Setting measurable sustainability goals
Leading dyer and finisher Prosperity Textiles makes sustainability a high priority. The China based manufacturer specializes in denim, a highly water-intensive process, and while the global demand for denim continues to rise, the company is highly committed to reducing its chemical and wastewater output.
According to Andy Zhong, Marketing Director at Prosperity Textiles., “Sustainability is a must-have, or even a do-or-die scenario. Not marketing, not PR, not propaganda, and not for the future. It is now.”
For the past four years, the company has used Worldly to monitor progress across seven critical environmental impact areas, with a particular focus on water. Over the past few years, Prosperity Textiles has implemented sustainability initiatives across chemicals, wastewater, and water use. Each of these projects is inherently interconnected, and Worldly helps Prosperity track performance across all of these areas in a single platform. The platform specifically helped Prosperity manage its wastewater projects, revealing its facility scored significantly higher than Chinese national standards.
Worldly is focusing on getting the metrics right. Without measurement, there is no improvement. First things first, we must be able to tell how we are doing and where we stand.
Managing chemicals in color
Zhong sees chemical management as one of the more challenging environmental impact areas for Prosperity. According to him, “there are many chemicals used in denim fabric production, and unlike water, [they are difficult] to recycle, or to find more sustainable alternatives for, in terms of cost and scale.”
In 2017, Prosperity’s facility in Shaoguan implemented a new centralized system for dye preparation and transportation. Engineers enter dye formulas into a computer and dyes are automatically weighed, mixed and delivered.
Zhong likens the process to a kitchen: “If you can’t mix the right amount of salt and pepper every time, you won’t always be lucky enough to get a taste you like.” With this new dye system, the Shaoguan facility can measure and compare chemical use when developing various indigo formulas. This led to improved quality control and a reduction in fabric waste previously caused by human error.
The company focused on setting a chemical baseline with the system and was able to compare its 2017 performance with 2018 results. The comparison allowed them to understand the quantity of chemicals that can be saved with the system, reducing environmental impact, and creating financial savings.
In the first half of 2018, Worldly helped Prosperity measure a 6.5% reduction in indigo dye while achieving an 8% increase in color accuracy. The reduction of error also resulted in 17% less water use. With this successful trial run under their belt, the company will be able to scale this technology into additional facilities.
Reducing caustic soda
Prosperity uses high concentrations of caustic soda during mercerization, a process that alters a fabric’s strength, luster, and ability to absorb dye. The process creates wastewater with a high pH, which can be harmful if disposed of in natural waterways. In an effort to minimize harmful wastewater, Prosperity implemented a caustic soda recycling program to collect, filter, and re-concentrate the waste, allowing the company to reuse the chemical.
With Worldly, the company measured that the system reduced caustic soda use by 1,100 tons and sulfuric acid by 500 tons per year.
Reducing water in a high-risk region
In pursuit of a more sustainable denim manufacturing process, Prosperity is also focused on reducing its water consumption. Historically, as a byproduct of the finishing process the company released 240 tons of wastewater heated 98 degrees Celsius each day.
So in 2014, the company installed a water recycling system designed to collect condensation from water accumulated on dryers during the denim finishing process. The recycling project diverted this water for reuse throughout other manufacturing processes. Worldly measured this system alone to save 80 thousand tons of water and 1,500 tons of coal per year, while also reducing overall wastewater output.
Using Worldly to monitor multiple efforts
Prosperity will rely on Worldly on an ongoing basis to determine the impacts of its multi-pronged sustainability program – from chemicals automation that reduces waste, to caustic soda recycling, and the hot water diversion that saves both water and energy. Using Worldly, the company can monitor not only the effects of each project’s primary impact, but also how each program interconnects and improves Prosperity’s overall sustainability.
Worldly is helping us to identify the exact saving results of our impacts. By using the Worldly, and with more peers joining forces, we can do better benchmarking to keep improving continuously.
Getting buy-in: clear business value
When pursuing a new project, the Prosperity Textiles sustainability team creates a plan to assess the return on investment they can expect. Then, they set up a trial run. First, they run a small test, collect data, and compare savings for both financial and environmental impact. “Nothing beats the actual savings, environmentally and financially, when you are promoting the project to senior leadership,” Zhong says.
To make sustainability more relatable and manageable, Zhong recommends that companies think of sustainability as a long-term investment. While there may be short-term gains and losses, the real difference occurs in the long run. At the start, Zhong encourages Worldly users to implement projects at their own facilities in partnership with key customers or supply chain partners. Being able to identify a supply chain partner that will support sustainability initiatives can help projects gain traction internally.
“Worldly enabled us to take the first thorough assessment of our sustainable performance,” says Zhong, “we integrated Worldly into our sustainability management. We use Worldly score as a check list to keep our sustainable practices in check. The more years you use Worldly, the better you know your ‘green’ path is clear and that you can continue to follow it.”
We look forward to seeing how Prosperity improves with time.