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Written by Owain JonesMBA in Sustainability student at University of Saint Francis

Since sustainability initiatives are beginning to become very common, almost all industries are trying to figure how or what they can do. With this comes the rise in other businesses designed to help those attain their sustainability goals and New Leaf is one of them. It is a great opportunity for businesses to be able to have access to experts who they would otherwise have to hire or train, which can prove to be time consuming and more expensive than consulting firms. However, there has been an increase in large companies specifically hiring sustainability personnel because they feel it is worth their while and sustainability is not just a fad, it is important and here to stay. But when a company needs to dramatically overhaul their product line to become more sustainable, an outside organization can prove to be an easy route. For the textile industry, Bluesign is just that organization.

Copyright Bluesign Technologies AG

Copyright Bluesign Technologies AG

A Swiss scientist, Dr. Peter Waeber, began to develop sustainable products in the 1980s, with a project for the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) to create a “green” cotton. Throughout the development of this and the introduction of sustainable dyes, finally Dr. Waeber was able to develop an optimized supply chain for the textile industry that was able to perform through the founding of Bluesign Technologies AG in 2000. The supply chain that Dr. Waeber developed to assist textile companies in their sustainability is called the Bluesign Standard. This standard is able to create a sustainable and environmentally friendly cradle to the grave supply chain for textile products, from the material used to the chemicals and water involved in the product process. This gives companies a specific criteria and break down of how the sustainable supply chain works, making it very easy for any textile company to implement.

Since the Bluesign Standard is so comprehensive and integration is relatively simple, many major companies have implemented it. The North Face, the large outdoor clothing company, has incorporated the Bluesign Standard to create some extraordinary sustainability achievements. This includes saving over 3,000 tons of solvents, 56 million gallons of water, and 8.6 million pounds of CO2 in about a year. The North Face’s Journey to Sustainability with Bluesign can be seen here:

 

Other large companies such as Patagonia and REI have partnered with Bluesign, along with many other smaller European clothing companies. However, one of the biggest Bluesign players is a company that has been somewhat controversial in its supply chain over the years, due to the young labor used in Asia.

Nike, Inc. has been a strategic partner with Dr. Waeber since the early beginnings of his search for a sustainable textile product. But due to the sheer size of Nike’s gigantic supply chain, over 800 factories, the Bluesign Standard was not exactly feasible due to the time and effort needed to go through it all. Thus, Nike and Bluesign have recently created a strategic partnership to use all of Bluesign’s technologies to suit Nike’s large supply chain. This created the Bluesign Bluefinder and Blueguide. These tools will give the broad array of Nike suppliers easy access to lists of available sustainable chemicals and dyes used in the textile preparation process, while giving the opening to decrease water and energy usage as well. Nike has identified that the materials used is over 60% of the environmental impact of a pair of sneakers.

With this new Bluesign partnership, hopefully it will be able to give other very large textile companies that were wary of the Bluesign Standard, unable to fit their supply chain, a chance to reconsider. What Dr. Waeber has done is create one of the most complete sustainability programs, completely from the cradle to the grave, which covers every aspect of how a textile product may affect the environment. In the future, it may be something to consider that Bluesign should be the standard for every textile manufacturer.

Resources

Bluesign Technologies AG

The North Face: Expedition Sustainability

Nike Partners with Bluesign Technologies to Scale Sustainable Textiles (Nike, Inc.)

Nike Boosts Sustainability of Textiles with New Swiss Partner (Bloomberg)

Bluesign YouTube Channel