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More sustainable: the new way of thinking about our textile industry

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), The fast fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual carbon emissionsa figure that has doubled compared to the year 2000– and has generated 20% of the pollution of drinking water worldwide. In recent years, It has developed hand in hand with a strong dependence on cheap labor employing 75 million people and only 2% have a salary above subsistence level[1]. Also, many garment factories have with dangerous safety and hygiene conditions and even hide cases of child and labor exploitation.

These are just some of the heartbreaking consequences generated by the prevailing business model of the last 20 years which, in search of lower costs, relocated clothing production to countries with lower labor and environmental standards (India, Bangladesh and Pakistan).

Greater awareness and responsibility regarding production methods and their effect on people and the environment challenges the continuity of fast fashion as a hegemonic model and opens the way for an industry and a consumer that revalues ​​what is ethical, natural and sustainable.

This is not just a commercial strategy. The fight against climate change is the main mission of the UN’s 2030 agenda and an objective of the governments of developed countries. With the fast fashion industry being the second most polluting in the world, more and more policies are being promoted to encourage more sustainable production practices and consumption.

To give some examples, the European Parliament has set a goal for 2030 that clothing sold must be durable, recyclable, free of harmful substances and respect labour rights. France has achieved the partial approval of a bill that seeks to limit the excesses of ultra-fast clothing (taxation of taxes on low-cost clothing, requirement of information on environmental impact for consumers and support for producers of sustainable clothing). In turn, in view of the contribution of the value chain in terms of employment and thanks to the greater efficiency enabled by industry 4.0, digitalization, innovation and robotization of processes, Many countries are seeking to relocate textile manufacturing closer to consumer centres. The pandemic and geopolitical tensions have accelerated this process of restoring supply chains in the country of origin. Through economic promotion tools, the encouragement of local purchases and non-tariff barriers that limit the sale of textiles that are harmful to health, the United States seeks to recover the work and value that this industry generates in its country.

The global trend is changing. Now let’s move on to Argentina. Where are we and where are we going? Our textile and clothing companies are already evolving towards more sustainable models, understanding the challenges, but also the opportunity that this represents.

Under the paradigm of the circular economythe reuse of textile waste and clothing for the production of new yarns, fabrics and garments is expanding further. Argentina has variety and quantity of natural fibers which are revalued due to the lower associated energy consumption, because they are biodegradable and because their properties provide greater comfort and mean greater care for human health. In addition, numerous Investments in machines and processes that optimize energy, water and chemical use, with an increasing number of companies achieving international quality certifications. (ISO 9001, OekoTex, BCI, Blue Sign, among others). Some even choose to replace chemical dyes with natural ones, and national projects for the production of 100% organic cotton and other fibers are growing.

The conviction and private initiative to be part of more sustainable models is a reality and a necessary step, but not sufficient.. In line with what the world is doing, the State must accompany with regulation and incentive schemes that set the course. Fast fashion should not be treated on equal terms –that hides crude consequences– and the clothes produced in the country –that pays taxes, meets environmental and labor standards. What policies do we need?

Firstly, it is essential to design a new regulatory framework: one that raises quality standards in order to preserve the health and safety of the consumer, that demands transparency of information about the manufacturing process and the product, that promotes the traceability of the chain and that limits the commercialization of fast fashion products.

Secondly, strengthening control tools to ensure fair and loyal competition: combating smuggling and streamlining anti-dumping and social dumping regulations.

Finally, support the sustainable textile and fashion industry with economic and fiscal incentives: promoting the circular economy, certifications and quality seals, traceability, the quality of natural fibers and the incorporation of related innovations and technologies.

Building a sustainable textile and fashion business model means being one step ahead and reaffirming the commitment to the planet and social well-being. To be a protagonist, Argentina must design and implement a public-private strategy and offer solutions to a problem that seriously concerns the world..

[1] George Washington University

President of the Pro Tejer Foundation

Source: Ambito

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