Photo source: Fortune
Ethiopia’s Hawassa Industrial Park (HIP), opened in 2016, was developed with concern for industry issues such as human rights, worker safety, transportation, clean and efficient energy, water usage, and community development.
HIP was designed with the potential to become a vertically integrated production facility where raw materials like cotton can be grown, fabric produced, and pieces cut and sewn into finished garments. Such a system would theoretically help reduce a company’s costs, risks, and external impacts, including the effects of shipping in between manufacturing stages.
The Ethiopian government invested USD 250 million to develop the 1.3 million square meter industrial park, which is set to host 14 major apparel companies including PVH and H&M, along with six local manufacturers.
From design to development and production, the facility works to support a sustainable apparel industry.
Environmentally sustainable features include a rainwater capture system and the use of natural lighting and ventilation to conserve energy and improve working conditions. And, by recycling 85 percent of sewage discharge water, the facility seeks to reach “zero liquid discharge (ZLD).”
In addition, the development promises to bring jobs to the local community, along with recreation areas, health services and a post office.
In an interview with Corporate Responsibility Magazine, PVH CEO, Manny Chirico, states “This group of vendors, along with us, the donor community and the government of Ethiopia, are working together. We are developing the area both inside and outside of the park.”
Chirico points out that because factories are often built without considering sustainability, it’s left to the manufacturer to retrofit the buildings. Even when retrofits are made, the expense, difficulty and sometimes lack of engineering expertise can limit their effectiveness.
HIP is not just sustainable, it also promises to be good for the national economy.
HIP is expected to generate more national revenue from exports and employ more people than the rest of Ethiopia’s textile and apparel manufacturing industries combined. It’s expected to create 60,000 to 80,000 jobs and increase textile and apparel export revenue from $100 million to $1 billion.
“The eco-friendly industrial park will showcase that environmental protection and development can go hand in hand,” said Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Haielemariam Desalegn.
Nonetheless, downstream challenges still exist.
Second only to oil, the apparel industry is the largest industrial polluter and is responsible for 10 percent of global carbon emissions. Far greater than sourcing and manufacturing, dyeing, transportation and packaging, product use phase accounts for the largest portion of a garment’s environmental impact. Energy used in the washing and drying of garments accounts for 40-80 percent of total lifecycle GHG emissions. So, while Hawassa Industrial Park is a step forward, it will take changing the minds and habits of consumers to truly transform the sustainability of the apparel industry.
Greg Dietz is currently interning in our New York office. He is a creative individual and an experienced writer. Greg is currently completing his M.S. in Sustainability Management (SUMA) at Columbia University and is a founding board member of SUMA’s new Ambassador Program. Before starting his master’s degree, Greg worked in environmental consulting after obtaining a degree in Geology from Lafayette College.