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06 Apr 2017

Biggest sustainability challenge is raw materials

The availability of sustainable raw materials is the biggest challenge facing the garment industry, agreed leaders at the World Retail Congress today.

Speaking in a session entitled ‘The new retailing: Putting ‘responsible innovation’ and trust at the heart of business’ at the World Retail Congress 2017, Alfred Vernis, sustainability academic director at Inditex Group, said: “We can all buy organic recycled paper but recycling is very difficult for fibres. So this is our challenge – we’d like to find ways to have most of our raw materials [come] from recycled materials.

“We’re working with a company in Austria to make fibres from certified forests and this is one direction. But I think there are many opportunities for innovation. We are innovating in other areas like technology and logistics, so we have to innovate here.”

Michael Hardwick, chief financial officer at Cotton On, told delegates about one of the company’s initiatives to support sustainable growth of cotton. “We are working with over 500 farmers in Kenya, supporting them financially and with technical know-how to develop sustainable cotton crops.

“We produced our first sustainable cotton range last year, which was small at 684,000 units. Our vision is to have 10,000 farmers by 2020 who are able to produce enough cotton for over 15 million garments,” he said.

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