ESG Outlook: Sustainability of Synthetics


CREDIT: Sourcing Journal

ESG Outlook is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on their company’s latest environmental, social and governance initiatives and their own personal efforts toward sustainability. In this Q&A, Sagee Aran, head of global marketing at nylon textile producer NILIT, discusses why synthetics can be conscientious fibers.

What do you consider to be your company’s best ESG-related achievement over the last 5 years?

We worked very hard to accelerate our sustainability initiatives. We recently introduced new Sensil premium Nylon 6.6 products that address our industry’s most pressing environmental issues. But we have also reduced our own environmental footprint with significant investment in clean energy technology and other process improvements at our four plants around the world. We created the NILIT TPS Total Product Sustainability criteria to ensure our products contribute to reduced carbon footprint, elimination of toxic emissions, conservation of water and energy, and zero waste. Sustainability is fully integrated into our company’s values and the decisions we make.

What is your personal philosophy on shopping and caring for your clothes? 

As an executive in the textile business, I always read the label to know what fibers are used, where the garment is made and what care is required. I buy clothing I will wear for a long time. I will pay more for something that is especially well made and will last longer.

How much do you look into a brand’s social or environmental practices before shopping? 

It is important for me to purchase goods from a reliable brand. I am following brands’ ESG activities as part of my daily work and have added some new brands as I learn about their priorities.

How do you try to minimize the environmental impact of the clothes you buy, either on purchasing or end-of-use side?

Between manufacture and disposal, clothing care can have a huge effect on the environment. Laundering uses energy and water, injects chemicals into the water system, and requires time and money. But, of course, laundering is absolutely necessary and, if done correctly, extends a garment’s life. Balance is key. Some of today’s performance textiles with moisture management, antimicrobial and other built-in benefits, enable clothing to be used longer before washing is required.

What would you say is the biggest misconception consumers have about sustainability in fashion?

Often natural is not always sustainable. For example, natural fibers require water and land, not to mention fertilizers and pesticides. Fibers from animals have both environmental and animal welfare drawbacks. Conscientious synthetic fiber manufacturers can make high quality, extremely durable, valued added products in ways that use very little water and generate minimal waste. Responsibly made, premium synthetic fibers deserve a seat at the sustainability table as a viable option for conscious consumers.

What was your company’s biggest takeaway from the Covid crisis?

The Covid crisis highlighted for us a deeper appreciation for Planet Earth, a refuge from home confinement, with nature becoming more precious than ever before. At NILIT, we used the time to focus on changes to make our operations even more sustainable and efficient. We designed meaningful new products that support the creation of sustainable textiles and apparel. We worked with the communities in which we operate to strengthen local relationships. And we engaged our employees around the world to plan, prepare and emerge from Covid stronger than ever.

What is your company’s latest sustainability-related initiative?

NILIT’s broad portfolio of sustainable, responsibly made premium Nylon products is constructed to directly address the particular environmental challenges the textile and apparel industry faces. We developed these products by applying Life Cycle Assessment thinking to anticipate and minimize the burden of our products on the planet once they reach the end of their useful lives.

The NILIT portfolio addresses the industry’s primary environmental challenges:

  • Use of recycled inputs: Sensil® EcoCare and Sensil® Ecocare Breeze with cooling effects are created from recycled Nylon. Sensil® Heat warming Nylon uses charcoal made from recycled coffee bean shells.
  • Water conservation: Sensil® WaterCare eliminates 100 percent of the water used in the traditional wet dyeing process, up to 24,000 liters of water per ton of fabric. Sensil® BodyFresh with antimicrobial and antiviral properties stays fresher longer requiring fewer launderings.
  • Waste reduction: Sensil® BioCare is enhanced with special disintegration technology that lessens the persistence of textile pollution in seawater and in landfills.

What is the apparel industry’s biggest missed opportunity related to securing meaningful change?

 To truly advance sustainability, every company throughout the value chain must look ahead to anticipate life cycle issues—to design products that can be easily repurposed, recycled, and when they reach the end of their useful life, discarded with minimal consequences to ecosystems. The choices made throughout the value chain can hugely affect these end-of-life parameters, which ultimately contribute to the product’s total sustainability. Dye and additive selection, blending fibers or even the materials selected for buttons and zippers can all be factors. By considering products from fiber to finished product, we can significantly reduce our industry’s environmental footprint.