Culture, Travel & Sport

Lithuania’s Utenos trikotažas is leading the way in detoxing fashion

The global environmental organisation Greenpeace has recognised Lithuania’s Utenos trikotažas as the first – and so far the only – textile company in the world working entirely according to its textile procurement standards. Greenpeace has itself already started to produce its own t-shirts at the company.

The Greenpeace procurement standards embody all best practices in terms of zero use of toxic chemicals, fairness in trade, and transparency.

After first launching its Detox My Fashion campaign in 2011, Greenpeace announced that it was suspending all sales of textile products “until brands and suppliers can prove through transparent reporting that their clothes are not made using and releasing hazardous chemicals”.

Several years later, in 2018, Greenpeace partnered with Utenos trikotažas on a pilot project which led to the development of its new Textiles Procurement Trial Standard in 2019, and has since initiated the first industrial-scale textile production to show that it is possible to produce textiles in keeping with ambitious environmental requirements.

“It’s a historic achievement. Being the first factory in the world to fulfil Greenpeace’s requirements is a real phenomenon and appreciation of our efforts. For a long time Utenos trikotažas has been free from hazardous chemical inputs in all the stages of the production process. We hope that our example will inspire and encourage other textile producers to follow in this direction,” says Petras Jašinskas, CEO of Utenos trikotažas.

Utenos trikotažas has already completed production of the first batch of Greenpeace’s new t-shirt collection and will continue production later this year.

According to Viola Wohlgemuth of Greenpeace, Utenos trikotažas and its partners have shown that for the first time ever, steps to avoid hazardous chemical use and contamination have been taken across the entire production chain, from fibres in the processing of raw materials, to dyeing and printing according to Detox principles, and finally to the sewing and packaging of high quality, ready-to-wear garments, made to last.

“The Greenpeace textiles procurement standard requires Utenos trikotažas to control the chemicals used via complete testing of the wastewaters released when it bleaches, dyes, washes and prints the cotton. This collection proves that truly clean, fair and completely transparent production is in fact possible. And not in some boutique sewing shop, but at an industrial level,” Wohlgemuth says.

The European Union Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius has welcomed non-governmental and private sector initiatives to make the textile industry greener and has emphasised the importance of sustainability in global competition.

Last December, the European Union introduced its strategy of tackling pollution – the European Green Deal. It will include a Circular Economy Action Plan, which will focus in particular on resource-intensive sectors such as textiles, construction, electronics and plastics.

“Textiles is one of the main industries that will have to become more sustainable across the entire production chain and beyond. Textiles must become more circular, more reusable and recyclable. The Circular Economy Action Plan – an important part of the EU Industrial Strategy – will be the roadmap for this transformation, but the first to follow this path will naturally have a competitive advantage in the market,” says Sinkevicius.

Greenpeace’s Detox My Fashion campaign has placed a lot of pressure on the global textile industry, the second largest polluter of freshwater worldwide, to eliminate the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals. Environmentalists identified 11 groups of hazardous chemicals widely used in the textile industry that are of particular concern due to their effects on people and the environment and insisted that the major manufacturers and their suppliers commit themselves to stopping their use in production by 2020.

Utenos trikotažas, part of the SBA Group, is the only Lithuanian company participating in this campaign and one of the few detox-committed companies with a vertically integrated production cycle, where all production processes, from raw material production through to the final ready-to-wear product, are being made under one roof.

Since the beginning of the Detox My Fashion campaign, over 80 different textile companies have joined the initiative. These include brands such as H&M, Nike, Adidas, Puma and many more, representing about 10-15 per cent of the global apparel market.