Newsletter No 23 / 25 June 2021
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Transforming the fashion industry
By Thula Sindi
Sector is witnessing more collaboration as we find new ways of supporting each other in this crisis
It was often said in the past year that old systemic global inequalities were magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect of the lockdowns around the world. The dysfunction of political and socioeconomic systems we had come to accept as ever-present features of society could be ignored no longer. We had to act differently to create a different future.
The global fashion industry was no different. We had begun to see the beginnings of a revolution in the industry for some time. Consumers had begun to demand more sustainability in the production of their garments, particularly as we started to see how much of it ended up in landfills. The exploitation of labour to mass-produce cheap clothing was also increasingly highlighted, as was the practice of dumping by the developed world.
It is ironic that an industry built on innovation, creativity and diversity was so slow to innovate in terms of sustainability, how it mistreated those who relied on the industry to survive and failed to create conditions conducive to new entrants accessing markets. Amid the challenges brought on by the pandemic lay an opportunity for us to address these deficiencies and build an industry able to create shared value while being environmentally conscious.
The entire value chain, which includes the design, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, retailing, advertising, and promotion of all types of apparel, was severely affected by the pandemic. According to McKinsey’s The State of Fashion 2021 report, the industry lost about 93% of its economic profits in 2020. GlobalData puts this at about $297bn.
In SA, despite the hard lockdowns that only allowed the clothing industry to return to full retail at level-3 restrictions, it is a testament to our collective innovation and creativity how many pivoted into manufacturing masks and other forms of personal protective equipment. The mask has now become a fashion staple, an accessory that adds character to one’s outfit. Some may not be so keen to let go.
It is said there is nothing like a crisis to bring people together. We saw this in the industry as we began to collaborate and find new ways of supporting each other, while leveraging our collective strengths. In this way we also created shared value and benefits for a wider range of players in the industry. By “making the circle bigger” we began to actualise the concept of the circular economy.
A November 2020 Circular Fashion Report compiled by a group of academics and industry leaders suggested that the potential value of fashion’s circular economy could be as much as $5-trillion globally. To benefit from and leverage this opportunity, we need to consider how to create structures and mechanisms.
While this concept refers to the fast-growing movement to reuse and recycle all materials, eliminating waste and pollution and regenerating the environment in a “circular model,” Covid-19 has forced us to do more than just think about the sustainability of the fabrics we use and how we dispose of them.
In SA, the concept has extended to many of us actively working together to help service providers and others keep their heads above water and their doors open. Sustainability came to also include people and businesses. I found that the concept of ubuntu was so strongly aligned to that of the circular economy that we will continue working in this way. Creating shared opportunities and win-win solutions will also positively affect transformation in the sector.
These were important lessons in a time of unprecedented crisis. As SA rolls out vaccines, it seems we may soon be past the worst of the pandemic. This presents a ray of hope for the events and entertainment sectors, and with this the high-end fashion industry. Vaccinations mean the opening of sectors of the economy that have been severely restricted for the past year. It also means the opening of borders, travel and international fashion shows.
My parents were recently vaccinated along with some older relatives, and I am grateful they can be protected from the devastating impact of the virus. I will be registering to be vaccinated with great enthusiasm when registrations open for my age group.
As the need to social-distance became a matter of life and death it was easier to see our interconnections and the impact of our actions on each other. As the physical masks went up, the masks we had used as filters in our lives came down. We saw things differently, and through this could make new choices to build a new reality. I am excited to be alive and to have lived through this time – the opportunities are endless as we overcome the pandemic.
In her 2004 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Wangari Maathai said: “In the course of history there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”
These words have never been more relevant. The work to transform the fashion industry has begun; we now need to make the tough choices to continue. The question is, will we? Business Day
• Sindi is founder of the Africa Rise fashion emporium.
Water Stewardship and Cotton: World Water Day 2021
Announcements Monday, March 22nd, 2021
Approximately half a billion people around the world currently face severe water scarcity, and nearly half of the global population lives in regions where freshwater is polluted. Caring for our water resources — both locally and globally — is one of the biggest sustainability challenges of our times. At the Better Cotton Initiative, we believe that solutions require a water stewardship approach where individual and collective actions benefit both people and nature.
On World Water Day 2021, we want to highlight the great work that BCI’s partners, cotton farmers, and farming communities around the world are doing to tackle water challenges in cotton.
Water and cotton
While cotton is often labelled a ‘thirsty crop’, it is actually relatively drought tolerant. The problem is that it is often grown in arid environments where it cannot be rainfed, making farmers reliant on water-intensive irrigation systems. As a result, cotton production can impact freshwater resources in a few ways:
- The quantity of water used for irrigation — both surface water and groundwater.
- Water quality due to the use of agrochemicals, including pesticides and fertilisers.
- The use of rainwater stored in land.
Freshwater is a shared and limited resource, making water scarcity and pollution major global issues.
What is BCI doing?
BCI’s on-the-ground partners work with millions of cotton farmers across the globe, providing training on more sustainable farming practices. A key focus of our work, and one of the seven Better Cotton Principles and Criteria, is water stewardship. We seek to provide farmers and farming communities with the tools and techniques to use water in a way that is environmentally sustainable, economically beneficial and socially equitable. This means:
- Using freshwater within sustainable limits: Ensuring there is enough water in nearby river basins or aquifers to support the surrounding ecosystem and population.
- Ensuring maximum water productivity: Reducing the quantity of water consumed, or the pollution created, per unit of cotton production.
- Sharing water equally between uses and users both locally and globally: For example, the WAPRO framework helps farmers, communities and local authorities to map water resources and usage. It encourages collaboration to conserve water, preserve water quality (by protecting it from pesticides and fertilisers, for example), and share water resources fairly.
Seeing the results
As a result of water stewardship training and guidance, many BCI Farmers are now mapping water resources, managing soil moisture, managing water quality and applying efficient irrigation practices.
Looking at BCI’s 2018-19 cotton season results, we see that BCI Farmers in four of the countries we analysed (China, India, Pakistan and Tajikistan) used less water than comparison farmers. For example, BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 15% less water than farmers who didn’t participate in BCI training sessions.
You can learn more about BCI’s approach to water stewardship in the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. Source Cotton SA
Cape Skills and Employment Accelerator project
The Craft + Design Institute (CDI) has opened applications for the Cape Skills and Employment Accelerator project, and is calling on small businesses in clothing, textile, soft furnishing, leather and footwear to apply. For more information, visit: www.thecdi.org.za/accelerator or contact: Moshibudi Piet at email@example.com
PFNonwovens to invest R600 million for expansion in South Africa
PFNonwovens, a Czech Republic nonwoven fabrics producer, is expanding its Cape Town site in South Africa. PFN has committed to invest at least $42.3 million, which will lead to the creation of up to 40 new jobs. With this investment, PFN’s market leading position as the largest spunmelt producer in the hygiene market in South Africa will be reinforced.
PFN first came to Atlantis in 2017, originally investing over R1.3 billion and creating much needed local employment. PFN collaborated with Wesgro and Into SA to successfully complete the largest manufacturing foreign direct investment that the two organisations had secured since 2011, the company said in a media statement.
With this latest investment, PFN’s market leading position as the largest spunmelt producer in the hygiene market in South Africa will be reinforced. As a result, the company will have the capacity to meet the growing local market needs for high value and specialty products with increasing levels of softness, comfort, and sustainability. The Western Cape is a natural choice to base the company’s African expansion, with world class infrastructure and access to the rest of the continent. The new capacity is planned for the end of 2022, PFN said.
“We are the first company to invest in the latest Reicofil’s R5 machinery in South Africa, and this exciting expansion will not only localise manufacturing, it will also allow for more sustainable and flexible production which is required to meet the growing needs of both our global and local clients,” Wilhelm Cronje, director for PFN South Africa said in a statement.
“This investment aligns with our global strategy to grow our hygiene and medical markets on the African continent as well as providing a base for exports to neighbouring regions,” Mariann Forsström, PFN’s newly appointed EMEA commercial director said. F2F
Rex True – update on acquisition
Shareholders are referred to the announcement released on the Stock Exchange News Service (“SENS”) on 13 November 2020 ( the “13 November 2020 announcement”) regarding the sale of shares agreement that the Company, together with African and Overseas Enterprises Ltd. had entered into with the Trustees for the time being of the Bretherick Family Trust, Peter Fairbank Bretherick, Ryan David Bretherick, and Stephen Mark Bretherick in terms of which Rex Trueform will acquire a 63.71% stake in Telemedia (Pty) Ltd. (the “Transaction”), together with the further update in this regard released on SENS on 10 May 2021.
The Company advises that the condition precedent requiring the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa to provide its written consent to the Transaction (the “Condition Precedent”) is still outstanding. The implementation of the Transaction remains subject to the fulfilment of the Condition Precedent by an extended date of no later than Friday, 29 October 2021.
Rex Trueform does not expect that the anticipated delay will impact the implementation timeline as set out in the 13 November 2020 announcement. On fulfilment of the Condition Precedent, a finalisation announcement, together with the implementation timeline, will be communicated to Rex Trueform Shareholders via SENS.
CMT Cape Town
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