Textiles: go green or go home

October 06, 2022 - 08:34
The move is part of Việt Nam's efforts to embrace green transition and fulfil its ambitious COP26 commitments.
Secretary General of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association Trương Văn Cẩm. Photo nguoiduatin.vn

The Prime Minister recently approved the Goods Import and Export Strategy to 2030, highlighting the path towards incorporating green commerce, fair trade, environment protection, biodiversity and climate change adaptability into trade.

The move is part of Việt Nam's efforts to embrace green transition and fulfil its ambitious COP26 commitments.

Are Vietnamese textiles ready to follow this path and what are the challenges ahead? Secretary General of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association Trương Văn Cẩm speaks to Vietnam News Agency about the topic.

What do you think about the 'going green' process in Vietnamese textiles?

Green development is integral to sustainable development, and textiles have put 'going green' on its agenda.

The Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association established Sustainable Development Committee in 2017 and has taken various actions to change textile firms.

They got results; many firms have begun to go green by replacing coal-powered and oil-powered steam boilers with electric ones, engaging in water treatment and water reuse, and installing solar panels.

To enter its markets, Vietnamese exports must meet stringent EU standards, including environmental and recycling standards. How does 'going green' impact textile exports in this regard?

Not only would 'going green' contribute to implementing the national green development strategy, but also help firms meet the strict requirements of major textile importers.

The European Union (EU) has published its sustainable and circular textiles strategy, which requires eco-design and sustainable production and consumption.

That means fast-moving-consumer products will be replaced by sustainable ones, which are recyclable and reusable to reduce environmental impacts.

Higher bars also require higher firms' responsibility for the environment, society, employees and consumers. Firms need the flexibility to be adaptable to such rapidly-changing standards.

Noncompliant firms will find it more difficult to export their products to the markets. So they must act quickly to hold ground, especially in the US and the EU.

What are the 'going green' process setbacks in Vietnamese textiles?

Three issues are holding back textiles from going green.

First, not all textile firms are fully aware of 'going green' or are well-prepared for the green transition.

Second, 'going green' requires significant funding, which is possible only for firms with a strong financial position. Unfortunately, most textile firms are small- and medium-sized.

Third, human capital is essential to 'going green' and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, textile firms are still not up to standards in this regard.

'Going green' requires significant investments in equipment and the use of recycled materials and "clean" materials as input. However, the notions are new in Việt Nam, and little attention has been paid to them. What do you think about this situation?

Input materials are a significant issue for Việt Nam as the country has to import a large volume of them to feed production.

Regarding imported materials, firms need to ensure they are 'clean' and traceable and know how to use them. Cleanness and traceability are what they should always be mindful of.

Regarding domestically-produced materials, firms need to make sure the materials are recyclable. They should also bear in mind that recyclability requires huge investments.

Recently, some firms have begun to shift their focus to environment-friendly materials, including coffee-ground fibres and seashell-derived fibres, to go green. However, their production scale is still low, and they need more money for expansion.

Input materials are the weak spot of fast-growing textiles. The industry needs more favourable governmental policies to improve its competitive position in the international market. The policies should include export support funds, financial assistance, and a grand plan for its development. — VNS