The fashion and textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world, coming second to the oil sector. Global efforts to mitigate carbon emissions to stem the impact of climate change are now shaking up the things as almost all big players in the fashion and textile industry are reeling under the ceaseless pressure to transform.
Welspun India Limited (WIL) part of the US$ 2.3 billion Welspun Group, is the world’s largest home textile player with presence in bed, bath and flooring segments. With a distribution network in more than 50 countries and world-class manufacturing facilities in India, the company supplies to 17 of the top 30 global retailers.
Welspun is currently in the midst of a massive transformation driven by sustainability where almost every aspect is being looked at and re-imagined. According to CEO and Joint Managing Director, Dipali Goenka, “There is no doubt that business has to transform if we are to mitigate climate impacts. Welspun as the industry leader has to redefine how the textile business can be done in a far more sustainable and transparent manner. Systems and processes need a redefinition and we have worked actively in driving this. But our biggest interventions are around the creation of vibrant and progressive farming communities.” Welspun products are largely made out of cotton, which is why the sustainability journey begins right from the farmers affiliated to Welspun who are trained to grow BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) and Organic Cotton. In Wardha (Maharashtra) and Kutch (Gujarat) the main cotton producing regions for Welspun farmers are given complete farm management solutions right from the field to the market. This project is spread over 250 villages and indirectly impacts 50,000 farm workers. The ambition is to build models of sustainable farming despite the small plot sizes of most farmers.
But, not one to be easily satisfied, Dipali says “We need to walk the talk to transform, yet at the same time we need to keep people at the heart of this change. The change towards creating a circular ecosystem needs to come by transforming mindsets. I believe that, livelihoods for women are front and centre to creating a sustainable world. In the male dominant manufacturing industry, women are barely seen and considered out of place in what is considered a man’s job. To break the stereotype, we have started an entire cut and sew unit in Anjar which is run only by women including the security guard of the unit.” Innovation is integral to Welspun’s future growth strategy towards the Vision 2022.
The Company has a portfolio of 30 unique patents which it plans to increase. At the heart of the sustainability processes at Welspun is a process of chemical fingerprinting to identify the origin of the cotton fibre used. This system called, Wel-trak allows tracing of cotton from farms to the gin, to the spinning and to the weaving stage as well as the point of sale.
The manufacturing unit of Welspun is situated in Anjar, which is a desert prone area, with very low rainfall. Recognizing the importance of water for the community, Welspun uses no fresh water from the river Narmada for manufacturing. This has been made possible by a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) installed by the company, which treats sewage water collected from nearby villages and makes it available for manufacturing.
The company has launched also launched a textile recycling initiative in which waste fabric is converted into a range of handcrafted products by the skilled craftsmen. This range of products is called SPUN, in which approximately 2 tons of waste is used every month.
Over the next few years, Welspun will be focusing on increasing and strengthening its global footprint with operations in underpenetrated geographies like Europe, Middle East, Far East, Australia. While Welspun has a large share of the international exports market, India is also a promising markets for Welspun, which is being addressed through brands such as “Spaces” and the upcoming flooring solutions which will be launched soon. “Responsible growth driven by sustainability is not just a business imperative but a moral responsibility,” says Dipali. “We all need to take action to create a better future for the coming generations. If we don’t, who will?”
Based on a conversation with CEO and Joint Managing Director, Dipali Goenka, Welspun India Limited. For the Responsible Futurescape Blog