DUBAI: Inside the multi-purpose room of the Pakistan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, thought leaders often sit down to contemplate matters of local and global concern. This Sunday, leading names in textile came together in a phygital – a mixture of physical and digital – format to talk about the ecological opportunities and milestones of the country’s largest manufacturing industry.
The talks were held as part of the collaboration between the Pakistan Pavilion and research-based entity Pakistan Textile Council.
“We’ve brought in panelists and speakers to discuss different topics, including sustainability in the textile sector and empowerment of women in the industry,” Rizwan Tariq, Director Pakistan Pavilion and Director General at the Trade and Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) told Business Recorder. “We’ll continue to collaborate with the Council in the upcoming months to discuss different topics and engage with our key stakeholders, such as the European Union, among other partners and buyers. The idea is to push our narrative and expand the market,” he adds.
Titled ‘Leading Sustainable Development: Pakistan Textile and Apparel Sector’, the session was moderated by Saleha Asif, CEO of Pakistan Textile Council, with panelists Aamir Chottani, Director of Chottani Industries; Kehkeshan Usman, Sustainability Head of MG Apparel; Faryal Sadiq, Vice President of Marketing at Interloop; Shahid Hasan, Head of Marketing at Mustaqim Dyeing and Printing Industries; and Talha Khan, Executive Director at Pakistan Environment Trust (PET).
“It is part of our mission to help shape a path of sustainable growth in Pakistan’s textile and apparel sector,” Saleha Asif said about the Pakistan Textile Council. She shared that Pakistan is one of the most climate-vulnerable locations in the growingly consumptive world, and produces 1.3 billion tons of trash each year, which is roughly equivalent to 1.5 times the average weight of a human being. “On average, each of us contributes 1.5 times our weight in garbage every year. And carbon emissions are choking the air that we breathe. These are incredibly sobering statistics, but I promise you that we’ll set a tone of hope and commitment to action and impact during our session,” she stated.
Faryal Sadiq, VP at Interloop, one of the largest manufacturers of socks in the world with the production of 700 million pairs every year, highlighted that people’s livelihood in Pakistan and around the world is deeply associated with the apparel industry. “If you look at the industry globally, it houses close to 70-75 million employees. At Interloop alone, we have a workforce of 30,000 people and that impacts 150,000 individuals. People and community wellbeing are important to how we operate,” she commented.
Offering generous engagement with one of Expo 2020’s biggest sub-themes, ‘Sustainability’, the panelists discussed the industry’s concrete shift in perception that nods to preserving resources and upcycling – the process of using unwanted materials to create pieces with greater environmental value.
“Sustainability isn’t a buzzword anymore,” stated Aamir Chottani of Chottani Industries. “It’s not just confined to conversations in corporate boardrooms anymore. The good thing is that by the time second and third generations begin managing a family business, they’re fully aware of the need for green and CSR initiatives.”
Shahid Hasan was representing Mustaqim, the only company to have won IKEA’s affordable sustainability award globally this year. “We use recycled polyester, which is created by recycling plastic waste from bottles. This helps reduce the production of plastic and carbon emissions. Just recently, we’ve begun shredding cotton bedsheets into yarn,” he explained.
Hasan shared that the organisation has successfully created 24 single yarns so far, using 80 per cent virgin cotton and 20 per cent recycled bedsheets. “Cotton is the thirstiest crop in the world. Around 17,000 litres of water are used to grow only 1kg of cotton and that land can be better used to grow staple foods,” he said, adding that the company is also using recycled paper for packaging, which is key to preventing deforestation and achieving a greener, more ecological biosphere.
The panelists also discussed the importance of integrating sustainability and CSR initiatives for a more well-rounded approach to social welfare. Chottani noted, “Ours is the first company in Karachi to work closely with the city government on their programme for Urban Forestation through Miyawaki plantation. We’ve also collaborated with NED University’s Department of Environmental Engineering to design a smart project with the Miyawaki method.”
He added that the organisation has also contributed to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) mangrove plantation projects.
Kehkeshan Usman of MG Apparel added, “We’re also collaborating with multiple organisations like WWF so that the suburbs of the region can be uplifted with renewable energy and clean water.”
Usman also commented on the ‘eco-wakening’ of many consumers, who are becoming more aware of what they’re buying and holding brands accountable for how they respond to the environment. “Many buyers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. They’re more conscious and want to learn about brand practices.”
Meanwhile, Asif highlighted that textile is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, and the industry needs to collectively prioritise sustainability. “If not us, who? And if not now, when?”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021