Fashion News

Crystal International Group Shares Sustainability Vision 2050

Crystal International Group, one of the world’s largest fashion manufacturers, is committed to net zero emissions by 2050.

Andrew Lo, chief executive officer and executive director at the group, said the company embarked on its sustainability journey after its chairman, Kenneth Lo, watched Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“It painted quite a grim future for humanity. All of us agreed that we should do something for the planet. We aligned amongst the top team to achieve the triple bottom line goal, which is people, profit and the planet,” said Lo.

Under that ethos, the company has laid out a sustainability target every five years since 2004.

Now with the fourth edition, Lo said the group has reduced around 40 percent of its products’ carbon footprint, and 33 percent of its products’ freshwater footprint. More than 3 million trees have been planted as a result as well.

He noted that the company has also been running a successful female empowerment program, having trained more than 55,000 female workers in the period.

The next milestone after being recognized on the CDP climate change 2023 A list — the only Hong Kong-based company to have received that accolade — would be the Crystal Sustainability Vision 2030 plan, which will encompass eight impact areas across social and environmental goals, according to Lo.

“We’ve committed to net zero emissions by 2050. In 2022, we set an interim target of a 35 percent reduction in aggregate emissions by 2030. When we’re studying about these goals, we did a very long calculation about the feasibility,” he said.

Lo said the challenges lie in achieving the goals that were calculated based on projected growth by 2030, which in reality would represent 80 percent of current associated emissions since the company decided that any future business growth should come with zero emissions.

To meet that goal, Lo said the company has set out a group-wide decarbonization pathway.

“Our key strategy for carbon reduction, number one, is deploying renewable energy. We are going to be putting solar panels onto all factory roofs. We’ve already installed 14 megawatts and we’ll continue to install solar panels before 2030,” he said, adding that it is also switching from fossil fuels to more renewable sources like biomass.

“The biggest part of what we want to do is on productivity enhancement. Just imagine, if we can produce 30 percent more using the same facilities and the same energy, then it means that we are reducing our energy per product by 30 percent. So that is one of the key driving forces of this whole strategy,” said Lo.

He said the toughest part of the company’s net zero strategy is making sure it provides practical, sustainable solutions that make financial sense while sharing a common vision with its customers. On the governmental side, Lo said investments in sustainability have also helped with business continuity and risk reduction.

Its investments in sustainability ultimately help the company reach manufacturing excellence, which means optimized performance across speed, cost and productivity.

“Speed enhances the efficiency of the whole supply chain. It helps our customers to buy more of the right products, and less of the wrong products, which helps our customers to reduce markdowns and increase their margins,” he said.

On the hardware side, the group has been investing in factory automation and smart warehouses, which has led to a more than 50 percent reduction in labor costs, and more can be done.

“I think the future would be artificial intelligence. Recently, there have been a lot of developments in humanoid robots. We are studying how we can use these new technologies to incorporate into our factories, to help to enhance productivity going forward,” said Lo.

When asked about what are the main challenges for the fashion industry to embrace sustainable practices, Lo said it would be more manufacturers and upstream suppliers adopting a proactive approach concerning environmental issues.

“I think a lot more promotion and education needs to be done on the tier two and tier three suppliers. On the governmental side, I think a lot of regulatory changes are very slow. We need more incentives from the government to support sustainable practices. Right now, we can only save around maybe 15 to 20 percent with renewable energy by putting solar panels on our roofs. But if there are more incentives to build green energies, maybe giving cheaper lands or maybe offering subsidies to help us to put more and maybe a solar farm next to our factories, that would help our efforts much faster,” said Lo.

Founded in 1970, Crystal International is one of the largest apparel manufacturers in the world. It operates 20 production facilities in Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, employing over 73,000 people worldwide.

It delivers more than 470 million pieces of apparel per year to clients including Fast Retailing, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, Levi’s, Victoria’s Secret, The North Face, and Under Armour.

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