In traditional manufacturing it takes as much as 10,000 litres of water to produce a single pair of jeans, and garment companies have been trying to reduce this statistic. Shahi Exports, one of the country’s largest apparel manufacturers, says it has been able to bring it down to less than five litres.

Anant Ahuja, Head of Organizational Development at Shahi, who watches over such operations attributes it to “investment in state-of-the-art machines”. So how does Shahi with a production capacity of 12 million pieces per year do this? 

It has adopted what Ahuja calls the “Laundry 5.Zero strategy” and uses design and cutting-edge laser technology which requires a much shorter washing cycle. The technique is an alternative to traditional methods such as acid washing, sandblasting, and using potassium permanganate, therefore is also safer for workers.  

Single window

Shahi has also developed a single window to purchase chemicals that are compliant with international standards. While creating the classic blue of denim the company brought down its material liquid ratio from 1:6 to 1:1. It found the e-Flow technology best for reducing water consumption. This turns chemicals into nanobubbles of air in the washing machine, which act as a carrier to transmit chemicals into a garment. This translates into minimal water usage and zero discharge, helping to save an average of 95 per cent water for every denim washed. 

Shahi also uses the G2 Ozone washing machine that “generates ozone from the air to catalyse the indigo fibre dyeing and produces the authentic worn-down look in the desired shade. Water consumption here is reduced by 65 per cent and energy by 20 per cent. The ozone is re-converted into oxygen, leaving no harmful by-products. 

Zero Liquid Discharge

To reduce use of fresh water, effluent treatment plants recycle and reuse 100 per cent of water, achieving the ‘Zero Liquid Discharge’ standard, for which Shahi received an award. 

Shahi, with over 50 factories and three processing mills across eight States, has a host of sustainability measures. Steam turbines, wind, and solar plants ensure that 68 per cent of its electrical energy is carbon neutral. It was also the first to create Cradle to Cradle Certified® products that rethink the lifecycle of a product.  

Ahuja is proud that of its one lakh workers, 77,000 are rural women and calls them the most important resource. “Creating employment was a purpose behind starting Shahi,” he says recalling how his grandmother started the business in 1974. “And now competing with the best globally, we have seen a lot of benefit from taking sustainability seriously,” he concludes.