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ICSTS dis­cusses mul­ti­stake­holder sec­toral ini­tia­tives and re­spon­si­ble sourc­ing

The two-day In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion on Sus­tain­able Trade & Stan­dards (ICSTS) was jointly or­gan­ised in Delhi by Qual­ity Coun­cil of In­dia and United Na­tions Fo­rum on Sus­tain­abil­ity Stan­dards (UNFSS). The event, be­sides de­bat­ing on key is­sues on sus­tain­able prac­tices, also wit­nessed the launch of the UNFSS’s 3rd Flag­ship Re­port: Vol­un­tary Sus­tain­abil­ity Stan­dards (VSS), trade and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, which in­sisted on the use of eco­la­bels. There were ses­sions on var­i­ous top­ics cov­er­ing a wide range of con­cerns with re­gard to many in­dus­tries.

From the tex­tile and ap­parel sec­tor, there were rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Ikea, GOTS, Arm­strong Spin­ning Mills, Fair­Trade Foun­da­tion, Tex­tiles Com­mit­tee and EPCH, to name a few. In­ter­est­ingly, the ses­sion touched many as­pects of sus­tain­abil­ity and stan­dards re­gard­ing In­dian ap­parel in­dus­try.

With fo­cus on tex­tile and ap­parel sec­tor, the event had an ex­clu­sive ses­sion on ‘Strength­en­ing multi-stake­holder sec­toral ini­tia­tives and re­spon­si­ble sourc­ing de­ci­sions in tex­tiles value chains’ in which speak­ers from dif­fer­ent back­grounds ex­pressed their views. It was in­ter­est­ing, as speak­ers reaf­firmed that not only were the ex­porters con­cerned about sus­tain­abil­ity, but now even in the In­dian do­mes­tic mar­ket, the con­sumers are be­com­ing more aware and are ask­ing about sus­tain­able as­pects. Talk­ing in length on the same,

Su­mit Gupta, Deputy Di­rec­tor, Stan­dards De­vel­op­ment & QA, Global Or­ganic Tex­tile Stan­dard (GOTS) shared, “In­dian con­sumers are also com­ing up with a de­mand for such cer­ti­fied prod­ucts. Some of the com­pa­nies pro­duc­ing for In­dian do­mes­tic con­sump­tion are now adopt­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions which were ear­lier mainly re­quired from an ex­port per­spec­tive only.” He fur­ther added that GOTS is a truly multi-stake­holder stan­dard as it is as­so­ci­ated with nearly 40 in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions that con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment and re­vi­sion of the stan­dard (GOTS). GOTS ac­knowl­edges the work done by other stan­dards. Avail­able au­dit re­ports from ac­cepted stan­dards are con­sid­ered dur­ing GOTS au­dits. In In­dia, out of the to­tal nearly 1800 GOTS-cer­ti­fied fa­cil­i­ties, a ma­jor­ity of them are MSME.

Var­i­ous speak­ers were of the opin­ion that ca­pac­ity build­ing is very much re­quired for MSMEs re­gard­ing sus­tain­able ini­tia­tives as MSMEs are the back­bone of the tex­tile and ap­parel sec­tor. TK Rout, Deputy Di­rec­tor, Mar­ket Re­search, Tex­tiles Com­mit­tee in­sisted that the MSME sec­tor’s growth should not be ham­pered only due to lack of re­sources and miss­ing know-how. “Cost of com­pli­ance is some­where around 6 to 7 per cent of the turnover of a com­pany which is quite high, so ca­pac­ity build­ing is a col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he said and ex­plained how the ef­forts of the Tex­tiles Com­mit­tee is to­wards im­prov­ing not only the qual­ity of In­dian prod­ucts but also adopt­ing sus­tain­able ap­proach to man­u­fac­tur­ing. “Cot­ton con­tam­i­na­tion is still an is­sue for In­dia and Tex­tiles Com­mit­tee is as­so­ci­ated with a good num­ber of Gin­ning and Press­ing units, to im­prove the over­all con­di­tion of cot­ton by star rat­ing sys­tem,” he added.

Su­bindu Garkhel, Cot­ton and Tex­tiles Lead, Fair Trade Foun­da­tion, high­lighted that cot­ton

farm­ers need more at­ten­tion and sup­port from the tex­tile in­dus­try. “Cot­ton farm­ers are not get­ting their de­serv­ing space in the tex­tile sup­ply chain. Some­one has to pay the price, be it cus­tomer, farmer, any other stake­holder in the sup­ply chain or na­ture,” she said.

Test­ing and in­spec­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions were also part of the dis­cus­sions and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives touched upon many as­pects, like Cha­ran Singh, VP and Re­gional Di­rec­tor – Soft­lines, TÜV Rhein­land stressed that as the in­dus­try is evolv­ing, proper chem­i­cal man­age­ment is the key at this mo­ment. Even In­dian cus­tomers are in­sist­ing on azo-free prod­ucts. Though a lot of work has been done in this area in the re­cent years, but there is a need to do more in the same di­rec­tion. Sarath Chan­dran, Di­rec­tor, RSJ In­spec­tion Ser­vice fo­cused on mul­ti­stake­holder ap­proach and shared his bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence of how he tried to be as­so­ci­ated with four or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing in the sus­tain­able zone, but could not suc­ceed as their ap­proach was not sup­port­ive of col­lab­o­ra­tion.

San­jee­van Ba­jaj, Ad­vi­sor, Fed­er­a­tion of In­dian Cham­bers of Com­merce and In­dus­try (FICCI) drew at­ten­tion to the fact that ma­rine lit­ter is the emerg­ing chal­lenge for the world and in­creased use of syn­thet­icbase fi­bre is also one of the rea­sons for the same. She also ap­pre­ci­ated the ef­forts of south­ern In­dian States es­pe­cially Tamil Nadu for the use of nat­u­ral en­ergy. Mod­er­a­tor of the ses­sion, Rene Van Berkel, UNIDO Rep­re­sen­ta­tive In­dia con­cluded the dis­cus­sion by ap­pre­ci­at­ing the chang­ing dy­nam­ics of In­dian tex­tile in­dus­try and de­clared that not only does the in­dus­try seem quite aware of sus­tain­able is­sues, but ini­tia­tives are also gain­ing mo­men­tum, be it for sus­tain­abil­ity stan­dards or improve­ment ar­eas within the sus­tain­abil­ity con­cept.

(L-R) – TK Rout, Deputy Di­rec­tor, Mar­ket Re­search, Tex­tiles Com­mit­tee; Su­bindu Garkhel, Cot­ton and Tex­tiles Lead, Fair Trade Foun­da­tion; Su­mit Gupta, Deputy Di­rec­tor, Stan­dards De­vel­op­ment & QA, GOTS; Rene Van Berkel, UNIDO Rep­re­sen­ta­tive In­dia; San­jee­van Ba­jaj, Ad­vi­sor, FICCI; Sarath Chan­dran Di­rec­tor RSJ In­spec­tion Ser­vice; and Cha­ran Singh, VP and Re­gional Di­rec­tor – Soft­lines, TÜV Rhein­land

Snigdha Pra­manik, Deputy Sus­tain­abil­ity Man­ager,Ikea In­dia shared that Ikea is very par­tic­u­lar re­gard­ing sus­tain­abil­ity. “We have zero tol­er­ance as far as rules, reg­u­la­tions, and stan­dards are con­cerned. We are pro­mot­ing so­cial en­trepreneur­ship in eco­nom­i­cally weaker sec­tions, es­pe­cially for the women and sup­port­ing ef­forts to in­te­grate them into our sup­ply chain,” she added.

Some of the tex­tile and ap­parel com­pa­nies’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives also par­tic­i­pated in the event. A. Narayanasamy, GM (Tech), Arm­strong Spin­ning Mills raised the ques­tion about Tex­tiles Com­mit­tee’s pa­ram­e­ters re­gard­ing the star sys­tem of gin­ning and press­ing fac­to­ries.

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