Sustainability will be the key driver for Aatmanirbhar Bharat
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited (ABFRL) is India’s first billion-dollar pure-play fashion powerhouse with an elegant bouquet of leading fashion brands and retail formats. Anchored by the Aditya Birla Group (ABG) Vision and its three pillars of sustainable business model – Responsible Stewardship, Stakeholder Engagement and Future-proofing – ABFRL has adopted long-term, robust sustainability programme. For ABFRL, a sustainable business exists within the constraints of a dynamic regulatory landscape, as well as one that can adapt to external factors like global megatrends, says Dr Naresh Tyagi, Chief Sustainability Officer, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd. In this interview with Rakesh Rao, Dr Naresh Tyagi elaborates on importance of sustainability for the Indian textile industry and green initiatives taken by ABFRL.
Why is sustainability important for the Indian textile & apparels industry?
The textile and apparel industry is one of the longest and most complex industrial chains of the manufacturing industry involving the agricultural, chemical fibres, dyes and chemical manufacturing, and retail sectors, and finally, waste treatment. The sector’s heavy reliance on hard coal and natural gas to generate electricity and heat contributes around 7% of global greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. Evolving conscious consumerism with increasing awareness of sustainable practices is driving the industry towards sustainable fashion.
Could you please share with us some of the sustainability practices adopted by Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail?
At ABFRL, we consider sustainability as our ability to survive and thrive in the face of major megatrends and growing uncertainties. For us, a sustainable business exists within the constraints of a dynamic regulatory landscape, as well as one that can adapt to external factors like global megatrends. Anchored by the ABG Vision and our three pillars of Sustainable Business Model – Responsible Stewardship, Stakeholder Engagement and Future-proofing – we embarked on our sustainability journey with the launch of the sustainability 1.0 programme ‘ReEarth – For Our Tomorrow’ in FY 13.
The Sustainability 1. 0 programme is continued through 10 Missions that seek to restore the balance between natural and business ecosystems, to create a business that thrives in a world with rising resource constraints. We observed substantial improvement in areas such as energy management by focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy, thereby reducing our carbon footprint; on water management by strengthening infrastructure for recycling and reusing water across our own facilities and also established integrated waste management systems thus achieving ‘Zero Waste-to-Landfill’ status.
Our robust systems, procedures and monitoring mechanisms assisted us in maintaining ‘zero fatalities’ across our operations. We also continued our longstanding pledge to actively contribute to the social and economic development of the communities in which we operate. We have adopted a model-village concept to provide a better and more sustainable way of life and raise the human development index across communities.
Along with these initiatives, we have also established a strong emphasis on product and packaging sustainability by reducing, eliminating and standardizing packaging material. We are also exploring sustainable alternate materials to enhance our sustainable material coefficient. FY 21 marks the completion of our Sustainability 1.0 journey after successfully achieving our Mission 2020 targets.
We are now working towards sustainability transition 2.0 – from ‘Process-led to Product-led’, to focus on driving sustainability beyond ABFRL’s operations based on 3 key pillars: product design and development, customer-centricity, and supply chain.
Sustainability 2.0 is about integrating sustainability into the value chain, strategically shifting our missions towards a product-centric approach covering the entire product life cycle. Our Product Life Cycle Approach is the fulcrum of our sustainability strategy now. This approach is helping us identify key focus areas for improvement and develop interventions for each life cycle stage of the product, including upstream and downstream operations. From product design and product development, and from supply chain and customer-centricity through use and end-use, this Lifecycle Analysis Approach allows us to pivot sustainability into becoming the everyday norm.
Is the concept of the circular economy gaining traction in India?
In India, sustainable growth will be the key driver to achieve the goal of Aatmanirbhar Bharat. We need to embrace a development model that leads to the optimum utilisation of resources. The ever-increasing strain on resources, complex supply chains, dynamic regulatory landscape and rapid urbanization are driving India towards a circular economy.
At ABFRL, our agenda is creating ‘sustainable products’ based on ‘enabling circularity’ i.e., designing out waste and pollution, keeping material in use and regenerating natural systems. We are focusing on design and development through ‘clean by design’, enhancing sustainability attributes of products i.e., by working towards alternate materials, eliminating single-use plastic, sustainable production processes and sustainable farming practices.
How will the recent collaboration between ABFRL and Germany’s GIZ help in boosting the circular economy in the country?
Our recent collaboration with Germany’s GIZ is a testament to our continued efforts and value chain focus to boost the circular economy in India’s textile and apparel industry. This collaboration is part of the ‘develoPPP programme’ and is being implemented by ABFRL and GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
The programme is designed to strengthen the capacities of the textile and apparel industry to implement circular approaches, with a focus on reducing the input of harmful substances, recycling textiles and garments, reusing old clothes, material innovation, non-plastic packaging, traceability and making use of renewable energies. This will support the industry in matching supply and demand, which was under pressure due to resource constraints.
What other steps are you taking for the circular economy?
At ABFRL, we believe innovation and investing in technology shall play a determining role and also act as a catalyst in the journey ahead. Over the years, we have undertaken several innovative solutions to foster circularity both in developing sustainable products and operating facilities in a smarter and environmentally friendlier way.
Our drive to embrace Circular Economy saw the strengthening of our ongoing collaborations with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Circular Apparel Innovation Factory (CAIF) to accelerate sustainable fashion concepts and build an industry-level platform for the circular textile eco-system. Through this collaboration, we intend to bring forth ideas and innovations that will strengthen our pioneering work around sustainability.
Any message to the textile industry and its key suppliers on sustainability…
While ABFRL has been actively driving the sustainability agenda through partnerships and collaborations with the sole objective of mainstreaming sustainability, we believe embracing circularity principles shall be pivotal in transforming the value chain beyond traditional approaches. Our circularity programmes will aid us in leveraging cleaner inputs, reducing chemical footprint, delivering safer products, enabling transparency and mitigating environmental impact within the supply chain and the broader environment.
We believe there is a need to ‘self-disrupt’ existing practices and transition to a more circular approach. Promoting a common understanding to create awareness among key stakeholders to drive circular approaches, reduce waste, and create closed-loop systems is therefore crucial from a sustainable business model perspective for the entire textile sector in India.
At ABFRL, we believe the industry should foster an innovation culture driving the circularity agenda constantly to get better and move forward. And in this journey, it is imperative to adopt a collective and result-oriented approach, engaging leading organisations and think-tanks across various platforms for re-thinking and co-creating innovative solutions.
In this ‘decade of action,’ it is essential for us to have a long-term vision and transform our ambitions into actions, ensuring that sustainable business is placed at the heart of our core business strategy. Therefore, in our pursuit to deliver sustainable fashion, we aim to build capacities in our organization, brands and among suppliers, together to promote circular business practices in the Indian textile sector.
We need to embrace a development model that leads to the optimum utilisation of resources. The ever-increasing strain on resources, complex supply chains, dynamic regulatory landscape and rapid urbanization are driving India towards a circular economy.
Promoting a common understanding to create awareness among key stakeholders to drive circular approaches, reduce waste, and create closed-loop systems is crucial from a sustainable business model perspective for Indian textile sector.
Our circularity programmes will aid us in leveraging cleaner inputs, reducing chemical footprint, delivering safer products, enabling transparency and mitigating environmental impact within the supply chain and the broader environment.
In this ‘decade of action,’ it is essential for us to have a long-term vision and transform our ambitions into actions, ensuring that sustainable business is placed at the heart of our core business strategy.