The production of textiles and clothing often involves a high environmental burden. However, there are a number of opportunities for textile companies to improve sustainability along their value chain.

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Ways to improve sustainability performance

In the fashion industry, too, the trend is towards sustainable production, among others by avoiding hazardous substances and using recycled synthetic fibres.
The improvement of social standards is also becoming increasingly relevant. But how do you tackle these issues in an organised and professional manner?

There are several ways to get support in improving the ecological impact of your textile company:

Environmentally friendly production of textiles

Analyzing environmental impacts in the textile life cycle

So where should fashion companies first start to reduce their environmental impact? To find this out, the environmentally relevant hotspots in the textile value chain must first be identified.

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is recommended for this purpose: With this, the (direct and indirect) environmental impacts of textiles can be systematically analysed and evaluated over the entire product life cycle.

More information on Life Cycle Assessment

First Life Cycle Phase: Cotton Cultivation

Initiatives to enhance corporate sustainability

A variety of alliances and initiatives support businesses in realizing their environmental and social sustainability goals by offering a framework of general guidelines. The BEPI and BSCI, initiated by the Foreign Trade Association, are two such examples.

Business Environmental Performance Initiative

The Business Environmental Performance Initiative (BEPI) helps purchasing companies improve their environmental performance along their global value chains.

  • Focus on environmental issues, evaluation based on Life Cycle Assessment data
  • Consideration of 11 environmental performance areas, including energy consumption, waste water, greenhouse gas emissions, land use
  • Members of the fashion industry include Mango, Woolworth and Desigual

    Business Social Compliance Initiative

    The Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) supports participating companies in improving transparency and social standards along their (global) supply chain.

    • Obligation to implement the BSCI Code of Conduct in the supply chain
    • Compliance with the 11 principles of occupational health and safety (including no child labour, no discrimination, reasonable working hours) is monitored
    • Members of the apparel industry include include Target, New Look and Intersport International

      Environmentally harmful hotspots in the textile value chain

      Environmental Impact of Cotton Farming

      Cotton cultivation:

      Particularly high environmental burdens are caused by the cultivation of the raw material (i.e. cotton) and the production of raw fibre due to:

      • High water consumption
      • Heavy use of pesticides
      • Extensive land use
      Textile Finishing Environmental Harm

      Textile finishing:

      A further hotspot can be seen in the finishing process of the textiles or the dyeing of the fabrics.

      • Energy consumption of thermal processes
      • Use of various environmentally harmful chemicals
      • Waste water and disposal of pollutants
      ifu Hamburg's Consulting on Life Cycle Assessment

      Consulting on Life Cycle Assessment

      Depending on whether you want to build up in-house LCA skills or outsource the project, we will support you with our services:

      • Training or project support to provide the necessary knowledge on how to proceed with an LCA
      • Support in the collection of basic data and closing of data gaps
      • Let us do the work for you: Within a framework agreed upon with you in advance, we develop standard-compliant Life Cycle Assessments in line with ISO 14040/44 as well as simple or comparative LCAs

      Life Cycle Assessment with Umberto LCA+

      Create Life Cycle Assessments yourself

      Do you already have experience with Life Cycle Assessments and would like to conduct an LCA yourself? Then Umberto LCA+, one of the leading software solutions for Life Cycle Assessments, is the perfect support.
      With this software you can:

      • Create material and energy balances
      • Carry out life cycle assessments in accordance with ISO 14040/ 14044
      • Create screening LCAs to quickly identify hot spots
      • Make use of integrated Life Cycle Assessment databases (ecoinvent and GaBi databases)

      We support you on your way towards a sustainable supply chain!

      Do you have questions about the ecological impact of your products?

      Then you are welcome to contact us. We look forward to talking to you about improving the environmental impact of your fashion business and creating a sustainable textiles production.

      Improving environmental performance in the textile industry

      The textile industry faces a particular challenge when it comes to sustainability, environmental protection and the reduction of environmental impacts along the textile value chain because:

      • it is strongly affected by the globalisation of markets
      • many production facilities are located abroad
      • particularly severe environmental pollution is caused by the cultivation of cotton, production of raw fibre and textile finishing
      Environmental Impacts of the Textile and Clothing Industry

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      Monthly whitepaper, best practice examples etc. on sustainable production