“Breathing circularity, towards a green economy: facing challenges with optimism. How can we build a future-proof textile services sector and attract new talents?” This major theme took a central place at last week’s ETSA - European Textile Services Association congress. Whilst attending this congress for the first time, I’d like to share the two key takeaways that I’ve been inspired to work on in the coming years.
Transparency and connecting leadership is key to building a future-proof textile services sector
To build a future-proof textile services sector, it’s important to strengthen a collective vision on a textile industry ecosystem that keeps the value of materials as high as possible, with minimum environmental impact. This ‘system thinking’ requires us to implement practices that contribute to competitive advantage whilst strengthening our entire value chain in the textile industry.
If we don't look at the bigger picture collectively, we run the risk of only moving the problem from one to another within our ecosystem and that will distract us from adapting to a new sustainable future. It’s worth noting though, that in comparison to the fashion textile industry, the workwear textile industry with industrial laundries is already much more sustainable. Although our (workwear) industry still has improvements to make, in the fashion industry 40% of all clothing produced never reaches the consumer/wearer and needs to be destroyed.
Transparency is the key component we have to further embed in our industry culture as exchange of information is vital to create new ways of working. For example, implementation of a life cycle assessment (LCA) per product throughout the whole value chain will identify all the significant environmental impacts and with that, it will reveal the improvement goals we need to work on.
The giant flow of diverse materials and all partners within our value chain shows that a great but complex challenge lies ahead of us. The key to tackling this challenge is adapting our working practices so that we all bounce back together, as we will ultimately be stronger as an entire chain than any one of us on our own.
“The key to tackling this challenge is adapting our working practices so that we all bounce back together!”
Sustainability and communications are highly attractive to young talent in the textile service sector
ETSA launched an online survey in April 2022, targeting young people outside the textile industry to explore how we can build a future-proof textile services sector whilst attracting new talent. The outcome showed that being a sustainable industry is one of the main elements for attracting young talent. This outcome isn’t a big surprise as we know young talent relate very much to the overall purpose of a company (societal and/or environmental), right from the job description stage. Sustainability can be leveraged not just as a marketing tool for statutory and competitive benefits, but also as an effective commitment tool. This input of young professionals helped the congress members to understand that we need to improve communication about our sustainability goals and actions, promote them during the full recruitment process and beyond, and concretely show candidates how they can contribute.
Furthermore, we need to work on consistent communication towards our employees to stay connected to this sustainability transformation. Transparency and a clear vision are important values young talent look for in an employer; by understanding and championing this, we will unlock huge potential in the labour market.
“Transparency and a clear vision are important values young talent look for in an employer.”
Talk the talk, walk the walk
While the above themes are inspiring, we must be proactive in turning our vision into goals, and goals into tactical plans for execution of actions. The improvements we make each day lead us towards a better tomorrow, where we are able to build a future-proof textile industry. Let’s work together to execute our goals, and see where this journey takes us!
A big ‘thank you’ to Elena Lai for and her team for organising this great ETSA congress!
“We must be proactive in turning our vision into goals, and goals into tactical plans for execution of actions”