25 September 2019
Coats Sustainability Report
Find out how we're committing to making our industry more sustainable
Sustainability is something that touches every business, but the term is vague – a broad-strokes term for anything and everything that touches our environment, and it can feel overwhelming.
That's one of the reasons we've been working to launch our first ever Sustainability Report – to streamline our efforts and forge a clear path in the directions that mean the most to us, in areas we know we can make a real difference. Seven ambitious targets in five key areas will see us reduce our impact and better the world we live in. We explore the whys and hows of our global targets, and commit to change for the better.
With good reason
Climate change is man-made. At least, that's the opinion of 1300 independent scientific experts working under the UN. In their recent Fifth Assessment Report, they concluded that there's a more than 95% probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet. Modern industrial activities alone have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. As the world's leading industrial thread manufacturer, we have an unrivalled platform from which to initiate change. We operate in 100 countries with 18,500 people and 30,000 manufacturers and over 4000 retailers rely on us to lead the way, so that's what we intend to do. To thrive and help our planet and people survive, we must all work together and do our bit.
To focus our efforts, we've identified five key areas to work on across the sustainability spectrum. Water, Energy, Effluent and Emissions, Social and Living Sustainably are all areas our business touches and are close to our heart. The changes we make will be business-wide and help us to develop alongside our environment, not against it.
It's no secret that the textile industry uses a lot of water. Dyes, treatments and finishing solutions all have to be applied before a fabric is ready to be worked with, and each of those stages currently uses a water bath. It's estimated that 500 gallons of water is needed to make a single pair of jeans – in India alone, the textile industry uses 425,000,000 gallons of water a day, and 6000 gallons is needed to produce a kilo of cotton. In our own processes we've identified dyeing as our main use of water, resulting in 60% of our total consumption. Dyeing is one of the most important parts of the manufacturing process, so we're developing new ways to manage it. As well as exploring innovative digital printing technologies, we've invested in new machines with a low liquor ratio, designed to slash our water use.
Fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas are made up of decomposed plants and animals from millions of years ago. When these fuels are burned, the carbon contained within them is released back into the air. Transparent to the visible light from the sun, this carbon absorbs the infra-red radiation – or heat – emitted by the warm surface of the Earth, preventing its loss into space. This is how fossil fuels contribute to the heating of the Earth's climate. In fact, in the US, the Energy Information Administration have reported that 76% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 came from the burning of fossil fuels/ It's thought that coal-fired power plants are responsible for a whopping 41% of America's dangerous mercury emissions, and 60% of sulphur dioxide emissions, which contribute to acid rain. We believe there's a better way. In the last six years we've grown our renewable energy use from 0% to 28%. Our Patrick Yarn Mill site in North Carolina already uses solar energy for manufacturing and we've brought in a biomass-based steam boiler in Ambas, South India. We aim to continue expanding our renewable energy use wherever possible, all around the world.
Effluent and emissions
In any process of creation, there is usually some waste. Waste has to go somewhere and, left unchecked, this can be harmful to the environment. In 2018 the International Water Association reported that 80% of the world's waste water finds its way into waterways, causing damage to wildlife and people, highlighting the millions of tonnes of CO2 that could be saved by more efficient waste water management. We're fully on-board, with online, real-time monitoring across our sites, as well as the construction and upgrading of our treatment plants. Right now 20% of the water we use is recycled, and we're looking to expand on that wherever appropriate.
Our team are the most important people in the world to us, and we want to do everything we can to be a company that people not only want to work at, but want to stay at too. In a recent survey, 87% of people said that health and wellness was a big factor in their decision-making process when choosing a new job, and it's not hard to see why. Stress and high blood pressure are harmful to people and to business. A 2018 study found that stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health and 57% of all sick days. We want to be better at Coats, which is why we're implementing new health and wellbeing programmes across the company. Our Health and Safety roadmap is on a Journey to Zero, and we’re even building in time for our teams to help support local communities – it's our way of connecting to the people and places we work with.
Consumption of textiles shows no sign of slowing down. In the US, clothing sales have doubled since 2015 from $1 trillion to $1.8 trillion, and is expected to grow again to $2.1 trillion by 2025, in fact, by 2030, it's predicted that the fashion industry will use 35% more land for cotton, forest for cellulose fibres, and grassland for livestock than it does now. We need to find ways to make this growth as sustainable as possible while also doing our bit to work through the world's other sustainability issues, like the fact that 91% of the world's plastic isn't recycled. That's why we developed our EcoVerde threads, which are 100% recycled and made from problematic waste like old plastic bottles. Durable, strong – these threads are proof that with a little ingenuity a problem can become a possibility.
We've outlined a seven-point strategy to accelerate our growth in these five areas, and set ourselves ambitious targets to hit by 2022, as part of our report on Pioneering a Sustainable Future. These will run across the business, world-wide, and help to inform our decisions at every level.
- 40% reduction in water used in litres/kg thread produced
- 7% reduction in energy used in kwh/kg thread produced
- Source renewable energy where feasible
- Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals effluent standards
- ‘Great place to work’ or equivalent awards for all key sites
- All employees involved in community activities
- 25% reduction in waste
A company that does good
Our Group Chief Executive Rajiv Sharma recently said: ‘Sustainability is a core component of our value system. We are a company that not only performs well, but does good.' and that is the way we think it should be. Doing good business should be as much about positive environmental impact as it is about the bottom line. Rajiv said, 'Sustainability will enable Coats to grow, innovate and thrive as a business well into the future.’ and we can't think of a much better future than that.