[ESG+20 Sustainability Leaders] Chinese Textiles Maker Esquel Harnesses Tech to Rein In Water Use, Pollution
Ji Ya
DATE:  Jul 09 2024
/ SOURCE:  Yicai

(Yicai) July 9 -- Esquel Group is using technological innovations to tackle water consumption and pollution, two issues that have long plagued the textile industry, according to the Chinese firm’s chairwoman.

“We’ve reduced water consumption by improving management,” Marjorie Yang said in a recent interview. “Based on our calculations, we have cut water consumption by 65 percent and we use technology to recycle water.”

The textile industry uses more water than any other in China, and it is the worst offender for wastewater discharge after the paper and chemical industries. About 150 tons of water are needed to produce one ton of cotton fabric, with 98 tons used in the dyeing process. Finding ways to stem water pollution has become a major problem for the global textile industry.

Esquel has improved its dyeing processes, including developing biological dyes, Yang said, adding that her father, who founded the Hong Kong-based firm in 1978, majored in textile chemistry and sought ways to mitigate chemical dye contamination. The company has also found ways to reduce water waste during production, she said.

Esquel has spent 10 years developing a waterless dyeing technique, in which yarn and cloth are dyed through a combination of solvents. The solvents can be recycled, with a recovery rate of 99.8 percent. Compared with traditional water-based dyeing, this technique raises the utilization rate of active dyes from about 60 percent to 97 percent.

According to Esquel’s research and development team, making a shirt using the new technique can save the equivalent of 20 days of drinking water for an adult.

The company has also built a sustainable farm in Guilin in China’s southwestern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region covering more than 50,000 square meters, where it grows natural dye plants. The aim is to replace chemical dyes with natural ones in the future, Yang said.

“Textile companies are trying to reduce water use, recycle water, and eventually not use water,” she said. “I hope that the new techniques can solve water pollution and achieve the ultimate goal of not using any water.”

Esquel joined the United Nations Global Compact in 2000 and participated in the Forward Faster Initiative, the Climate Ambition Accelerator program, and the Target Gender Equality Accelerator program. In November 2021, the firm pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Editor: Tom Litting

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Keywords:   Esquel Group,ESG