Earth Day Spawns Textile Sustainability Surge

By Jim Borneman, Editor In Chief

This issue of Textile World attempts to capture the breadth of the textile industry’s burgeoning focus on sustainability.

The issue was originally planned as a man-made fiber industry focus with recent developments, technology and a company profile. But as editorial started to take shape, it became clear that the sustainability theme was going to steal the show.

So, editors shifted gears. The industry’s response to Earth Day, a focus on sustainability initiatives, new green products and the ever more present corporate sustainability reports became central to the issue.

As one peels back the layers, there is a lot of activity in the sustainability space. It appears that consumers and brands are creating a demand for manufacturers to pursue greener technologies and manufacturing methodologies — and consumers want to know about them.

It is no longer about a good recycling story, but about reducing the entire carbon footprint. And when one thinks about it, that has real implications. How are manufacturers powering their operations? What are the impacts on employees and the communities within which they work? What is the lifecycle of the products they make and how can that be improved? What is the environmental impact and how can waste be prevented?

These are all questions to which textile companies are paying attention.

It also is apparent there is a trend in forming partnerships. Researchers and manufacturers, and manufacturers and brands, seem to find success in aligning their sustainability focus for maximum impact.

As highlighted in “Sustainability In Fiber Manufacturing” in this issue, “A circular economy cannot be achieved by acting alone,” stressed Angelo Radici, president of RadiciGroup. “As upstream players in the supply chain, we have always tried to share our knowledge of materials and deliver solutions featuring both better performance and respect for the environment. Furthermore, it is also crucial to find customers who are equally sensitive to these issues and can become strategic partners in the development of innovative and sustainable solutions. With Macron [an apparel brand with which they are partnering], we have worked as a team to create winning sports socks, because they are made from recycled materials, using all-Italian technologies, and are the result of a zero-kilometer, measured and traceable production and supply chain.”

It’s not just with Radici — this trend is playing out through much of the industry. Sustainability seems to be a neutral goal with broad support and a wide array of proponents.

It is not new in textiles, but the consumer and brand support have taken it to a place where real and tangible investments and practices are taking hold. No longer is it at topic of fringe environmentalists — it has entered the mainstream.

Sustainability initiatives in textiles face challenges, but they aren’t happening in a vacuum. If those achievements are rewarded by brands and consumers, that is all the positive motivation necessary to make sustainability goals front and center.

May/June 2021