Despite the economic downturn in 2009, with operating and travel budgets slashed, nearly 200 delegates from 15 countries attended the RITE (Reducing the Impact of Textiles on the Environment) Group conference on sustainable texiles and clothing held in London in October.
The founding members of the RITE group, an industry association, are Marks & Spencer, University of Leeds, and Ecotextile News. The group’s mission: to develop and provide advice and fact-based information to reduce/minimise the negative environmental effects of the production, use and disposal of textiles, and to support the sustainable and ethical production of textiles and apparel throughout the global supply chain.
“The RITE Group emerged from the textile industry itself,” noted Phil Patterson, RITE Group chairman, “since there was a need for an all-encompassing approach to sustainability and eco-textiles. The aims and objectives of RITE were immediately backed by leading retailers, and since then RITE has become known for its broad-based and holistic approach to improving the impact of textiles production on the environment.”
The London conference reflected the group’s broad appeal, with speakers from cotton and wool producers and major international retailers discussing resource utilization, oil price volatility and alternatives to petroleum-based products.
Guido Verijke, in charge of textile sourcing at IKEA, discussed how the Swedish company is now heavily involved in the Better Cotton Initiative: at one project in Pakistan, farmers were able to produce the same amount of cotton but reduced pesticide use by 50 percent, water use by 50 percent and chemical fertilizers by 30 percent. “At the same time, farmers’ gross margins have risen by 42 percent,” he said.
Working groups based on three RITE Group breakout sessions on sustainable fibers, dyeing and finishing and green design are now in the process of being set up. Another working group on re-use and recycling is being examined on the suggestion of the U.K. Textile Recycling Association.