The recent textile environmental debate has focused on organic fiber production as the crucial means for environmental improvements. Ekelund does not share that view. We see instead a high potential for rapid improvements in processing area and the product quality area. We also believe that there is a need for new types of environmental labeling that offers different levels of labeling for the many criteria. Current criteria for the Scandinavian eco-labeling are so difficult that many companies in the world cannot comply even if they tried.
Cotton accounts for about 50% of the world textile fiber needs. Cultivation takes place largely outside the natural cotton belt area, which means large amounts of irrigation and chemical control will be required.
A shocking example is the area around the Aral Sea. This gives every reason to work for change. It would be quite drastically to only organically grow cotton today. With the current level of knowledge, the output would be too low.
The alternative is that the conventional cultivation gradually evolves towards a more sustainable cultivation system. Research is ongoing but due to climatic reasons can never cover the total fiber needs of the world. As the future fiber we envision viscose made of wood pulp.
Less than 1% of the total world textile production is dyed, printed and processed in factories using the best available technology. This has formed the basis of the criteria used by the three Scandinavian eco institutions. Hence, there is huge potential for improvement. This is best done when the West specify requirements for what we import. Opponents argue that it would be somewhat like trade barriers (which are banned in trade agreements). Factories in developing countries may also not be willing to invest to meet requirements. The owners are usually wealthy and every time there is new technology for higher capacity, they can afford to invest.
Low price imports
Cheap Imports from developing countries and Eastern Europe involves risks. Production in those countries are, on average, more than 20 times more negative for the environment than for a corresponding Swedish produced textile product. Sweden therefore actually import banned poisons. The textiles contain chemicals and excess coloring, which when laundered by a consumer discharges into the sewers system. Typically this is dyes and chemicals that have long been banned by Swedish authorities. These chemicals are one of the main reasons why Swedish farmers do not dare to spread sludge from sewage treatment plants on their fields.
The quality of a textile product is reflected directly with how long that product will be in use. The time a consumer retain an item depends on three things:
How easy the item is to use
The durability of the item
If the design is a short-term oriented fashion item, then the other two parameters do not help. The item is discarded prematurely. The concept of "highest quality" occurs only when all three parameters of these characteristics are considered to be top notch. An environmental benefit arises when the need for a new product is reduced.