Eco-compliance is necessary for enhancing market access of Indian textile: CUTS

October 23, 2012, Jaipur
The growing importance of environmental standards and eco-labels and the challenges posed by their compliance/non-compliance are affecting the export interests of the Indian textile and clothing sector. “Compliance with environmental standards can positively impact the Indian textile and clothing sector and the so called green barrier could be turned into an opportunity,” said Archana Jatkar, Coordinator and Deputy Head, CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment. She was speaking at a programme on Dynamics of Eco-labelling and the Need for Compliance, held on 20th October 2012, in Mumbai. There were more than 35 participants representing textile and clothing manufacturers.

It was part of a series of programmes being held in major textile centres in India, viz. Delhi, Mumbai, Tirupur, Ahmedabad, and Ludhiana, under a project titled “A Study on Environmental Standards and its Trade Impact on Indian Textile and Clothing Sector”. It is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway through the Royal Norwegian Embassy, New Delhi and implemented by CUTS in partnership with National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Norway.

The programme covered a range of issues – from basics of sustainable production and consumption in textiles and clothing sector to trade impacts of environmental standards on Indian textiles and clothing. Prominent eco-labels such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), EU Flower and Oeko Tex 100 were discussed. Several experts such as Prasad Pant, Chief Executive Officer, NimkarTek Technical Services Pvt Ltd; R. Chinraj, President & Proprietor, Suditi Industries Ltd, Sumit Gupta, GOTS representative in India; Rahul Bhajekar, Managing Director, Texanlabs Pvt Ltd; Samuel Rajkumar, Oeko Tex India, Simi T B, Assistant Policy Analyst, CUTS imparted practical knowledge on the subject.

In future, the success of Indian products, in particular textiles and clothing, in the world market will decisively depend on meeting consumers’ demand for sustainably produced goods and services. So far, India has only marginally benefited from new market access opportunities created by environmental standards. Eco-labelling is an effective market-based instrument to enhance access of Indian products in international markets while, at the same time, fostering sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Eivind Sto, Director (Research) of SIFO elucidated that the environmental aspect of textile products will increase substantially and pointed out recent changes in strategy and activities of textile retail chains in European countries. He said that there is a growing need to strengthen the comparative advantage of countries from producers’ perspective and they would need to prepare for stronger pressure from consumers, NGOs and political authorities on the subject of sustainability in textile and clothing sector.

Ullhas Nimkar, Managing Director, Nimkar Tek, underlined the exponential growth of the chemical industry which has a huge impact on environment, as chemicals are the single largest factor that have contributed to pollution and waste especially in textile and clothing sector. While pointing out that the road to sustainability is tough, he opined that a paradigm shift in approach towards sustainability is essential, and stressed on a more sustainable approach covering the life cycle of textile and clothing products.

It is well known that standards contribute to sustainable production and consumption by attending demands regarding health, environment and safety. However, it is debatable as to whether these standards should be led by market forces or manufacturers/producers or consumers or government initiatives. Many participants said that consumer awareness regarding eco labels is very poor in the Indian market, due to which many domestic big brands do not place much emphasis on launching product lines to cater to this area except for baby wear.

In this regard, some of the major findings from the CUTS-SIFO study on consumer attitude and retailer behaviour in selected European countries were shared so as to sensitise the Indian stakeholders about the pros and cons of various textile labels and eco-compliances. The findings on producer/manufacturers experiences on technical and economic aspects of eco-compliance and cost incurred thereby were also presented. Several participants said that additional incremental cost of compliance incurred in meeting environmental standards and eco-labels will not pose much of a problem if it benefits them in long term and will certainly enhance intangible benefits about improving business operations.

Most manufacturers re-affirmed that they have to adhere to environmental standards and implement eco-labels for better market access but also admitted that they perceive eco labels as a mandatory requirement from their importers, rather than as a means to make their products/processes more eco-friendly or as a consumer requirement.

They also expressed their concern about proliferation of eco labels and how difficult it is from producer as well as consumer perspectives. They argued that harmonisation and mutual recognition of different eco labels would be beneficial for all stakeholders. It emerged clearly from the discussion that there is a need to rationalise the existence of different eco-labels and emphasis was made to harmonise them to a single common denominator or at least a single eco label for a particular region/sector so that compliance becomes simple.

Some of the main points that emerged from the discussion are as follows:

  • Whether the objective of eco-compliance is to become more eco-friendly or just to address consumer demands
  • Increase in cost of production due to eco-compliance remains an issue as it inhibits initiatives towards adopting more sustainable production and consumption practices.
  • All eco-labels are voluntary and compliance is not seen as a necessity.
  • More effective marketing of eco-labels find more acceptance.

The feedback from the participants highlights the need for organising this kind of programmes in a more decentralised manner so as to better understand the intricacies of environmental standards and their impact on trade in Indian textiles and clothing products. It was reiterated that the ultimate goal of eco-compliance should be to ensure a more sustainable market where more transparency is expected from producers given the need for increased consumer awareness.

For more information, please contact:
Archana Jatkar,+91 99282-07628;
Simi T. B.,+91 89719-99399;