Textiles: go green or go home

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VIETNAM, Oct. 6 – The Prime Minister recently approved the Commodity Import and Export Strategy to 2030, outlining the way towards integrating green trade, fair trade, environmental protection, biodiversity and adaptability to climate change in trade.

This decision is part of Việt Nam’s efforts to embrace the green transition and fulfill its ambitious commitments at COP26.

Is Vietnamese textiles ready to follow this path and what are the challenges ahead? The secretary general of the Vietnamese Textile and Clothing Association, Trương Văn Cẩm, spoke on the subject with the Vietnamese news agency.

What do you think of the “going green” process in Vietnamese textiles?

Green development is an integral part of sustainable development, and textiles have put “going green” on their agenda.

The Vietnam Textile and Garment Association established a sustainable development committee in 2017 and took various measures to change textile enterprises.

They got results; many businesses have begun to go green by replacing coal and oil-fired steam boilers with electric ones, engaging in water treatment and reuse, and installing solar panels.

To enter its markets, Vietnamese exports must meet strict EU standards, including environmental and recycling standards. What is the impact of “going green” on textile exports in this regard?

The “going green” would not only contribute to the implementation of the national green development strategy, but also help companies meet the stringent requirements of major textile importers.

The European Union (EU) has published its sustainable and circular textile strategy, which calls for eco-design and sustainable production and consumption.

This means that fast-moving consumer products will be replaced with durable, recyclable and reusable products to reduce environmental impacts.

Higher bars also demand greater corporate responsibility towards the environment, society, employees and consumers. Businesses need the flexibility to adapt to these ever-changing standards.

Non-compliant companies will find it harder to export their products to markets. They must therefore act quickly to hold their ground, especially in the US and EU.

What are the setbacks of the “going green” process in Vietnamese textiles?

Three issues keep textiles from going green.

First, not all textile companies are fully aware of “going green” or well prepared for the green transition.

Second, “going green” requires significant financing, which is only possible for companies with a strong financial position. Unfortunately, most textile companies are small to medium-sized.

Third, human capital is essential to “going green” and the fourth industrial revolution. However, textile companies are still not up to standard in this regard.

“Going green” requires significant investments in equipment and the use of recycled materials and “clean” materials as inputs. However, the notions are new in Việt Nam, and little attention has been paid to them. What do you think of this situation?

Inputs are an important problem for Việt Nam because the country has to import a large volume of them to supply production.

When it comes to imported materials, companies need to make sure they are “clean” and traceable and know how to use them. Cleanliness and traceability are what they must always keep in mind.

When it comes to locally produced materials, companies must ensure that the materials are recyclable. They should also keep in mind that recyclability requires huge investments.

Recently, some companies have started focusing on eco-friendly materials, including ground coffee fibers and shell-derived fibers, to go green. However, their production scale is still small and they need more money to expand.

Raw materials are the weak point of fast-growing textiles. The industry needs more favorable government policies to improve its competitive position in the international market. Policies should include export support funds, financial assistance and a grand plan for its development. —VNS

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