Scott Campbell, chairman of the Industrial Fabrics Association International and owner of Rainier Industries in Tukwila, Wash., discusses issues facing the textile industry in its movement toward sustainable practices.
How much can textile suppliers and manufacturers realistically embrace sustainable practices in this economy?
Defining “green” is a challenge because there are no standards. Everyone can make strides—little steps add up quickly. Start with getting serious about reducing waste and increasing recycling. The industry has a chal-lenge in that such a high percentage of our textile products are PVC-based.
How does the global economy hamper green initiatives?
I was in China last year and it was eye-opening to see the pollution and the lack of regulation and compliance required. It makes it more difficult for other countries to be competitive while having to meet higher standards.
Where will the industry be in two to five years?
The escalation of petroleum costs is driving a lot of progress, encouraging people to reduce their energy consumption. Fuel costs are up and the residual effects of petroleum costs are going up because we have a lot of fabrics that are PVC-based. It is forcing us to look at ways to reduce our heating, travel and electrical costs. I believe a great deal of progress will be made in the next few years, and I am delighted to see that progress gaining traction.
How is your company being more environmentally sensitive?
We have a full-blown sustainability initiative; it is core to our business model, to who we are and what we believe in. We’re reducing waste and energy consumption, increasing recycling, utilizing more green materials, encouraging employee involvement at work and at home, and minimizing hazardous wastes. We reduced our garbage by 40 percent over the last six months. We are doing a lot and are very proud of the progress we’ve made.
How does your company balance sustainability practices with economic concerns?
At Rainier, sustainability marries two important themes: environmental sensitivity does not preclude economic success, and economic success must be ecologically viable now and in the long run.