The fashion industry continues to make strides in its environmental standards, notably in areas such as reduction of harmful chemicals and water usage throughout the supply chain.

There is some concern that those advances will be counteracted by action to roll back environmental protections and laws by the Trump administration, although companies from textiles to brands and retailers seem determined to follow their own course.

Downlite, a down and feather processor and supplier of responsibly sourced performance fills to markets such as outerwear, outdoor and home furnishings, recently unveiled a new waste-water recovery system.

The system allows Downlite to recycle and reuse up to 99 percent of the water used to clean and sanitize its down and feather fills, saving up to 40 million gallons of water annually.

Downlite partnered with Ohio-based water-treatment specialists Artesian Capital Partners, which designed and constructed the system, and now operates it off-site.

“Water is the new oil,” said Josh Werthaiser, Downlite chief financial officer. “With growing concerns over water scarcity and increasingly stringent municipal water-treatment requirements, we took on this significant and complex initiative, which took over a year, in our endeavor to become a greener company.”

Turkish denim manufacturer Isko became the first denim mill to receive the EU Ecolabel certification for its Isko Earth Fit platform dedicated to sustainability.

EU Ecolabel is the official environmental label in the European Union, and is based on a commitment to environmental sustainability. The Isko EU Ecolabel products will be launched in May as part of the new collection.

The EU Ecolabel is a holistic label that targets all relevant environmental issues in the life cycle of the product — from resource-extraction, use of energy and chemicals and CO2 emissions to social conditions for works in the value chain.

This month, W.L. Gore & Associates unveiled ambitious environmental and chemical management goals for 2020 as part of its Gore Fabrics Division’s long-term sustainability program. These goals complement its existing chemicals management program based upon stringent and independent third-party standards such as Bluesign and Oeko-Tex.

Included in these goals is Gore Fabrics’ intent to eliminate environmentally damaging PFCs from its consumer fabrics products as part of its efforts toward elimination of these PFCs from its Durable Water Repellent treatments and membrane manufacturing processes for jackets, shoes, gloves and accessories.

The first products with a DWR treatment free of PFCs are targeted for availability at retail in the fall 2018 season.

Oeko-Tex itself joined the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Program, which takes a holistic approach to tackling the issue of hazardous chemicals in the global textile and footwear value chain.

It aims to achieve this goal of eliminating the use of priority chemicals by focusing on the Manufacturing Restricted Substances List & Conformity Guidance, wastewater quality, audit protocol, research, data and disclosure and training.

Target Corp. revealed a new chemical strategy in January that addresses its entire value chain, operations and product array. In the new policy, Target is committed to driving transparency, proactive chemical management and innovation across all of its owned and national brand consumer products and operations.

Jennifer Silberman, chief sustainability officer at Target, said, “It’s ambitious, but using our size, scale and expertise, we think we’ll be able to make significant progress. And we hope our robust approach will accelerate similar efforts across the industry. Ultimately, we want to bring all stakeholders together to innovate and champion a consistent, industry-wide approach to greener chemistry.”

While apparel and textile companies have made strong commitments to sustainability through more environmentally friendly strategies, President Trump’s picks for Energy Secretary and Environmental Protection Agency administrator portend a potential rollback of gains made.

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which opposed Trump’s choices of Rick Perry as Energy Secretary and Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator and many policies being implemented and proposed in the environmental area, said, “The American people didn’t vote to return to the dirty old days when smog choked our cities, and we didn’t vote to turn a blind eye to the dangers of climate change.”

The NRDC said Trump’s potential environmental policy threatens gains made in America’s transition to a clean energy economy. A December report said the U.S. has made deep pollution reductions, with coal use at record lows but renewable energy higher than ever. One sign of how far things have advanced: more than one-fifth of the U.S. population lives in a state with a goal of at least 50 percent renewable energy.

The NRDC, together with Public Citizen and the Communications Workers of America, sued the Trump administration on Feb. 8 seeking to block a Jan. 30 executive order requiring agencies to repeal two existing regulations for each new regulation it puts in place.

“New efforts to stop pollution don’t automatically make old ones unnecessary,” Suh said. “This order imposes a false choice between clean air, clean water, safe food and other environmental safeguards.”

Among the plaintiffs claims in the lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Washington, are that the executive order will block or force the repeal of regulations needed to protect health, safety and the environment.

Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, wrote in a recent blog that the administration’s rollback of environmental regulations presents “broad economic harm to the American public and local communities because of weaker clean air, water and public health protections.”

“Rules on coal-mining runoff and methane and power plant pollution already are on the chopping block,” Lubber wrote. “The effort also will be harmful to substantial swaths of the U.S. business community who are clamoring for regulatory certainty on key issues such as climate change and clean energy policy.”

She said federal environmental laws have helped restore areas from Cleveland to Boston, enabling commerce and recreation to thrive in places that had been previously unhealthy and polluted. Lubber cited the nonpartisan federal Office of Management and Budget calculations that rules adopted by the EPA over the decade ending in 2012 yielded economic benefits 10 times their costs.

“This antiregulation agenda is neither grounded in science nor economics, and the implications to our economy and public health call for reconsideration,” Lubber added. “Abandoning regulations such as the methane rule and the Clean Power Plan will hurt — rather than help — our economy and our way of life.”

Perhaps PVH Corp. chairman and chief executive officer Emanuel Chirico, commenting on the potential dichotomy after signing two environmental initiatives — the U.N. Global Compact and CEO Water Mandate — put it best when he said, “There’s enough going forward in initiatives that are built into business strategies that I don’t see a rollback.”

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