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EFF SOURCE Fashion business success without compromise

26 April 2013

Global Outlook: SOURCE meets Rafael Cervone, CEO of Texbrasil, ABIT

Contributor Loula Mercedes

Rafael Cervone

Our fifth installment of the Sustainable Fashion in Brazil series... SOURCE contributor Loula Mercedes speaks to Rafael Cervone, CEO of Texbrasil, part of the Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industry Association, about the development of the QUAL standard and steps being taken to reduce water, waste and energy consumption across the Brazilian fashion supply chain.

The fifth interview in a 6-part series on Sustainable Fashion in Brazil, SOURCE Contributor Loula Mercedes speaks with Rafael Cervone, the CEO of the Texbrasil program (Brazilian Fashion Industry Export Program) developed by ABIT (Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industry Association).

In this interview, Rafael Cervone sheds light on how the Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industry is working to reduce its environmental impact, including the development of the QUAL standard and steps being taken to reduce water, waste and energy consumption across the Brazilian fashion supply chain.

As part of research at the London College of Fashion, SOURCE Contributor Loula Mercedes conducted an in-depth feasibility report exploring the need to implement a new national certification body for sustainable fashion in Brazil. Loula gives SOURCE an exclusive look at the report…

1. How green and sustainable do you think Brazilian textile and garment production is right now?

Micro, small and medium enterprise sectors stand out in their sustainability initiatives, generating even lower costs and greater competitiveness. Already large companies have invested significant resources in this area – especially those producing denim garments, big quantities of garment manufacturing and finishing companies. These are aided through partnerships with innovation centers in Brazil and abroad.

Brazil has helped shape paths leading to a more sustainable and innovative industry, an industry that cares about future generations. Brazil has also excelled internationally in cleaner production processes.

2. How is ABIT working to reduce harmful chemicals across the supply chain in Brazil?

Brazil, has the highest biodiversity on the planet, in this regard, the Brazilian fashion industry stands strong working worldwide for a sustainable production, which represents a considerable portion of investments in more efficient and cleaner machinery, equipment, production processes and new fibres, including nano and biotechnologies.

ABIT participates in NICE (Nordic Initiative Clean & Ethical) and we’re also a signatory to the UN Global Compact and has had a strong interest in Rio +20.

Another initiative from ABIT to support the growth of sustainable measures for Brazilian textile companies, is the seal: QUAL. The project emerged as a certifier for manufacturing companies, which follow quality standards for environmental responsibility.

Initially granted only to producers of work wear and uniforms, certification now extends to all segments of the textiles and clothing production from Brazil.

What the certification seal assures to the market is:

• Products made in accordance with leading national and international technical standards are applicable to the sector.
• Demonstrate an ethical and socially responsible production;
• Increase the efficiency of processes;
• Improve the quality and boost competitiveness.

3. How is the Brazilian garment and textile industry addressing issues of water use, waste management and energy consumption?

The Brazilian textiles and apparel industries are continuously investing in water reuse processes, fabric dyeing with the use of foams instead of water, engines and machines with high efficiency, the use of natural day lighting and energy efficient lamps, and reusing heat from thermal energy machinery in other processes.

In the last five years Brazil has invested $2 billion in energy efficiency machinery and equipment.

Other data on the Brazilian Industry as a whole:

  • The country has 46% of renewable energy in its energy mix. The world average is 12% compared to only 6% in the EU and 3& in the UK.
  • 45% of the Brazilian manufacturing industry as a whole uses renewable energy sources.
  • 23% of Brazilian companies in several industry segments have obtained carbon credits.
  • 62% of Brazilian companies in several industry segments have targets to reduce water consumption.
  • Brazil has 250 environmental forums of discussion in government with the participation of business and society.

5. Can you name any Brazilian fashion related initiatives or companies that stand out for their sustainable and ethical performance?

In Bahia and Paraíba, there are companies that produce and use raw organic cotton and naturally coloured cotton in four shades that do not require chemical dyeing – developed by a company called Embrapa which is exploring how seeds can be enhanced naturally to create new colours, without harming the environment.

The denim industry is also working towards cleaner production processes and is now investing in the development of a fibre made from sugar cane.

Other highlights include the effort of companies working for social development – with the inclusion of inmates as part of their labour team and the work of brands who produce leather in Piracucu.

6. What can the government do to improve sustainability in the Brazilian textiles and apparel industry?

Basically, credit incentives for entrepreneurs to invest in cleaner technologies, in both research and deployment projects.

Another way would be an incentive to buy tax differentiation waste. Today, for example, buying retailed recycled materials is more expensive than if you had bought new raw material.

These are two fronts that ABIT is working with the government to improve sustainability throughout the chain.

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