ESG outlook is the Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to find out about their company’s latest environmental, social and governance initiatives and their own personal sustainability efforts. In these questions and answers Shahriare Mahmood, Director of Sustainability at Finnish fiber company Spinnova Ltd., discussed reducing chemical consumption and cleaning wet processing.
Surname: Shahriare Mahmood
Title: Director for Sustainability
What do you think is your company’s best ESG performance?
We are a relatively young company, but our ambition to improve sustainability for the industry is high. Spinnova started with the mission to provide the textile industry with the most sustainable fiber in the world. This unique, patented technology is inspired by the way spiders weave their webs. The mechanical production of fibers from cellulose not only saves valuable natural resources, but also makes the industry easier with drop-in products for a minimal footprint in subsequent processing stages.
Our own process uses almost no water and has minimal emissions and does not require harmful solvents. We machine the raw pulp used for paper production with a higher yield. The fully circular fiber is not only recyclable on its own, it can also be mixed with cellulose fibers without impairing its properties.
In the interests of greater responsibility for transparency, we are developing a consistent data management system. We source FSC-certified raw materials and plan to bring these down even further. We joined ZDHC [Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals] to further reduce our environmental impact and to work with the global community. To reduce the impact of textile processing, we have also successfully made dyed fibers. We are continuing to work on it, but it has the potential to significantly reduce consumption and pollution.
How do you try to minimize the environmental impact of the clothing / consumer items you buy?
Responsible consumption is key, and I prefer brands that take responsibility for their supply chain and make their social and environmental sustainability transparent. Due to my expertise and experience in textile processes, especially in wet processing, I consider the product to be chemically harmless. Extending the life of a product is important to reduce raw material consumption, and responsible disposal is just as important as it could be the source for future products. I always prefer products without mixtures. I firmly believe that recycling technology for various fibers will soon be available where monomaterials will be easy.
What do you think is the biggest consumer misconception about sustainability in fashion?
Sustainability is an umbrella term that encompasses many topics and has become ubiquitous in recent years. It is good that many are becoming familiar with this, but there is not enough clarification on product sustainability claims. Consumers are often confused as truly sustainable brands claim product sustainability while others are greenwashing. Some brands take advantage of unfair advantages, but there is often a lack of expertise in defining sustainability. Unfortunately, there is no industry-wide consensus on this issue. It is important that real sustainability experts educate and influence and build consensus among themselves.
What was your company’s greatest insight from the Covid crisis?
We were fortunate enough to be able to work normally during the pandemic. Our partners remained interested in us because of our strong focus on sustainability and our unique innovation. Interestingly, despite the economic challenges, the focus on sustainability is becoming incremental. We have learned that real sustainable innovation is valued by the industry if it can offer long-term benefits. We have put a lot of effort into product innovation and focused on commercialization that will provide the industry with a beneficial sustainable solution.
What is your company’s latest sustainability initiative?
We know that the textile industry is responsible for a significant amount of waste, especially during the manufacturing processes. Wet processes in particular have a significant impact on the environment and we are focusing on ways to make color an inherent part of the fiber. We are also making ourselves fit for the future in terms of corporate sustainability.
What do you think is the apparel industry’s biggest missed opportunity in securing meaningful change?
We have probably peaked in the use of natural resources. Industry should look for a bigger initiative to build meaningful consensus. We need alternative and renewable raw material sources. The pandemic has given us food for thought to look deeply and review what we really need. If that is the future, we need to embrace timelessness, permanence, and circularity.