TEX 2020 Investing in health: a conference on the future of textiles.

TEX 2020 was held on 15 and 16 November in Busto Arsizio, Italy. The future of textiles, the main theme of the two-day event, was explored through in-depth study sessions and discussions that saw the participation of companies, universities, students, institutions and consumers.

The first day – dedicated to textiles, sustainability and health – featured a special one-day seminar, “A case for sustainable textiles: safeguarding health and the environment”, promoted by Associazione Italiana di Chimica Tessile e Coloristica (AICTC) [The Italian Association of Textile Chemists and Colourists]. RadiciGroup contributed with a presentation.

The AICTC organized the seminar in order to clarify the compulsory regulations on safety-related matters set forth in applicable European laws and to discuss the findings reported in Greenpeace's Detox Campaign Report, with particular emphasis on some critical technical aspects. In an official statement, the AICTC drew attention to the truly paradoxical situation in today’s textile industry, i.e., the great “asymmetry” in the way the textile industry currently operates around the world. On the one hand are the stringent requirements set by the EU for textile operators doing business in Europe, who have to comply with all the regulations on the environment, occupational health and safety and consumer protection, as well follow a corporate ethics code. On the other hand are the decidedly less stringent regulations and standards outside Europe, particularly in Asia. And that is not all. Controls on textile imports are scarce, even completely non-existent at times. And here lies the irony: the asymmetric operating conditions, coupled with the lack of import controls and the absence of reciprocity in rules governing the entry of products into the market create a scenario in which the health of Italian and other European textile consumers is not protected, the environment is not safeguarded and the need for worker protection in non-EU countries is ignored. “Safety is a central issue,” Filippo Servalli, marketing manager of RadiciGroup, said at the seminar. “It’s an issue that no industry, regardless of the specific sector, can ignore. For the chemical sector, responsibility and commitment on the broad environmental sustainability front truly become issues of primary importance. This is because our industry plays a central role in inventing new ways for producing and recycling, developing new materials that are sustainable and coming up with new ideas concerning environmental protection and conservation. We need to detail and clarify the issues fully.”

“It is also necessary to find tangible and believable ways to motivate the market to choose green products,” Mr. Servalli continued. ”Taking our Group as an example, it is of crucial importance for us to ensure sustainability and safety without compromising product performance, and, in some cases, even to provide enhanced performance. The key element of our policy for all production areas, from chemicals to plastics and synthetic fibres, is systematic and rigorous measurement of the environmental and economic performance indicators, as well as performance indicators on human rights, labour practices and decent work, society and product responsibility.”

Interesting food for thought was provided by Aurora Magni, president of Blumine/Sustainability-Lab, in her talk. “A company’s credibility is a factor that, together with the products manufactured and services provided, contributes to creating economic value. And in recent years, credibility in matters of social and environmental responsibility is also being measured, so much so that it has become one of the aspects assessed by rating agencies seeking to reassure investors. Losing credibility is very dangerous business.” On this subject, Ms. Magni spoke of the events that took place in Savar, near Dacca in Bangladesh, on 24 April, when the Rana Plaza building, housing a number of stores and textile factories, collapsed causing a death toll of over 1,000 textile workers. “In the months that followed,” Ms. Magni noted, “news and commentaries kept us constantly informed about how the brand-name companies that had delocalized their production to companies housed in that building handled the situation. Some of them denied responsibility, while others accepted it and indemnified the victims. And everything was recorded on the Web. The conduct of those companies in that situation gave consumers insight into the companies and their values. Responsible supply chain management. This is the commitment that we, the consumers, must demand of global brand-name companies.”

The second day of TEX 2020 was devoted to the seminar "Dress Care Ecohabitus", for young textile consumers. It was the closing event of DressCare, a year-long project involving boys and girls from schools in Varese and Bari, which aimed to educate young people to become more critical and sustainability-oriented consumers of textile products.