Tanvir Ahmed, Managing Director of Envoy Legacy, Green Textile & Sheltech Group, discusses sustainability in the apparel industry and how his company achieved the remarkable feat of building the greenest textile unit in the world.
During July-January of FY22-23, our apparel industry grew 15.04% in major European markets compared to last year. What implications does the growth have on the industry’s performance in the coming days?
2022 was a challenging year for the apparel business due to the Ukraine-Russia war and consequent rising inflation, both of which have significantly impacted the industry, leading to a relatively slow market. The Ukraine-Russia war, which began in 2022, has disrupted trade and supply chains across Europe and Asia, including the apparel industry. These supply chain issues have led to delayed deliveries and increased costs, which, in turn, have affected the pricing and availability of apparel products.
During the same period, Green Textile Limited (GTL), the world’s highest-rated LEED platinum-certified apparel maker, achieved notable success. The company is a Joint Venture between Epic Group and Envoy Legacy conglomerate. Over the years, Green Textile’s success can be attributed to its commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly practices, which have made it a leader in the apparel industry. The company’s latest achievement is a testament to its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and promote sustainable practices, and is an indication of better things to come in the future.
Although the situation is gradually improving, the market remains cautious. While the end of the Ukraine-Russia war is still uncertain, many apparel manufacturers are finding ways to adapt to the new market conditions, such as shifting their focus to new regions or adjusting their product offerings to cater to changing consumer preferences as well as building a strong supply chain to be cost-efficient. With a strong commitment to adaptability and innovation in challenging market conditions, Green Textile hopes for continued success in the years to come. The company’s growth is not only proof of its innovative and sustainable practices but also an inspiration for other players in the apparel industry to pursue excellence even in these turbulent times.
When we talk about sustainability in the global garments industry, the conversation often goes beyond the factories. How is Green Textile evolving to facilitate a sustainable supply chain and improve the lives of its employees?
The sustainability of a supply chain is now measured based on facility, environmental credentials, and products. To that extent, GTL has set ambitious carbon reduction targets for its hub – building low-carbon manufacturing units such as the GTL4 (Green Textile Limited Unit 4) with its 735 KW solar rooftop is part of this thrust. Within the next few years, we will add another 2.5 MW of rooftop solar to the GTL hub itself, in addition to various energy and carbon reduction techniques to dramatically reduce the facility’s carbon footprint. Our already initiated upgrade of the Effluent Treatment Plant with Membrane Technology will see us recycle our treated effluent back into the process. We have eliminated risky chemicals from our manufacturing and will initiate a comprehensive waste fabric recycling programme from 2023. Looking at the product, GTL has been rapidly increasing the use of more sustainable fibre. Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) certified cotton, CELC-certified linen, recycled polyester and sustainable cellulosic fibre are core parts of the GTL product portfolio. We plan to increase the use of more sustainable fibre in our offerings on an ongoing basis.
GTL4 is certified LEED Platinum with a score of 104 out of 110 – the highest ever in the apparel industry category. How has the company been able to achieve this remarkable feat?
The secret to high scores is ‘design’. We originally wanted to build the best factory from an operational and resource point of view and to provide the best indoor conditions to our associates and staff. As we went through our design optimisation cycles and LEED point evaluation with our consultants, we realised that we already might quote a high score, and then wanted to see how much we could extend this score. Then we analysed point by point to see how we could optimise it further. This was easier since we had the core design done well.
LEED looks into multiple sections – location and transportation, sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy/carbon efficiency, materials & resources and indoor environmental quality. The first section is mostly based on location while the next three sections can be optimised if we focus on the design approach. Designing for high energy efficiency requires a lot of focus on energy system optimisation and rooftop solar systems. Indoor environmental quality and material credits are more difficult to achieve – especially in the subcontinent due to the scarcity of choices. But here too we went out of the way to improve the facility to reach this score.
What are the implications of the Platinum LEED Certification for the workforce and the occupants of GTL4?
One area LEED-certified buildings focus on is environmental quality for occupants. In this regard, indoor environmental quality focus ensures that the occupants have thermal comfort, better air quality and proper lighting including daylight and outside views. In GTL4, thermal comfort is provided by packaged evaporative coolers which cool the air by using water to absorb heat. A high level of cooled fresh air is provided – exceeding The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ recommendation by 30%. Air quality is also improved by using paints, coatings and materials with low volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissivity. Daylight and views are provided by the use of large glass windows on the North and South sides of the building. Outside the building, large areas of open space including those with greenery allow access to nature for the occupants – here again, exceeding the minimum open space requirement by 30%. These provide good environmental conditions for all employees of the facility.
Photograph: Courtesy of Envoy Legacy