Why sustainability needs to be on all of our agendas

The management of raw materials is a profound challenge across the fashion industry and one that those of us in the garment decoration sector cannot ignore. We need to be asking our suppliers what they are doing, but we also need to be examining our own businesses.

The reason for change is inevitable, the legislation in the future is indubitable and the changes in brand purchasing are undeniable. The new generation of consumers coming through are more focused on accountability and more interested in knowing where their goods are coming from. They’re buying well and they’re asking questions – and that’s something we all need to be doing. We need to decide whether we’re going to stay reactive, or if we’re going to stake out our claim and say, “We’re better” and make that the selling point.

My view is that print and embroidery companies need to look at how they can qualify their business practice. This is not greenwashing. This is taking a long, hard look at your business and understanding how you can change its consumption of energy and materials. It’s saying, “I want to work with an energy provider that’s investing in wind, solar, renewable and hydro energy, and I’m prepared to pay 3% more to support that.” It’s changing a factory’s lighting from sodium to LED. It’s about making a holistic audit of what we do.

I’ve been in this business long enough to know that there will be owners of plants I’ve visited over the years saying, “Well, that’s easy for you to say.” But we can constantly find reasons not to do stuff. Surely we want to be getting ahead of the tipping point, before people start saying, “Actually, I’m not going to be dealing with you because you’ve spent no time doing anything. You have made yourselves insupportable as a supplier.” The time to start making these changes is now.

Graeme Richardson-Locke is technical support manager at Fespa, a global federation of national associations for the screen printing, digital printing and textile printing community. If you have a question for Fespa, please email [email protected] with ‘Fespa’ in the subject line.

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