Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.
Hirdaramani Group’s Sri Lankan apparel vertical has achieved net-zero carbon emissions.
When Hirdaramani Group set aside $6.3 million a decade ago to establish Asia’s first carbon-neutral clothing factory—known as Mihila, or “Earth” in Sinhala—the apparel manufacturer was just laying the foundation of what would become a long-term strategy to benefit both people and planet.
Today, Hirdaramani operates six LEED Gold- and Platinum-certified manufacturing plants in Sri Lanka alone. It has made a three-fold investment in renewable energy sources, including one mini-hydro and three wind-power plants. In 2018, Hirdaramani established Suryadhanavi (“born of the sun”), a rooftop solar array, spanning eight of its largest manufacturing units, that now accounts for more than 30 percent of the group’s annual electricity demand. Instead of air conditioning, some facilities rely on evaporative cooling.
Hirdaramani has always regarded sustainability as a core focus of its business, said Nikhil Hirdaramani, the company’s director, but it hasn’t been the sole motivator.
“We need to be competitive, and for this we need to be able to maintain our overhead costs,” he said. “If we are not environmentally sustainable, we will not be financially sustainable in the long term. Customer recognition of our efforts and continued business with them for a long-term relationship is also a driving factor.”
Indeed, Hirdaramani’s efforts have paid off. In May, the group announced that its Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse-gas emissions have achieved “net zero” status, meaning its factories are offsetting as much carbon from the air as they generate. The assessment was conducted by Carbon Consulting Company, which validated Hirdaramani’s footprint using global ISO-14064-1 and -2 standards.
Next up for the manufacturer? An industrial wastewater recycling program that will see Hirdaramani reroute more than 50 percent of its industrial water back into its manufacturing. A member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, Hirdaramani will also be joining the nonprofit’s Jeans Redesign project to tackle waste and pollution in denim production.
It’s not sitting on its laurels, however.
“The group is proud of its sustainability journey but acknowledges that there is so much more that must be done,” Hirdaramani said.
In what areas has the fashion industry made the biggest strides in sustainability in the last five years?
Improving the supply chain and making it more traceable and open to its ultimate customers;
Having more sustainable products with better materials, either recyclable or more durable;
Understanding life-cycle impacts and addressing them head on instead of pushing costs and impacts up the supply chain;
Overall reduction in impact from fast fashion and also chemicals and finishes that negatively affect the environment;
Willingness to collaborate on multi-stakeholder initiatives and partnerships to resolve and respond to common issues around sustainable manufacturing;
Improved measurement of impact, e.g., the Higg Facility Environmental Module and the Social Labor Convergence Project.