Lot of foreign investment continues to pour into Vietnam’s apparel and textile sector. And why not! The country has always been known for its skilled and educated workforce, good infrastructure and stable governance, and now one can add ‘business sustainability’ also to the list. Lately, Vietnam’s apparel and textile industry has been capturing global attention owing to its efforts to promote ‘business sustainability’.
Every garment hub, for that matter, today talks about sustainability programmes or circular economy, but Vietnam is one of those few that has been putting serious efforts to translate the growing awareness about sustainability into action.
Hanoi, which despite being a political capital, has quite often been overshadowed by the more glamorous and happening Ho Chi Minh City on all fronts. And, it’s the same story when it comes to initiating sustainable programmes. There are sustainable efforts, though Hanoi, in particular, hasn’t been able to leave as much mark as some other cities in Vietnam have been able to – or maybe it never could project it better.
Earlier this year, a sustainable fashion show themed ‘Walk the Talk’ was held in Hanoi. Attended by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his counterpart from the Netherlands Mark Rutte, the event was a resounding success. The show was organised by Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) and here one mustn’t forget to mention the efforts of FWF in promoting sustainable practices in Vietnam.
Similarly, the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had come together to promote eco-friendliness in Vietnam’s garment and textile industry in Hanoi in May 2019. The three-year project (2018-2020) focused on improving water management and energy sustainability. Hanoi definitely can take the credit for organising an event of this repute. But there’s more to be done!
In a networking event that was held in the city on 11 October 2019, Le Hong Thang, Director, Department of Industry and Trade, vehemently urged the garment makers of Hanoi that the only way to stand up to the threat of environmental pollution caused by the fashion and apparel sector in the country is to commit towards eco-friendly apparel production. ‘Go green’ is the buzzword! This is also a way for local enterprises to increase their competitiveness in domestic and international markets.
There is no denying that the apparel and textile sector has been hugely responsible for environmental pollution with maximum use of water and energy in addition to excessive discharge of toxic chemicals.
So what’s the solution!
“Come forward, go green and pioneer sustainability in the apparel and textile industry,” said Thang to all the apparel manufacturers of the city. And it’s not ending with mere sustainable fashion shows or networking events, results are slowly getting visible.
It indeed is! Take M2 Clothing Chain, based in Hanoi, which has already started focusing on eco-friendly production. Nguyen Hai Duong, CEO, M2 Clothing Chain said, “We introduced products with less harmful materials and adopted recycled packaging. Though such things cost more, our customers are happier with their purchases.” And customer delight is what ultimately every firm finally aspires for! Isn’t it?
M2 clothing chain, serving the customers for last 18 years, has been a success story in Hanoi and the firm is now keen to expand beyond Hanoi! It believes Hanoi can stand as a perfect example to spread its sustainable business strategies in other cities of Vietnam.
Nguyen Quoc Trung, who has been exporting bamboo products to Germany for last 15 years, sells hessian jute bags that can be used for shopping instead of plastic bags. “With more environmental awareness, customers are paying more for eco-friendly products. We see a big local market and we are not going to miss out,” said Trung.
The sustainable awareness is surging among garment and textile makers of the city, but more importantly the awareness is getting transformed into action. And it is here one realises how significant Thang’s contribution has been to Hanoi. His department has been constantly motivating suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and local consumers to help ‘go green’ and ensure the sustainable development of the industry.
Consumer awareness is also increasing at a good pace. It is still difficult to initiate sustainable practices, but it is easy to buy an eco-friendly product. Just recently, hundreds of residents near Hanoi had staged a 5-month-long protest at the Pacific Crystal Textiles mill, a joint venture between Hong Kong-based apparel makers Pacific Textiles and Crystal Group.
The reason for the protest was that the residents were finding it difficult to stay owing to foul smells and they accused the renowned factory of polluting local waters with effluent discharges. They demanded that the firm adopt more environment-friendly standards. Their action had then caught the attention of political and media bigwigs.
According to Trinh Quoc Vu, Deputy Head of Energy Saving, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, with some 6,000 factories employing more than 3 million people, the industry is both economically and socially important for the country. However, the sector has an adverse environmental impact. Intensive water extraction, use and discharge of wastewater and high energy consumption for water heating and steam generation are all environmental concerns.
‘Business sustainability’ is the word the industry is talking about these days and the apparel and textile firms of Hanoi need to not only initiate sustainability measures, but also ensure these measures are translated into action soon in order to stay globally competitive. That’s the only way Hanoi’s garment and textile industry can leave its mark and that’s the only answer to Vietnam staying on as one of the favourite apparel destinations in the world – as former US Secretary of State Colin Powell had once said, ‘None of us can change our yesterdays, but all of us can change our tomorrows’.