Refashioning the fashion industry

Southeast Asia’s frontrunner

The textile and clothing industries continue to be the backbone of Cambodia’s export-driven economy, employing 800,000 people around the country, which is 86 percent of all its factory workers, and contributing 40 percent to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). The country is also home to Sustainability Champion, Tonlé, one of the frontrunners in processing pre-consumer waste.

Tonlé’s sustainability strategy forms the core of its operations by rerouting and reusing materials which are part of the waste generated by the clothing industry that is usually dumped in landfills or burned. Through this strategy, the fashion company reduces the massive CO2 emissions, as well as reduces consumption of water, pesticide used in agriculture, and chemicals used to dye fabrics.

“Most of the fabric we source is actually cut waste and quality control failure – so it is very much actual waste and not simply planned waste. We have also pioneered a zero waste design processes to eliminate any waste from our own production and, we are working on some initiatives to help customers deal with the end of life of their garments,” the company’s website stated.

The fashion company has diverted more than 16,000 kilograms (kg) of materials from landfills, reduced 495,000 kg of CO2 from entering the atmosphere – which is equivalent to keeping almost 33,000 cars off the road for a day, reduced consumption of almost 200 million litres of water, and reduced pesticide consumption by almost 12 kg.

The commitment and action by companies like Tonlé goes a long way to not only affecting real contributions, but also driving awareness on sustainable fashion further. The rest of the industry would do well to follow its lead. Active collaboration between various industry players is key to keeping this drive going. The industry needs to start prioritising long-term impact on the environment and communities where it operates and where its products are consumed.