This guide to sustainability issues uses a simple process flow which reflects process steps that are common across the textiles sector. The guide shows how these processes relate to specific sustainability issues – ranging from water consumption and chemical use to supply chain issues and community relationships. It uses a risk rating system and explains some of the potentially high impact sustainability issues in more detail.
The guide is intended as a starting point only and the process flow is not intended to reflect the breadth of technologies and practices that are used by different enterprises or sub-sectors. Users will need to undertake more detailed research and analysis of the sector.
The textiles sector manufactures fabric from natural and man-made fibres. Typically this involves processes such as stripping, blending, dyeing and weaving or knitting.
There are significant sustainability issues throughout the sector and the supply chain. There are many different treatments and finishing processes such as sizing and de-sizing, mercerising, bleaching, fire retardant and anti-static treatments. These typically consume energy and water and result in handling of chemicals and other agents and contaminated waste water. Dryers, presses and other machinery use significant electricity. There are risks in terms of worker exploitation, use of pesticides and large amounts of water in the farming of natural fibres (such as cotton), use of plastic, paper and cardboard in packaging and the management and disposal of dyes and chemicals.
There are many different ways to approach understanding the sustainability issues within a sector. Areas of research might include barriers to entry and expansion into markets, drivers of demand for services and products, geographic location, major markets and suppliers, technology and workforce demographics and skills profile. [Read more…]