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Supply Chain

Meet Benita and Jesus, Levi Strauss & Co Collaboratory Fellows

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Benita Singh: Founder and CEO of Le Souk, the first online global textiles marketplace.

Tell us about your business and the work you do.

Le Souk is the first online textiles marketplace where designers can search, sample and source directly from leading mills and tanneries around the world. Our mission is to provide unparalleled transparency to designers and brands looking to build direct relationships with trusted suppliers.

We started the platform to provide market access for suppliers who could not afford the high cost of attending trade shows. As the model began to prove itself, established suppliers, many of whom do attend trade shows, began to approach us to showcase their latest collections as well. Four years later, we’re hosting the online showrooms for suppliers in over 19 countries – from repurposed salmon leather from Iceland to vegetable dyed cotton from India.

What does it mean to you to create a more socially and environmentally responsible apparel industry?

For us at Le Souk, it means bringing transparency to the sourcing supply chain. Too many designers don’t know where their materials come from, not because they don’t want to know, but because it’s simply impossible for them to trace where their fabric comes from. By working exclusively with textile mills and leather tanneries, we work only with suppliers who spin and weave (or tan) their materials.

This model means that designers can communicate directly with a representative at the source of production. This facilitates greater ease of access to information and certifications. And for suppliers , they’re closer to the market (and can increase their gross margins.)

How important is water to what you do?

It needs to become more important, which is why we’re thrilled to be a part of the Collaboratory. Water usage is largely overlooked when it comes to fabric sourcing, and it needs to become top of mind for more designers. Through the fellowship, we want to inspire and challenge our suppliers to re-think their modes of production while at the same time, bringing those materials that use less water to the forefront of Le Souk in a way that educates designers.

What do you hope to get out of participating in the LS&Co. Collaboratory?

More knowledge on water impact from industry thought leaders will better position Le Souk to be an even greater resource for our 18,000+ active designers – both in terms of content but also in terms of materials that are water efficient. It’s our job to communicate the importance of this issue to designers, and by participating in the fellowship with both brands and companies that interface with brands, we look forward to coming up with creative ways to inspire the industry to take a hard look at how it uses water.

What’s your Levi’s® story?

My relationship with Levi’s® goes back to 2006 when the non-profit that I co-founded, Mercado Global, was fortunate enough to receive one of its first grants to advance its work with artisans in Guatemala from the Levi Strauss Foundation. Ten years later, it’s a thrill and honor to be collaborating with Levi Strauss & Co. again.


Jesus Ciriza Larraona: Founder and executive director of The Colours of Nature, a natural dye company specializing in indigo.

Tell us about your business and the work you do.

In 1992, I spent time in Kashmir, India, designing Persian silk carpets and exploring manufacturing approaches. It was during this time, by the beautiful lakes around Srinagar, that I became aware of the environmental impact of the dyes and finishing processes used to make the carpets.

As I had also seen industries destroy rivers where I grew up in Spain, at this point I decided to try to find alternatives for the chemical dyes being used. Naturally, I looked to the ancient traditions of natural dyes, for craftsmen and industries alike. I founded The Colours of Nature (TCoN) in Auroville, India. TCoN is a company exclusively dedicated to the use of eco-friendly natural dyes. Over the years we have been dyeing organic cotton yarns and fabrics, as well as making fabrics, including batik and shibori fabrics, and garments. Last year we started to dye cotton fiber, which is relevant as dyeing at this stage, before yarn- or fabric-making, can really help reduce water.

What does it mean to you to create a more socially and environmentally responsible apparel industry?

For me, both go hand in hand, as the pollution of the industry also, in many cases, affects those who work in it, by polluting local aquifers.

Whilst protecting the environment is the reason we are in business, we are also focused on improving conditions for workers. Exploitation of workers in the textile industry in developing countries can make it impossible for workers to lead dignified lives, in turn limiting their choices and power to create a sustainable future. So again, for us, social and environmental responsibilities go hand in hand.

How important is water to what you do?

It is well known that good drinking water is becoming increasingly harder to come by in many countries and that many industries all over the world do not pay enough attention to the environmental impact of their activities.

In 1993, working with dyers from a small village in India (Guledagudd), we recovered an ancient natural indigo dye fermentation process which was almost forgotten. This biological process works for many years using the same dyeing water. In fact, the natural indigo fermentation dyeing water currently in use at TCoN has been in use since 1993. We have a working prototype to up-scale this natural indigo fermentation process for industrial purposes at our premises. It’s a process that can be used by craftsmen or industries!

What do you hope to get out of participating in the LS&Co. Collaboratory?

Our aim is to share our learning with regard to natural dyes, and to learn from the other Collaboratory participants.

*This story first appeared on Levi Strauss

Just Fix It: How Nike Learned to Embrace Sustainability

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Chief sustainability officer Hannah Jones talks to BoF about Nike‘s journey from sweatshop scandals to embracing sustainability as a tool for business innovation.

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Hannah Jones with Nike trainers | Photo: Jeff Dey

“The Nike product has become synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime and arbitrary abuse,” Phil Knight, then chairman and chief executive officer of Nike, told journalists at the National Press Club in Washington DC in 1998.

The sportswear giant was sinking under a rising tide of scandals, fuelled by a new type of activism targeting consumer-facing brands as a way of curbing environmental and labour abuse further down the supply chain. In 1996, Life magazine had published pictures of a 12-year-old boy in Pakistan stitching ‘Swoosh’-emblazoned soccer balls. The following year, a leaked inspection report, prepared for Nike by Ernst & Young, revealed that 77 percent of workers at a supplier factory had respiratory problems and were being exposed to carcinogens 177 times above the legal level. Television channels like CBS and ESPN broadcast footage from inside the sweatshops where Nike products were made.

As the scandals mounted, Nike insisted it had no control over the third-party suppliers that made its products, an approach current chief executive officer Mark Parker has since described as “reputation management.” Clearly, it wasn’t working.

“The company took a very defensive approach to it for about four or five years. Really all that did was to fuel the campaign,” explains Hannah Jones, chief sustainability officer and vice president of Nike’s innovation accelerator.

A former consultant on philanthropy and community programmes to Microsoft and Kimberly Clark, Jones joined Nike as director of government and community affairs EMEA in 1998. From fiscal year 1984 to 1998, Nike revenue had rocketed from $919 million to $9.6 billion. But the scandals were taking a toll. Store openings were picketed by workers’ rights campaigners and, in fiscal year 1999, revenue fell to $8.8 billion. “The company asserted that criticism of Nike’s labour practices had nothing to do with the downturn. But it was clear that Nike was suffering from a serious image problem,” wrote professor Deborah Spar in a 2002 Harvard Business School case on Nike’s labour practices. “It was no coincidence that I was recruited at that time,” adds Jones. “There was going to be a very clear change in strategy.”

In nearly two decades, Jones has helped to transform Nike from a company that was synonymous with sweatshops to a recognised sustainability leader. Last year, Morgan Stanley ranked Nike the most sustainable apparel and footwear company in North America for environmental and social performance, including its labour record.

It moved from being a risk and reputation function to being a business lever function to being an innovation function.

Back in May 1998, Phil Knight unveiled a plan to train 100 of Nike’s over 22,600 employees on sustainability issues and require suppliers to implement minimum wages. It didn’t work. “A group of 100 people alone cannot lead the transition to sustainability at a large organisation like Nike,” reflected Nike’s CSR report for fiscal year 2001. Also in 1998, Marc Kasky filed a lawsuit against Nike in California, alleging the company’s public statements on the working conditions in its supplier factories contained false information.

For the duration of the lawsuit, which was settled in 2003 for $1.5 million, Nikestopped reporting on CSR. “We really started to look into what were the things within our business that we could change or do better, such as our purchasing practises, such as teaching designers how to design with sustainability in mind,” says Jones. Following this analysis, sustainability “moved from being a risk and reputation function to being a business lever function to being an innovation function.”

The result was three major shifts in strategy — all of which the company has maintained to this day. First, Nike committed to transparency. With its fiscal year 2004 CSR report, Nike went public with its list of suppliers — data that many companies view as among their “highest competitive advantages,” says Jones, who wrote the report. “Now NGOs on the ground know which factories we’re in, if they see any issues they know how to alert us.”

Nike also reached out to industry stakeholders, co-founding the Fair Labor Association with other businesses, universities and NGOs. Many clothing factories manufacture for multiple brands — even a company as large as Nikemight only make up 5 percent of a particular supplier’s business. If asked by only one brand to improve working conditions, “the factory manager would say, ‘Well, to be frank, you’re just 5 percent, I’d rather lose my business with you than have to invest in X, Y or Z,’” says Jones.

Finally, Nike linked sustainability to innovation, defined by Jones as “invention that creates value, whether that’s value in terms of sustainability, new offerings to the athlete or in terms of our shareholders.” From 1992, Nike spent about $50 million in R&D to swap the gas in the sole of the Nike Air shoe from FS6 — a potent greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming — to nitrogen. This change yielded performance innovations that led to the Airmax 360. “This unlocked in the company a huge insight, which was [that] solving a sustainability problem can actually unlock new performance, new price or new aesthetic benefits,” says Jones.

Nike’s sustainability reports are noteworthy for their strategic significance,” says Lynn Paine, John G. McLean professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “Nike is one of relatively few large, public companies making investments in potentially game-changing innovations for the sake of sustainability.”

Nike’s strategy also stands out for its organisational scope — spanning board level, design, sourcing and production teams and third-party factories. In 2009, teams at Nike became accountable for corporate responsibility as part of their business KPIs. Today, 57,000 materials in Nike’s production chain have an environmental rating; a programme tracks the company’s water footprint across over 811 vendors; and Nike product designs are rated for sustainability.

Currently, 86 percent of Nike contract factories are rated bronze or above inNike’s Sustainable Manufacturing and Sourcing Index (SMSI), an internal tool that rates factories on health, safety and the environment and indicates that legal wages are being paid. Nike is targeting 100 percent bronze-or-above-rated factories by 2020. A factory’s SMSI result “can lead to greater volume and growth, it can also lead to less volume and ultimately exit,” says Jones.

Since 2013, Nike has cut the number of factories it works with by 12 percent — from 785 to 692 — to embrace larger, longer-term partnerships. “That’s when the factories really start to invest in their workers,” says Jones. Nike declined to reveal how many factories it has cut ties with over non-compliance issues, or how many non-compliance issues were found at its factories. In fiscal year 2015, excessive overtime violations occurred at 4 percent of Nike’s contract factories, 8 percent less than in fiscal year 2014.

While Nike’s sustainability initiatives were launched as a response to past scandals, they are now a tool for future-proofing the company in a world where businesses are under pressure to cut their emissions and climate change threatens supplies of raw materials like cotton and leather.

“This is about leapfrogging into the future before regulation or price volatility hits you,” says Jones. “Post the Paris agreement [a legally binding agreement between countries to limit global warming to 2 degrees], we expect the business down the road will need to become a 2-degree business. And that equates to being able to grow whilst radically reducing your impact.” In May, Nike set an open-ended “moonshot challenge” to double its growth and halve its impact — defined as the company’s carbon emissions.

But not all agree with Jones’ assessment of progress. Nike did not rank in the Corporate Knights 100 most sustainable corporations for 2016 (Adidas, Keringand H&M all did) and has come under fire from Greenpeace for not eliminating toxic chemicals from its supply chain.

“This is a company that is investing in technology, sustainability, innovation and energy,” counters Edward Hertzman, founder of Sourcing Journal, a trade journal covering apparel supply chains and a former executive in global sourcing companies. “They’re investing in auditing the factories, mandating that certain wages are paid and forcing these wages to be paid — instead of just turning a blind eye and placing the order. And don’t forget, they have much more to lose. They can’t afford a PR crisis, so they need to be on top of it.”

*This story first appeared on Business of Fashion

Zara Launches First Sustainable Fashion Line

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Fast-fashion retailer Zara is trying its hand at sustainability with a new fashion line made using environmentally friendly materials.

The push by Zara, which has nearly 2,000 stores in 88 countries, is indicative of the continued push for increased transparency in retail, and demonstrates the importance for retailers to commit to sustainability, according to Brooke Blashill, svp and director at Boutique@Ogilvy.

“As any retailer is planning for the next generation of customers, and its business in general, sustainability and social impact have to be a top consideration, and it’s positive to see Zara take a step to improve its supply chain,” she said.

According to the Zara site, “the collection embraces a woman who looks into a more sustainable future” and is made with materials like organic cotton, recycled wool and Tencel, a recycled fabric derived from wood cellulose. Zara says that its Tencel is sourced from sustainably managed forests and that the farming process for its organic cotton uses 90 percent less water than usual cotton.

It’s a tenuous stance given Zara’s role in perpetuating the trend of cheaply produced goods, typically made from easily procured materials, sold at a low price point. Kathleen Wright, founder of Piece & Co., said in the Glossy Podcast in August that it’s nearly impossible to reconcile sustainability with fast fashion and still turn a profit, making environmentally friendly efforts incongruous to the brand identity of companies like Zara.

“Wouldn’t it be a dream if [fast fashion retailers] stood up and said, ‘we are going to do one less delivery this year, we’re putting too many clothes out there, and we’re going to take a profit cut?’,” she said. “The race to the bottom in my opinion is very real.”

The Spanish company is also launching a social campaign using the hashtag #JoinLife that includes “Boxes with a Past,” a selection of artists on the site creatively transforming Zara cardboard boxes into works of art. Zara lso launched a series of clothing collection receptacles at 300 locations in Europe for consumers to drop unwanted clothing of any brand, with plans to expand the effort to Asia and North America in 2017.

Users can also request free clothing collection in Spain and additional clothing will also be donated to the Red Cross and Oxfam, as well as to textile projects at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Lenzing, an Austrian based company focused on sustainable fabrics.

Blashill said focusing on environmentally friendly offerings is an increasingly important focus for retailers like Zara, noting that a recent Nielsen study found that 75 percent of millennials would be willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings. Competitor H&M launched its own Conscious line back in 2012.

The move also comes on the heels of retailers making increased pushes towards transparency, including Gap announcing earlier this month that it would disclose its full global factory list. Wright told Glossy in a previous article that efforts like these help create a domino effect of other brands enacted sustainable efforts.

“When a big brand steps forward like this it’s exciting because it shows that if a company at this scale can make a change like this, other more nimble companies can do the same,” Wright said.

*This story first appeared on Glossy

Meet Kavita and Rebecca, Levi Strauss & Co. Collaboratory Fellows

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091516_unzipped_hero_collab_fellows1Now through October we are highlighting the first class of Levi Strauss & Co. Collaboratory fellows. These 10 next-generation apparel leaders are making an outsized impact on their communities, and we’re excited to take them behind our doors to expand their commitment to sustainable practices and reducing their water impact.Kavita Parmar: Founder and creative director of the IOU Project, an experiment to rethink how goods are produced and sold in a way that empowers artisans and protects the environment.

unknownTell us about your business and the work you do.

The IOU Project was born from my frustration and desire as a designer to fix what I see as the broken system of fashion. To the detriment of artisan makers, local communities, the environment, designers and even the customer, I feel like the current structure of the apparel industry is only rushing toward a short-term profit with no regard to the real human cost.

At the IOU Project, we developed proprietary technology to provide full transparency and traceability along the supply chain to both the customer and the maker. We currently work with more than 15 heritage textile communities around the globe and produce all our clothing with traditional craftsman/ateliers in Europe. Our goal is to become the Wikipedia of heritage artisans globally and be a resource for designers, the brands they represent and consumers.

What does it mean to you to create a more socially and environmentally responsible apparel industry?

We believe a more transparent system that provides full traceability would be a big step toward social and environmental responsibility. A sustainable system can only be made with full participation from the consumer community, as we need them to fully understand who and what is impacted by their buying decisions. In essence, we see value in empowering both ends of the supply chain.

How important is water to what you do?

Water is fundamental to what we do – and a huge concern for us – as we work with artisans who source locally grown cotton. Cotton is a thirsty plant, and dyeing and processing garments uses a large amount of water, which is unfortunately becoming a scarce commodity globally. Finding sustainable alternatives is a must.

What do you hope to get out of participating in the LS&Co. Collaboratory?

We are hoping to have a truly honest and open exchange of ideas between a company the size of Levi Strauss & Co. and our artisan communities. We believe there is the potential for real synergy in working together to solve the major problems we all face. As the quote by Marshall McLuhan goes, “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

What’s your Levi’s® story?
The first collection I designed included repurposed vintage Levi’s® 501s® that I would scour for at second-hand and vintage stores. I would open up the inseams and hand-print, embroider, dip-dye and create unique pieces that I sold at some of the most exclusive high-end retailors in Spain.

I have always admired the core philosophy of the Levi’s® brand and have used it many times as an example of how you can build a product for longevity, like the 501®. I believe if any brand can be a catalyst for change in the apparel industry, it’s Levi’s® that has the history and product authenticity to create the change many of us want to see.

Rebecca van Bergen: Founder and executive director of Nest, a nonprofit committed to the social and economic advancement of the fashion and home industry’s informal workforce.

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Tell us about your business and the work you do.
Nest is focused on advancing social and economic opportunities for the millions of women who are part of the fashion and home industry’s informal workforce. While we often think of apparel production as taking place inside factories, as much as 60 percent of contemporary garment production is done in homes and small workshops around the world. Nest’s work focuses on channeling sector transparency, needs-based artisan business development and widespread homeworker advocacy to empower women, alleviate poverty, and preserve traditions of artisanship. The organization arose from my life-long drive to support women to be agents of change through economic empowerment.

Our approach is business-needs based. We are tackling the barriers to market access and successful partnership with international, largely western, brands by looking at both the artisan and brand perspective.. Brands can contract Nest (without us acting as artisan brokers or middleman) to bring increased transparency, social responsibility and economic sustainability to their own existing artisan and homeworker supply chains. We also can help to source new partners, but transparency into vendors and artisan independence is key to our success and theirs!
What does it mean to you to create a more socially and environmentally responsible apparel industry?

I’d like to address the ambiguity of the word sustainability head-on. Its origin is actually in ecology and is defined as the ability to make systems that remain diverse and productive indefinitely. I love using this definition because it reminds us that endurance is the key. If we want fashion to be around 10, 20, 100 years from now; if we want our planet to be around 10, 20, 100 years from now; if we want global craft traditions and artisan techniques to be not only around, but also thriving, we must practice responsibility both socially and environmentally.

At Nest, we are particularly bent on ensuring that this responsibility extends beyond factory labor to also acknowledge the millions of people and huge portions of the environmental supply chain that are non-factory based. The word “artisan” tends to carry negative connotations of being niche, hyper-localized, and outdated. Nest is challenging these stereotypes and repositioning this global population as a workforce to be taken very seriously.

How important is water to what you do?

Dyeing is a fundamental component of the production process for many artisan businesses, particularly those producing textiles. Unfortunately, improper disposal of wastewater can pose extreme risk to local environments, artisan health, and the wellbeing of community members who may be collecting drinking water nearby. In developing communities experiencing water scarcity, the dye process further depletes already limited resources.

While this issue has been explored from a major industry standpoint, wastewater management solutions that are affordable and applicable in small workshops and underserved communities have not been developed, leaving this population of workers and their surrounding home environments at risk. .

Nest is committed to creating practical and affordable solutions – across a broad spectrium of artisan businesses – to ensure more responsible wastewater treatment and disposal within the artisan and small workshop context.

What do you hope to get out of participating in the LS&Co. Collaboratory?

Nest firmly believes that change within the apparel industry must happen on a unified front to ensure collective progress and wide-reaching results. Through our participation in the Collaboratory, we will share our insights, resources and best practices, as well as learn from others, in our effort to build a scalable global solution for responsible wastewater management in home and workshop settings. We seek to determine how our work best merges with, compliments, and advances existing efforts. Our goal is to create model solutions the entire apparel industry can make use of.

What’s your Levi’s® story?
I bought my first pair of Levi’s® in my late 20s. I had just moved to New York City from my home in St. Louis with not a single pair of jeans (true story).  In “the big city”, ready to embark on the next chapter of my life, I wanted to find a pair of jeans that felt very authentic, high quality, and yes, fashionable. But alas, I could not afford the $200 price tag of many of the emerging denim brands.

Then I found Levi’s®, a name I knew to be classic and reliable. I bought a pair of slouchy boyfriend jeans for $40 – a purchase that has proven well worthwhile. These jeans saw me through adjusting to life in New York, through dating and marrying my husband, and they have even grown with me in having my two children (I cut them into shorts and they have a new life post pregnancy!). These jeans have grown and changed, just as I have, and still their style is timeless.

*This story first appeared on Levi Strauss

 

Nike Forms Strategic Partnership for Apparel Manufacturing in the Americas

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Image credit: Nike, Inc

NIKE, Inc. has announced a new strategic partnership with private equity firm Apollo Global Management, LLC, aimed at building a transparent and ethical apparel supply chain in the Americas. Through the partnership, Nike aims to increase regional manufacturing capabilities, enable quicker delivery of more customized product to consumers and drive investment in sustainability.

To establish the partnership, Apollo has established a new apparel supply chain company that is acquiring existing apparel suppliers in North and Central America, and plans to invest in advancing their manufacturing operations and expertise to produce innovative, technical and customized apparel. This new company also expects to acquire additional textile and apparel suppliers in the Americas in order to broaden and diversify its capabilities and product offerings. This will create a more vertically integrated apparel ecosystem – from materials suppliers and apparel manufacturers to final embellishment, warehousing and logistics.

“We are excited to be working with Apollo to rethink a new supply chain model to revolutionize apparel manufacturing in the Americas,” says Nike COO Eric Sprunk. “The new company, under Apollo’s leadership, is committed to embedding sustainability and transparency into the business, investing in new technology, vertically integrating critical elements of the supply chain and delivering the best Nike performance product to our retail and sports partners.”

“We see a tremendous opportunity to meet the rising demand for responsive apparel manufacturing to serve increasing consumer expectations for products delivered when and where they want them. We intend to work with management to develop a regional supplier capable of servicing the needs of a wide variety of customers, and we are particularly enthusiastic to be working with such an iconic brand as Nike,” says Josh Harris, co-founder and Senior Managing Director of Apollo. “While Nike has not made a capital investment in the company, this strategic partnership is a testament to Nike’s commitment to increasing regional manufacturing capabilities, driving investment in innovation and creating long-term growth.”

While terms of the agreements were not disclosed, Apollo says the new supply chain company has already acquired two businesses to form the cornerstone of this strategy: the apparel manufacturer, New Holland; and the embellishment, warehousing and logistics operator,ArtFX. The investment is made by the Apollo-managed Special Situations I fund.

This isn’t Nike’s first move to create “the supply chain of the future”: In May, the sportswear giant unveiled the latest expansion of its European Logistics Campus in Belgium. The expansion will make Nike’s European operations more efficient, more responsive and more sustainable, enabling growth by serving consumers across Nike.com, as well as its retail and wholesale partners in 38 countries, all from a single inventory location. Sustainable innovation informed all aspects of the facility – ex: it’s powered by 100 percent renewable energy, the structure was created to minimize its footprint from both an operational and a materials standpoint – emphasizing Nike’s vision for a low-carbon, closed-loop future as part of its growth strategy.

*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands

IFC Partners with VF Corporation and Target Corporation to Promote Manufacturing Sustainability in Vietnam’s Textile and Apparel Industry

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Hanoi, Vietnam, March 15, 2016—IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is partnering with global leading apparel and footwear company VF Corporation and consumer products retailer Target Corporation to improve resource efficiency at their supplier factories in Vietnam. Under the first phase of this program, energy and water efficiency assessments will be conducted at about 30 factories over the next 12 months to help them reduce operating costs and improve productivity while contributing to the country’s green growth and climate change targets.

The textile, apparel and footwear sector is a significant contributor to Vietnam’s economy. In 2015, the sector’s exports reached $39.2 billion and generated approximately three million jobs, most of which are for women. While this sector is energy and water intensive, there are opportunities for reducing resource consumption by 20% or higher by using latest technology and good operating practices.

“With Vietnam’s increasing participation in trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the EU Free Trade Agreement, the local textile sector is poised for faster growth, creating increased demand for sustainable energy and water use practices,” said Kyle Kelhofer, IFC Country Manager for Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR. “Vietnam’s textile enterprises stand to benefit from this IFC program by further access to global markets while implementing resource efficiency best practices.”

Factory assessments at VF and Target supplier factories across the textile value chain, including cut-and-sew, dyeing-and-printing and garment-washing operations, will identify and develop cost-effective measures to improve energy and water efficiency while helping suppliers improve productivity and competitiveness. In addition to providing advice for technical solutions, IFC will help facilitate financing through its partner banks in Vietnam, drawing on its substantial experience in other top textile export countries such as Bangladesh and China.

“The cooperation with IFC in Vietnam strongly complements Target’s global responsible sourcing strategy and our corporate sustainability goals for making supplier factories more resource efficient and environmentally friendly,” said Ivanka Mamic, Director for Responsible Sourcing at Target Sourcing Services, the subsidiary of Target Corporation leading sustainability efforts for the corporation.

“VF has a long history of manufacturing excellence centered on respect for the people and the environment, and we continuously explore opportunities to further scale these commitments across our global supplier base for greater impact,” said Brad van Voorhees, Senior Manager for Supply Chain Sustainability at VF Asia, a subsidiary of VF Corporation. “The collaboration with IFC and Target is a natural extension of our work and enables the collective exchange of knowledge and best practices to green the textile supply chain.”

This manufacturing sustainability initiative will promote resource efficiency by systematically assessing performance improvement opportunities, conducting benchmarking studies, sharing technology best practices, and raising sector-level awareness for broader uptake. Subsequent phases will evaluate opportunities for use of clean energy to meet captive power needs of the textile supply chain. This initiative is part of IFC’s multi-year Vietnam resource efficiency program that is implementing innovative aggregation approaches to scale-up impacts through engaging with leading global brands and their supply chains, and by intervening in selected industrial zones to promote circular economy concepts among co-located industries.

*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands

Microplastics, Microfibers, Pollution and….the Outdoor Industry

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By Nikki Hodgson

Instagram @5gyres
Instagram @5gyres

Either you’ve been hearing a lot about microplastics lately or you haven’t been paying attention. The minuscule byproducts from cosmetics and clothing are causing big problems for the environment. Here’s a quick overview of what they are, why they’re problematic and what the outdoor industry is doing to mitigate their effects.

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are small plastic particles (generally between 1 and 5mm) that come from a wide variety of consumer products and sources, including cosmetics, clothing and industrial processes. Because of their size, microplastics can end up in waterways and marine ecosystems when clothing is washed or when cosmetic products are washed down the drain.

What are microfibers?

There is some evidence to suggest that one source of microplastics may be microfibers (also called microplastic fibers), which enter waterways when polyester and acrylic garments are washed.

Why is this a problem?

Microplastics, including microfibers, are showing up in the environment at high levels, particularly in marine ecosystems. In 2008, UNESCO estimated that around 245 metric tons are produced per year. These plastic particles persist in marine ecosystems for many years and attract toxins like DDT and BPA, which are ingested by smaller marine life, moving up the food chain and then found in the tissues of larger organisms.

Much of the environmental impacts and subsequent health effects of microplastics and microfibers are not yet completely understood, and research is currently underway to further investigate and better understand the impacts these may have on our ecosystems.

What is the outdoor industry doing to address this?

Since 2007, the OIA Sustainability Working Group has been working to address the environmental and social impacts of our global supply chains, utilizing a pre-competitive, collaborative model to convene industry stakeholders around important supply chain topics such as chemicals management, materials traceability and social responsibility. We are also now exploring the issue of microfiber pollution.Screenshot 2015-07-07 08.43.22

This is an emerging issue; robust data around the environmental impacts and the potential role played by the apparel industry and other industries is scarce at present. Our first priority is to seek out more data, in order to clearly understand the impacts and identify our best leverage points as an industry. We need to know exactly what we’re up against and where it makes the most sense for us to engage – where we can have the greatest impact and where other industries or stakeholders may have an important role to play. We also need to identify practices that we can adopt and scale across an entire industry. And we need to balance this issue against the many others that are critical to our industry, like phasing out hazardous chemicals, or protecting labor rights and fair wages of all those involved in making our products, or ensuring the ethical sourcing of animal products such as wool, down and leather.

In January 2015, Nicholas Mallos of the Ocean Conservancy spoke at the OIA Sustainability Insights Conference at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. With over one hundred outdoor industry supply chain and sustainability leaders in the room, Nicholas provided an overview of some of the threats microplastics and microfibers pose to our ecosystems and discussed some of the research being done to better understand what industries can do to mitigate these impacts.

Screenshot 2015-07-07 08.39.56As a follow-up to our in-person meetings and conference at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, we will be hosting another discussion around microplastics and microfibers during the Sustainability Insights Conference at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market on August 4th. Representatives from Patagonia and the Hohenstein Institute will discuss some of the existing efforts and challenges, from identifying data gaps to exploring solutions with the appliance and washing machine industry, in order to further continue the conversation around how industry can most effectively address and mitigate microplastic pollution.

The next steps for the OIA SWG on this issue will include:

  • Aligning with impartial, data-driven issue experts such as the Ocean Conservancy to help us better understand the impacts.
  • Promoting awareness of this issue within the outdoor industry community.
  • Identifying leverage points and convening an industry group to develop tools and resources around best practices.

What can you do?

**This article first appeared on the Outdoor Industry Association blog here.