South Africa’s clothing manufacturing industry is in the process of being rebuilt, presenting an opportunity for South African producers to become global sustainability leaders.
That was the opinion of contributors to the Sustainable Production Africa Summit hosted by H&M South Africa in partnership with the Swedish Embassy.
In attendance were several industry key players in the retail, textile, manufacturing, and recycling industries. H&M has since released a briefing from the gathering.
“Whereas some global production supply chain lines are firmly established, South Africa has just begun to rebuild its clothing manufacturing infrastructure after it was gutted by lower cost imports in the late 80’s and 90’s,” says Caroline Nelson, Country Manager, H&M South Africa.
“This is an exciting opportunity to co-design a sustainable, future-fit industry both locally and into Africa, but we need a collaborative approach.”
H&M South Africa has begun to work with regenerative wool production in partnership with WWF and BKB. South Africa is a major source market for wool globally and these projects are transforming the way wool is farmed with long term benefits for the community and environment.
In a summary of inputs from the day, the checklist towards a sustainable production model in South Africa includes:
- An industry-wide circular textile strategy.
- Plugging recycling and manufacturing technology gaps.
- Investing in game-changing new technology.
- Implementing collaborative systems to manage waste and recycling.
- Developing a data-driven approach to fashion to prevent oversupply.
- Skills training and development
- Industry-wide adoption of sustainable norms and practices.
- Consumer education
- Government investment and incentivisation to enable the rapid scaling of a circular production system.
South Africa’s producers are up against some challenges, including inconsistent power supply, water scarcity, a lack of skills, and the high cost of expensive technology needed to create a more circular production line. Design solutions must be tailored around these realities.
H&M’s Sustainable Production Africa Summit hopes to catalyse the industry into a swift and coordinated response.
“Circular fashion production has the potential to provide many new jobs, skills, and broader opportunities for investment. The time is now,” urges Nelson.
Key innovations around textiles, resource management, technology, and recycling are accelerating globally as the race is on to get fashion to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 as per the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.
On the 8th of November 2022, H&M joined more than 50 global fashion companies at COP27 in signing an Open Letter committing to alignment with the Paris Agreement and industry-wide cooperation on urgent curbs to climate-harming emissions in the fashion industry.