF welcome feedback from any companies who believe their cotton use has been under or over-estimated, as well as those whose may have been omitted from the list and wish to be included.

Scoring Company Progress

The first Cotton Ranking (PDF) published in 2016 showed that the majority of companies using most cotton globally were failing to deliver on cotton sustainability, with just eight companies out of 37 showing positive progress in the ranking.

By conducting a second Cotton Ranking in 2017, PAN UK, Solidaridad and WWF expect to see that more companies have taken steps forward on their sustainable cotton policies, traceability and sourcing. As transparency and accountability to customers is considered paramount by the three NGOs, only publicly available information will be used in scoring company performance. The report will be published in October 2017 so as to take into account companies’ public reporting on their 2016 performance.

Updating Market Trends

The report will also include a market update on the available supply and uptake of cotton from the main cotton sustainability standards (organic, Fairtrade, Cotton Made in Africa and Better Cotton). While around 10% of global cotton supply was grown according to one of these standards in 2014, less than a fifth of this amount was actually being bought as more sustainable cotton, with the rest being sold as conventional due to lack of demand from top brands and companies.


Cotton Ranking

The Cotton Ranking 2016 report can be downloaded here along with the briefing ‘Mind the Gap: Towards a More Sustainable Cotton Market’ (PDF) published in April 2016 which gives an overview of the market for more sustainable cotton.

Thirty-seven companies estimated globally to use the most cotton in their products were scored on their sustainable cotton policy, sourcing, and traceability. Only publicly available information was used in scoring company performance.

The Cotton Ranking focuses on companies rather than individual brands as, while sustainability practices can vary significantly between different brands, entire companies need to change sourcing practices in order to transform cotton production.

Cotton Globally

Cotton is grown in around 80 countries worldwide and is a key raw material for the textile industry, accounting for around 32% of all fibres used. Sustainability issues include the widespread use of pesticides, with 6.2% of global pesticide sales associated with cotton production (which uses just 2.3% of the world’s arable land), and intensive water use, with 73% of global production currently dependent on irrigation.

While many smallholder cotton farmers are driven into debt by the cost of pesticides and fertilisers, sustainable cotton production has the potential to lift farmers out of poverty by providing a more stable income and improving working conditions.

A number of sustainable cotton standards have been developed in the last 35 years, starting with Organic cotton in the 1980s, followed by Fairtrade in 2004, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) in 2005 and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) in 2009. All provide guidance and support for farmers and seek to assure retailers and consumers that the cotton in the products they buy are being produced using sustainable farming methods.

The supply of sustainable cotton has never been greater (estimated to be at 13% of global supply in 2015) but uptake by companies, essential for mainstreaming sustainable cotton, remains low at approximately 17% of what is available.

*This story first appeared on Solidaridad Network

Meet Pan Wen: Finalist of the EcoChic Design Award 2016

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The EcoChic Design Award 2015-16 Mainland China finalist_Pan Wen - Copy.jpgThrough the next two months, GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of EcoChic Design Award 2015/16. EcoChic Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Wednesday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Pan Wen, a recent graduate of Fashion Design from Central Saint Martins who has returned to Mainland China to pursue her career in fashion design.

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?

Pan Wen: I love nature and it pains me to see people endlessly emitting industrial waste for the pursuit of superficial vanity and harming animals and plants in the process. I have always felt that there must be ways to balance one’s needs with the burden we put on our earth. I want to keep exploring this balance through sustainable fashion design, a field which I am passionate about, and spark a deeper reflection through my work.

What was your inspiration for the EcoChic Design Award collection?

The EcoChic Design Award 201516_Asia Finalists_PAN Wen_Photo credit Tim Wong_2.jpg
Image: Tim Wong, Redress

Pan Wen: The inspiration came from a 1940’s Scottish tapestry in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The tapestry depicts a scene of blue-blooded people who are hunting for fun. There is this enormous contrast between their elegant life and this cruel behaviour. I wanted to create a collection to express this contrast and condemn a society that would engage in hunting out of pride and vanity.

The collection’s colour is inspired by that tapestry’s soft vintage colour, and the pattern is derived from my sketch of that tapestry. I wanted to use a tender colour to contrast with the cruel reality of hunting. The simple but bold shape is inspired by the garments of the aristocratic hunters in that picture.

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?

Pan Wen:
– Being organised is crucial.

– There are more sustainable materials beside organic cotton. There is a lot more high-tech and exciting materials out there.

– Process and outcomes are both important in fashion design.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?

Pan Wen: Education and events like the EcoChic Design Award helps a lot. Propaganda and advertisement also works. As long as costumers are aware of the importance of sustainability.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?

Pan Wen: Sustainable fashion is not just some homemade craft making use of recycled waste – I think this may be the biggest misconception. Sustainable fashion is about the consideration of processes along the entire fashion supply chain, and in a highly sustainable way too.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?

Pan Wen: Get to know what you are doing, and work really hard to do your best.

What is next in store for you?

Pan Wen: I enjoy living every moment! I look forward to doing some design collaborations with artists in other areas.

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You can follow Pan Wen on Instagram

Watch Frontline Fashion, a  documentary following these talented Asian and European emerging fashion designers determined to change the future of fashion. As they descend into Hong Kong for the design battle of their lives, all eyes are on the first prize; to design an up-cycled collection for China’s leading luxury brand, Shanghai Tang. This documentary is available on iTunes here.

The next cycle of the EcoChic Design Awards is open for application from 3 January to 3 April 2017. Interested students can find more details here.



How could Skin Pigments be used to Strengthen Clothing and Fabrics in our Homes?

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An adult has 60,000 melanin pigmTests showed that melanin from a cuttlefish made polyurethane a lot stronger.ents living in each square inch of our skin. It is a natural substance found in an animals’ skin, hair and the iris of the eye. Melanin determines our hair and skin colour as well as protecting it from ultra violet damage. It does this by absorbing the light which then causes the skin to darken and tan. But it probably hasn’t occured to you that this very skin pigment could enhance the polyurethane manufacturing process to help strengthen many of the materials that are used in our households every day. Scientists from China’s Jiangnan University have made the recent discovery that adding melanin to polyurethane plastic will make fabrics and foams in substances like cushions and clothing more durable. This breakthrough could start to feature around our homes very soon.

Polyurethane is a synthetic material. Since its invention in the 1940s it can be used for a broad range of items from children’s toys to aeroplane wings. Broadly speaking, in manufacturing industries it can be used to make products such as foam seating, wheels, tires and synthetic fibres like Spandex and carpet underlay. Over three quarters of the global consumption of polyurethane products are foam based and the furniture industry is the third biggest user of the material following the building and transport industries. It is a polymer which is both flexible and durable commonly found in the home. Its flexible properties also extend to mouldings like door frames.

memory-foamHowever, its biggest drawback is the fact that it is prone to damage and breakage, so research has been conducted by the Chinese university to improve the longevity of the widely used material. In the past, scientists have tried to improve its qualities by adding fillers, including silica, carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide. While these enhance tensile strength they do not address the issue of toughness. The testings found that some of the substances created improvements but this counteracted the important properties of the material. However, melanin has successfully been able to deliver the enhancements to strengthen this widely used polymer.

In laboratory tests led by Mingqing Chen and Weifu Dong, new findings have unveiled that even polyurethane that contains only 2% of melanin will still improve the strength and toughness of a material. The experiment was carried out using melanin from the ink sacs of cuttlefish. Results reveal that the polymer’s properties were enhanced by 27.4 megajoules per cubic metre which allow the polyurethane to stretch itself up to 1,880% before breaking unlike previous figures which were 770%. According to the Chinese scientists, this increase was due to the melanin nanoparticle’s tendency to link with the polymer chain that make up the polyurethane.

For further information the full research has now been published in the journal Biomacromolecules titled “Superior Performance of Polyurethane Based on Natural Melanin Nanoparticles.”

*This story first appeared on Bio-Based World News


The Future of Chinese Fashion? Going Green

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Blogger Monki Yuki explains what her Shanghai Fashion Week highlight Green Code means for the future of Chinese fashion.


At Shanghai Fashion Week this year, as usual, we saw many excellent designers showcasing their S/S 17 collections, but this season’s shows were very different for one key reason: the launch of a temporary new venue called Green Code.

Hosted by Lane Crawford and need-to-know Shanghai based PR agency Hard Candy, its purpose was to introduce sustainable fashion. As we all know, garment production has a strong impact on the environment. The dye and the processing of fabric creates pollution which profoundly changes our natural environment. As a major manufacturing hub, this is something that will need to improve in China’s near future. In Europe many brands have already launched more sustainable production lines, including the popular fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M. Since this global conversation is becoming increasingly relevant for the Chinese market, a first step has been taken with the temporary Green Code venue.


As one of the official venues for Shanghai Fashion Week, Green Code was divided into two areas: pop-up stores and a catwalk space. The pop-up store was open to the public. All the brands participating in Green Code had a sustainable aspect to their brand identity, by gathering these brands, attendees are able to better understand the many benefits of  sustainability. Outside of this venue a clothing recycling box was set up. Here, unwanted clothes could be donated to benefit those in need, while helping donators be more environmentally friendly by allowing their clothing to be reused, which is still a relatively new concept for China due to the strong social stigma against secondhand clothing.

iLook fashion editor Crystal Gao donating clothes

For the show venue Hard Candy founder Candy Li told us a clear plastic roof was used so energy could be saved for day time fashion shows.


While Li said there was still a lot of things that could be improved for this project, which will become a recurring part of Shanghai Fashion Week, she felt that this was a great first step forward.

Hard Candy founder Candy Li and blogger Boynam

Although China’s green fashion industry is just beginning, its importance is likely to quickly grow due to a growing local interest in the environment. For overseas brands entering and developing in the Chinese market, more environmentally friendly offers, transparent production and sustainable materials are sure to become an important part of their brand image, future development and continued relevance for Chinese shoppers as consumers mature and priorities change.

*This story first appeared on WGSN


India, China to Emerge as Biggest Markets for Sustainable Fashion by 2030

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India and China, the two most populated countries in the world, are going to be the most coveted markets by 2030. As the current global economic trend moves towards the next decade, it is clear that the US will be replaced by China as the world’s biggest apparel market and India will not be far behind

India and China, the two most populated countries in the world, are going to be the most coveted markets by 2030. As the current global economic trend moves towards the next decade, it is clear that the US will be replaced by China as the world’s biggest apparel market and India will not be far behind.

Though China’s economy has slowed in recent years India China to emerge biggest markets for sustainable fashion creating a disparity in supply-demand but the overall market sentiment remain positive with high consumer confidence. According to a study by Fung Global Retail & Technology, consumer spending trend remains high for kids’ wear and casual wear categories. Meanwhile, recent reports by Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence showed India’s confidence is up three points from the previous quarter. “The Union Budget revealed the government’s commitment to fiscal consolidation which will pave the way for sustained and inclusive growth. In following months an improvement in various macroeconomic indicators was evident, and the government seems to be on its way to achieving its objectives of low inflation, low interest rates and high GDP growth—a scenario optimal for improved consumer spending” says Roosevelt D’Souza, MD, Nielsen India.

Changing retail landscape to create future opportunity

China’s positive economic outlook might result from its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, an economic and diplomatic program that calls for major investment in the region’s trade routes. In a recent McKinsey podcast, senior partner Kevin Sneader explained “There are two parts to this: the belt and the road,” he said. “The belt is the physical road, which takes one from here all the way through Europe to somewhere up north in Scandinavia. What they call the road is actually the maritime Silk Road, in other words, shipping lanes, essentially from here to Venice. Therefore it’s very ambitious, covering about 65 per cent of the world’s population, about one-third of the world’s GDP, and about a quarter of all the goods and services the world moves.”The $100 billion initiative would help fuel growth for China after its economy has seen a period of slowing down. In another positive trend, China’s apparel market is becoming more organised as the top 10 brands in activewear, jeanswear and casualwear, have been increasing their market share significantly. Thus, making the market more competitive and quality driven.

India on the other hand witnessed significant growth in organised retail driven by increasing consumer preference for specialty, department, and hypermarkets and increasing lifestyle spend. Over the last decade, almost all global brands have made a beeline for India market changing the retail landscape of the country.

Sustainable fashion emerges strong

An in depth analysis of both China and India reveals consumer’s changing perception and increasing awareness for sustainable fashion and natural fibres. According to Indian Consumer Survey Fully 73 % say they “could spend the rest of their life” in the fibre. Additionally, 7 in 10 Indian shoppers say they would be more likely to shop at a store offering clothes made from more sustainable materials, and nearly 8 in 10 (79 percent) say they put effort into finding sustainable apparel. As more manmade fibres have entered India’s market, businesses that promote natural fibres stand to be noticed. And 76 % of shoppers are more loyal to brands offering natural fibres like cotton. In China, 68 % of consumers are willing to pay more to keep clothing cotton-rich, according to the CCI and Cotton Incorporated Chinese Consumer Survey. Cotton Incorporated and CCI has initiated a promotion programme “Mian is…” (MI) in China for a decade, reminding consumers about the benefits of cotton and educating them on the fibre via digital and social media campaigns. “In 2015, with the theme of ‘Cotton, more than looking good,’ the campaign promoted cotton’s fashionability and other benefits,” says Cotton Incorporated’s Angela Chen, Manager, and Public Relations China. She emphasizes the depth of MI’s digital dive. “One of the MI musical and dance videos reached 16 million viewers. The program also has more than 60000 Weibo fans and more than 10000 fans on Wechat, just joined last June.”

*This story first appeared on Textile Future

Can China’s textile industry clean up its supply chain?

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By Racheal Meiers, Director, Inclusive Economy

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

As part of BSR’s Business Leadership for an Inclusive Economy initiative, we are running an interview series with thought leaders from business, government, civil society, academia and philanthropy.

Their voices and perspectives will help deepen our conversation on how we can build a more inclusive economy and how business most effectively can contribute to that vision.

We spoke to Liang Xiaohui, head of social responsibility for the China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC), about striving for good jobs in textile manufacturing, technology changes and impacts on workers and an inclusive future for the industry in China.

Racheal Meiers: What does it mean to be included in the economy? How does the textile industry make the economy more inclusive?

China National Textile and Apparel Council

Liang Xiaohui, head of social responsibility for the China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC).

Liang Xiaohui: To be included in the economy fundamentally means to share the results of social and economic development by creating an equal opportunity for everybody to be active in economic activities and decisions.

Specifically, the textile industry creates jobs for people without a lot of education and skills — that’s why manufacturing is quite important in an economy, especially in developing countries.

To achieve an inclusive economy, it’s very important for businesses and also governments to think about how the interests of employers and employees can be balanced — and the voices of workers can be heard and their concerns can be addressed. As we look toward the future, this balance will be even more important.

For instance, if we can upgrade technologies and equipment and, at the same time, educate workers and let them upgrade themselves so that they have opportunities for better, higher paid, higher skilled jobs, that will be a big step toward achieving an inclusive economy in our sector.

Meiers: Given where things are in China right now, with changes in the labor force and competition from other countries in manufacturing, how do you see inclusion as fitting into this context?

Liang: In this context, we can no longer rely on lower wages or lax environmental practices to be competitive; we have to evolve to a higher stage of the supply chain to compete.

Getting there will take two critical elements: The first one is to be innovative, such as upgrading technologies in manufacturing; and the second is building a workforce of people that can effectively work with and work for innovations. To support our efforts to upgrade our industry, we have to build up our human resources potential and give people, especially existing textile workers, more opportunities to learn expertise and skills.

Meiers: How are your member companies approaching technology upgrades and related labor force engagement?

Liang: That’s really a big question, and I cannot give you a general answer because we have almost half a million textile and garment companies in China. But I do see that many companies are working hard to incorporate technology tools for different purposes, such as reducing pollution and increasing efficiency.

A very popular idea in our industry now is to exchange human power with machines, which is in part driven by the lack of skilled workers, and even a shortage of low- and unskilled workers in China in recent years.

At the same time, there are factories that are working to invest in their workforces. They are calling on government and associations like ours to improve education and vocational training to support upgraded skills in the industry. Some factories are also taking these steps themselves.

For example, one factory I recently visited is investing a lot of money to purchase very advanced equipment from Europe. To support these technology upgrades, they have also started their own academy, a professional training school where they can train their workers and future employees on how to work with the new equipment.

This factory sees investments in the expertise and skills of their workers as part of the process of upgrading their technology hardware. And they also understand it will be important to pay higher wages to the workers who become capable of operating the new machines.

Meiers: That’s an encouraging example. How is the Chinese government getting involved in these issues of workforce skill development, to support technology upgrades in the manufacturing industry?

Liang: The government has been monitoring this issue for many years. Recent policies from 2014 require that a minimum of 30 percent of local additional fees on education shall be used for vocational education, and the enrollment of vocational schools should raise from about 30 million in 2012 to more than 38 million in 2020, almost a 30 percent increase.

This will help transfer more young people into vocational schools, making them advanced industry workers with skills and expertise. The young people see where the economy is going and understand that to be included in that future economy, they need to know the skills required by it.

For example, there was a story last year of a young man who quit Peking University to enroll in an occupational school to become an auto mechanic — he did this because he liked the work, but he also knew that the auto maintenance industry in China is very underdeveloped for the demand that is coming.

Meiers: Shifting gears a little bit, let’s talk about the current workforce in textile manufacturing. Who are some of the most vulnerable people that are taking these jobs, and how do you work with your CNTAC members to identify these groups of people and put in place mechanisms to support them?  

Liang: I think the most vulnerable group in the industry is migrant women workers in their 30s and 40s. In the labor market, in the factory, they are not in a very good position. They have very low representation in management, and they have low levels of training and education as compared with male peers. The reason for this is that most of them come from villages and underdeveloped regions, where women have a very low status and so don’t receive as much education and opportunity.

We are actually doing some work with BSR to support these women, and all women workers in the industry. Though more than 65 percent of workers in the industry are women, they hold very few positions in management. Working with BSR, and learning from your expertise and experience supporting women’s empowerment in China, we are hoping to build up the potential of individual women to expand their skills and advance to these positions, while at the same time working to expand management’s understanding of women workers’ potential.

Meiers: In these collaborations, what opportunities do you see? How can we expand partnerships to support a more inclusive economy?

Liang: I think the greatest opportunity from our collaborations is that we are a national business association and you are an international business association, of sorts. And this is critical, because we are working at both ends of the supply chain. A lot of your members are buyers of our members.

So in working together, we can try to mobilize both ends of the international supply chain. So many issues can be addressed in this way.

Read perspectives on the inclusive economy from The Rockefeller Foundation’s Zia Khan, Western Union’s Talya Bosch and GlaxoSmithKline’s Clare Griffin.

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