Welcome to Printwear Pauses: 5 Minutes with... where one-on-one discussions with industry professionals are featured in a Q&A format. These Q&A's share the thoughts and opinions of some of the industry’s most knowledgeable individuals.
For this installment, we are pleased to chat with Jimmy Summers, the VP of environment, health, safety and sustainability for Elevate Textiles.
Q: Oftentimes environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility are used interchangeably or confused, can you explain the difference?
In our view, corporate social responsibility includes code of conduct issues such as work hours, working conditions, health, safety, etc. Environmental sustainability has to do with the ways in which manufacturing facilities and entire supply chains potentially impact the environment. A few examples include wastewater treatment and treated water discharge at dyeing operations, packaging waste produced throughout the supply chain, emissions to the air from activities throughout the supply chain, and all the raw material and water inputs to the supply chain. Environmental sustainability is part of corporate social responsibility.
Q: Where does the decorated apparel industry fall short when it comes to environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility?
I think we all fall short in making sure that environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility issues are factored into purchasing and sourcing decisions, versus only considering price and related issues. The key is to have visibility of the environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility policies and actual practices of the suppliers. This has been difficult in the past, but through programs such as the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Compounds (ZDHC) Programme and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition's Higg Index process, companies are now able to have better visibility of these issues in their supply chain. Companies must also make it a policy that these factors are considered during purchasing and sourcing decisions.
Q: How can the industry do better and ensure “future generations have a great place to live and work”?
As an industry, we need to continue the work that has started to make the supply chain more transparent and more accountable for implementing sustainable and socially responsible practices.
Q: And whose job is it to hold the companies and decorators of the industry accountable?
It is up to the companies themselves and the people who make purchasing and sourcing decisions. If a person who is making a purchasing or sourcing decision does not take sustainability and social responsibility into account (along with price), then the companies and facilities in the supply chain receive signals that say only price matters.
Q: Looking ahead, what should be the primary focus as the industry looks toward responsible corporate actions and environmental efforts?
I think the industry should focus on transparency and accountability regarding environmental issues at facilities that use dyes and chemicals and large amounts of water. These facilities have the potential to cause the most adverse impact on the environment. Transparency for companies includes sharing information and data showing how the company accounts for environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility in their purchasing and sourcing decisions, as well as sharing data regarding the performance of the supply chain and manufacturing facilities in these areas. With transparency comes accountability, and this can be accomplished through public reporting regarding a company's environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility performance so that the company's stakeholders can help to hold the company accountable to their stated policies and values.
To get a closer look at Elevate Textile's efforts toward sustainability and corporate social responsibility, check out the sustainability report, "A Focus on the Future," from its subsidiary American & Efird.