As Europe may soon implement ESG (Environment, Social & Governance) legislation, there is a need for Indian apparel exporters to swiftly modify their operations to align with the sustainable requirements of the European Union.

Globally, one-fifth of industrial water pollution comes from the textile industry. 35 kg of textile waste is generated per person every year in the US alone. Many countries are waking up to this looming threat and looking for ways to shift toward sustainability and the EU is taking the lead.

Indian suppliers

EU-27 is the largest apparel importer from India. In 2021-22, India exported $ 4.2 billion worth of apparel to EU-27 which was about 26 per cent of India’s total apparel exports. Change in EU legislation to adopt a sustainable approach will impact the Indian suppliers significantly.

“It is vital for Indian suppliers to take cognisance of what is coming and swiftly prepare to embrace these changes. Manufacturers who can modify their operations to align with the sustainable requirements of the EU will emerge to be the leaders and dominate exports not only to the EU but also to other major importers like the USA which will follow suit,” pointed out a report of Wazir Advisors, a management consulting firm with special focus on textile and apparel sectors.

Alternative fibres

The use of recycled and alternative fibres will be required, because once the EU legislations come into force, recycling will become the norm, and the entire value chain will have to move towards recycled products or using alternative fibres that are environment-friendly and easily recyclable. As the circular economy has become imperative in the sustainability context, manufacturers should evaluate the setting up of infrastructure and processes to reuse the industrial waste (or set up a new business line altogether). Also, companies should focus on minimising environmental impact, it said.

But the industry appears to have begun its ESG journey. “Textile and apparel sector in Tamil Nadu has some unique inherent advantages in the area of sustainable manufacturing,” says Prabhu Damodharan, Convenor, Indian Texpreneurs Federation.

Sustainability measures

Some of the sustainability measures of the industry in Tamil Nadu include the use of 100 per cent  green energy, mass implementation of zero liquid discharge (ZLD) in processing, PET recycles plants, usage of entire waste from the spinning process to make OE yarn and fabric, 100 per cent PET recycled textile products to apparels, garment cutting waste recycled to make new clothing, energy-efficient manufacturing, and green certified buildings, among others.

Industry associations have also been taking initiatives to share knowledge on the best practices in the journey of sustainability. The majority of the companies have been certified. “We need to brand all these strengths and factors together to bring more visibility for the industry in the coming days,” adds Damodharan.

Also, the country’s leading textile companies such as Welspun India, Arvind Ltd, Century Textile and Industries, among others have defined their roadmap in the areas of ESG, committing to science-based targets measures. Century Textile offers a ‘sustainable range’ that facilitates the creation of a circular economy. It has also signed up technical agreements with global companies to produce greener and more sustainable fabrics in the coming years.

Significant outcomes

Through several differentiated efforts, Welspun India has achieved several significant outcomes. While it has set out targets across power and water consumption, use of sustainable cotton, and zero hazardous waste to landfill, among others to be achieved by 2025, it has adopted circularity across its business, with a focus on the use of recycled content and has collaborated with a consortium project that aims to build a new textile waste value chain in India.

“Timely measures can trigger evolution towards compliance with EU’s sustainability strategy, while it will help India to compete with global counterparts and enhance its market share,” pointed out the Wazir report.