The growing consciousness of fashion aficionados about sustainability and environment cannot be ignored by the industry, says Indranil Roy.

The modern imperative that necessitates global zipper companies to innovate to create sustainable impact shows the apparel industry the way to an eco-friendly future.

As sustainability takes precedence in every aspect of the manufacturing value chain across sectors, the trims industry is also following suit as the textile value chain evolves. There are zipper companies that are either introducing sustainable products or bringing sustainability into manufacturing. The few forerunners, however, are changing the way they do business end to end.

Fashion industry is one of the major sectors contributing to global pollution. With the fast growth of fast fashion, the industry's noxious impact has risen rapidly. Today, the apparel industry is responsible for almost 10 per cent of the global carbon footprint. The exponential growth has also demanded indiscrete use of precious resources like water and is responsible for 20 per cent of the global industrial water pollution. And finally, the dumping or wastage of polyester-another form of plastic-along with nylon and acrylic is one of the most consternating reasons behind ocean pollution.

It is expected that as consumer spending will increase with the growth of the emerging economies, the apparel industry's impact on environment will rise. Reports suggest that if 80 per cent of these emerging markets achieve per capita consumption levels of the West, carbon emissions will shoot up by 77 per cent, water usage will surge 20 per cent and land use will go up by 7 per cent1.

The contributors and their impact

Cotton and fabric are the two biggest contributors to environmental impact due to their unsustainable production process. And this condition is exacerbated by further unsustainable practices that are exercised in the supply chain operations. In other industries like consumer technology, leading global firms are taking the onus of sustainable practices that go beyond their operations and hold their supply chain partners accountable.

Synthetic dyes are another major contributor to environmental pollution. Approximately 10-15 per cent of dyes are released into the wastewater streams during use. Dyeing, historically, has resulted in public health problems and affected the ecologies of streams and rivers. It is also one of the predominant reasons behind poisoning of drinking water. Presently, efforts are being made to move towards more sustainable dyeing methods like foam dyeing of yarns that uses negligible amount of water compared to traditional methods and has a low environmental impact.

Importance of finding sustainability

As we come around to the environmental malignancy that we are contributing to, and in turn rendering an irreversible damage to the world, the industry realises the need for a reckoning and vanguards that will lead the way. They need to act as a harbinger of change.

From ocean-recycled yarns to sustainable water harvesting, these companies need to make these changes a major part of their investment strategy.

The journey for the industry should begin from sourcing where ethical, transparent policies have been implemented to mitigate environmental impact of any kind to make the process responsible. It needs to up its game in sourcing sustainable cotton, especially BASF E3 cotton, 100 per cent recycled polyester for zipper tapes, create a line of zippers with 100 per cent organic cotton tapes. 

The industry is working towards making its factories not only endorse efficient manufacturing but creating a working environment that promotes human health and safety while endorsing holistic growth.

The leading zipper companies are adapting with the imperatives of the new age; they are introducing cutting-edge technology and innovation in the system that enables them to achieve pre-consumer recycled zinc and metal that are used for the manufacturing of zippers and trims.

The biggest change that these companies are driving in their efforts to become forerunners of sustainable transformation is to alienate themselves from the concept of fast fashion, and instead endorse long-lasting, sustainable quality standards that become the benchmark for the industry. Initiatives like water harvesting, water-less foam dyeing, reverse osmosis, finding alternatives to polyester packaging of products stand testament to such efforts to create an operational system that is viable both economically and sustainably.

Preparing for the future

It is time for the global textile and apparel industry to make itself future-ready. The industry needs to keep in mind that all the natural resources that it depends on are exhaustible in nature. On top of that, rising population, rapid climate change and global warming will influence the way the sector will function in the future, and determine its very existence. Without paying due awareness to such changing circumstances, the industry will not be able to survive.

It is critical for the industry and all its members to work together to design a plan that can help it adapt with the changing needs of sustainability. The industry is part of the corporate gentry that is a part of the global population. From that standing, it is a moral responsibility of all companies - textile, apparel as well as trims and accessories alike-to do everything necessary to uphold the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) drawn up by the member states of the United Nations with the serious intent of ending poverty, protecting the planet and bringing a smile to the face of every individual.

Finally, the survival of the industry in the face of the global call to action to invest in sustainability will depend on the trust of the people who, after all, are consumers. As we speak, the young people of all race and creed from every nook and cranny of the world are rising to the cause of the environment, driving change with a clear sustainability agenda. These youngsters are the future consumers of the apparel industry and it will be upon them to decide fashion's future. The growing consciousness that they are demonstrating is a clear message that the industry and the businesses cannot ignore. 

Fashion is a part of everyday life of every ordinary young person as it is for the aficionado of haute couture. It is, however, important for the industry to remember that if fashion defines people, it is the people who determine the future of fashion. And today's people want fashion to be sustainable, responsible, real.