Green Production in Vietnam’s Textile Industry: Progress Report
Many textile enterprises are moving toward green production processes due to increasing consumer awareness in key export markets. In this article, we will run through how firms are adapting to this trend.
International markets generally, but the European market in particular, have developed standards for imported textiles and apparel that have forced local manufacturers to change the way they do business.
Specifically, in order to export to the EU, Vietnamese textile firms have to meet standards around product safety, and human and environmental impacts in their supply chains.
This has forced Vietnamese firms to take action and adapt.
In this article, we delve deeper into the current state of the Vietnamese textile industry with respect to its environmental impact, some of the key certifications governing apparel production, and the future outlook for the textile and apparel industry.
Driving the textile sector’s green production transition
According to the General Statistics Office, in the first four months of 2023, textile and apparel exports amounted to just US$9.5 billion – a 19.3 percent decline over the same period in the previous year.
This can largely be attributed to the challenges brought about by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has led to a slowdown in the global economy and rising inflation among Vietnam’s major trading partners.
This decline, however, has been somewhat transformative for the garment and textile sector.
Businesses have changed swiftly as a result of the economic challenges. In order to adapt to the shift from highly specialized production to competitive, small-order items, businesses have reorganized their production lines, the technology they use, and their business models more broadly, Vu Duc Giang, the Chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association, told a conference on the digitalization and greening of textile production, in June.
Furthermore, green production has become increasingly important in addition to the rising demand for durable and long-lasting goods. Several important export destinations for Vietnamese textiles and apparel, including the US, the EU, Japan, and South Korea, have laws governing environmentally responsible manufacturing practices. Moreover, higher standards for product quality are embedded in many of the trade agreements Vietnam is party to.
This is all driving a push in Vietnam towards more environmentally friendly textile production.
Green production trends in Vietnam
Hansae Group (Korea) and Hanoi Textile and Garment Joint Stock Corporation (Hanosimex) recently teamed up to make recycled textiles in Vietnam. The two parties will put into action a proposal to make recycled fibers into yarn and fabric and all items produced by the Hanosimex plant will be for export. It is anticipated that demand for recycled fabric from the EU will eventually reach 4,000 tons.
To assure customers that fabrics meet specific recycled content and production requirements, firms often obtain certifications, such as the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or Recycled Claim Standard (RCS). This provides transparency and credibility for the recycled fabrics produced.
The textile industry is energy-intensive, but solar energy can provide a clean and cost-effective means of lowering carbon emissions. Vietnam’s abundant sunlight makes it an ideal location for solar installations.
According to Vietnam Electricity, in 2021, Vietnam was placed eighth among the top 10 nations in terms of installed solar capacity with 16,504MW of installed solar capacity. At the time, this accounted for 2.3 percent of the world’s total installed solar capacity.
Recently, the 100 percent Danish-owned Specter garment factory, was completed in An Giang at a cost of US$17 million. The factory was constructed in compliance with the highest environmental standards, and it was subsequently awarded the LEED gold certification for design excellence in energy and environmental management. The factory, in order to cut emissions by around 1,600 tons of CO2 annually, will be fueled in part by solar energy.
The textile industry often uses large volumes of water and chemicals during the production process. This creates wastewater containing pollutants from dyes and additives.
These can, however, be removed using the right technology and techniques. For example:
- Firms can use chemical agents to neutralize or oxidize hazardous compounds in wastewater; or
- Microorganisms can be utilized to break down organic materials in wastewater.
These processes are becoming more and more common in the manufacture of garments and apparel in Vietnam.
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Sourcing raw, green materials
Sourcing green materials in the textile industry is essential for environmental conservation, reducing chemical usage, and conserving resources.
Currently, many textile firms in Vietnam use green materials in their production. Some companies have established their own centers for research and business development in order to ensure they are producing environmentally friendly fashion products.
Some material suppliers, such as Faslink, are investing extensively in R&D and introducing a variety of green textiles made from lotus, coffee, mint, and bamboo. These fabrics can often have a much lower environmental impact than traditional textiles.
There are several certifications that firms may need to assure their customers that their products are environmentally friendly. While the list of certifications available is extensive, there are two key names that often come up.
Bluesign regulations and standards promote sustainable, ecologically friendly, and secure production by assisting in the early elimination of hazardous compounds. The system focuses on managing input streams, including chemicals, materials, and processes, to minimize their impact on the environment, workers, and consumers.
Nordic Swan Ecolabel
Nordic Swan Ecolabel has some very stringent requirements for textile manufacturers. These include:
- Designed for recycling: To ensure that textiles are designed to be recycled, there are strict requirements on unwanted chemicals as well as prohibiting the use of plastic parts and metal for decorative purposes.
- No burning of unsold clothing: To avoid overproduction, the Nordic Swan Ecolabel prohibits burning or burying unsold clothing.
- Labeling requirements for natural and synthetic fibers: Textile yarn must be organic, recycled, or bio-based. Also, cotton used in the garment must not be made from genetically modified products and must be 100 percent organic or recycled.
The outlook for green textile production in Vietnam
The garment and textile sector is a key pillar of Vietnam’s economic transformation, but it does face some modern challenges as the global economy experiences a downturn and consumers opt for sustainable alternatives. Whereas this may negatively affect bottom lines in the short term, the shift toward more environmentally friendly production will both meet export market regulatory requirements and boost Vietnam’s climate action capabilities.
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