Sustainable Textiles, our approach to ‘strengthening the Green Eco-system’

Nadir Hussein Varanasi.jpg

This week we’ve launched a programme briefing on our ‘Sustainable Textiles’ programme in India.  The ‘briefing’ summarises our work in the sector stretching back to 2008.  It aims to document the approaches we’ve used, the impact achieved and what we’ve learnt along the way.  Have a read of the document for more detail – we’ve tried to keep it succinct and accessible, with plenty of illustrations and a few diagrams.

Here’s a quick taste of the chapter about ‘approaches’ to whet your appetite…

Traidcraft Exchange’s Sustainable Textiles programme supports the development of eco-friendly textiles businesses. Building the collective power of artisans and craft-workers is at the heart of the approach.  The programme also aims to improve production practices and business viability, strengthen links with markets, and develop resilience.  At the same time, the programme works more broadly across the sector to cultivate an enabling environment which supports eco-friendly textiles businesses to thrive: in TX parlance, “strengthening the green ecosystem”.

But what do these things mean in practical terms?

bird eye view of the park.jpg

Facilitating partnerships for infrastructure development
The Jaipur Integrated Textile Park in Bagru is an example of a public-private partnership supported by the programme. It was constructed under the Government of India’s ‘Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks’ and is shared by around 17 textiles SMEs (members of COTEX – Consortium of Textile Exporters). COTEX acquired the land for the park, the government financed the construction of the park, and the first phase of the Traidcraft Exchange Sustainable Textiles programme part-financed the construction of the park’s Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP). The CETP is a complex series of tanks, filters, and chemical processes that recycles and treats the wastewater produced by businesses based in the park. It achieves zero liquid discharge and enables 85% of the water needed by businesses for their textile production to be drawn from water recycled by the system, reducing the pressure on local water sources by 470,000 litres per day.

In addition, and again through partnerships with government, the programme has established five Secondary Effluent Treatment Plants (SETPs) in craft clusters in Rajasthan and neighbouring Gujarat, with local SMEs contributing towards set-up costs.  By recycling water used by local artisans, each SETP saves thousands of litres of water a day and is estimated to save local businesses around €191 per day. Over 1,680 MSMEs benefit from these, representing more than 8,400 artisans.

Advocating for policy support

The programme has raised the profile of occupational health and safety (OHS) issues in the handcrafted textiles sector with key policy-makers within national and state governments. Reports and policy briefs have been submitted to various key committees, and state-level consultation workshops held to bring together industry experts, businesses, civil servants and elected representatives.   As a result of advocacy work undertaken in the programme’s first phase, OHS issues within the handcrafted textiles sector were raised with the national government’s Planning Commission – the body responsible for setting the agenda for five year plans. And in response, India’s 12th Five Year Plan, which ran from 2012 to 2017, included key standards for OHS for the sector: prior to the programme there had been little to no national policy in place for OHS provision.

Demonstration of new models of working

The Jaipur Integrated Textile Park in Bagru is now a flagship example of sustainable textile production, visited by industry stakeholders from across India.   Visitors come to learn about the Effluent Treatment technology and its benefits.  In addition, the highly regarded training on block-printing which is offered at the park attracts textiles professionals who come to see it in action and then utilise the module in their networks.

Jaipur Printing Workshop.jpg

Dissemination of practical resources

The programme seeks to extend its impact beyond the core clusters where it has been most active.

Practically-orientated training resources have been disseminated to over 5,600 MSMEs across the country. These include a comprehensive ‘Toolkit of Sustainable Textiles Production’ which explains key topics, including: responsible water-use, safe use of chemicals, ETP technologies, OHS, sourcing sustainable raw materials, current government eco-initiatives. The information is illustrated with case studies, diagrams and checklists. It has been disseminated in clusters and Textiles Parks in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala, Manipur, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh. It is freely available online here.

Environmental sustainability is a core pillar of Traidcraft Exchange’s current strategy.  The Sustainable Textiles programme offers an example of how we are transforming this commitment into reality.  There’s a lot more detail in the full briefing, please have a read.

The Sustainable Textiles programme has been generously supported by project grants from the European Union’s Switch Asia Programme, the Department for International Development’s ‘Poorest Areas Civil Society’ programme, Textiles Recycling for Aid and International Development, as well as numerous Trusts and Foundations.  We would like to thank them all for making this work possible.

J McNaughton