American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

Sustainability Series: Milliken & Company Part of the Discourse on a Circular Economy in Partnership with National Geographic

Milliken President & CEO Halsey Cook

Milliken President & CEO Halsey Cook

Milliken & Company President and CEO Halsey Cook addressed the challenges and opportunities associated with eliminating and recycling waste as part of the National Geographic Circular Economy Forum on February 26 in Washington, DC.

Milliken was a sponsor of the forum, along with Waste Management and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which brought together approximately 400 leaders from the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and government to address multifaceted solutions aimed at achieving zero waste.

“Closing the loop on waste requires a holistic plan,” Cook said in a statement. “We’re committed to forums and conversations that will lead to aligned, sustainable innovations.”

Susan Goldberg, editorial director of National Geographic Partners and Editor in Chief of National Geographic, led a panel discussion, in which Cook participated, focused on the enablers and barriers of a circular economy.

Goldberg asked Cook to respond to an Op-ed in the New York Times written by Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce, in which he declared “Capitalism, as we know it, is dead.”

Cook assured the audience that Capitalism is “alive and well and evolving.”

He said Benioff’s comment “underscores that if you don’t take a view towards the impact of your business across all of your stakeholders, you can pay a huge penalty, which will ultimately impact the shareholder as well. So the bottom line matters, but it’s not the only thing that matters.”

“As time has gone on, what we have seen is that the unintended consequences of businesses that have a blind eye toward their communities or toward the environment end up becoming very risky environments,” Cook said.

Milliken’s CEO said some of the toughest conversations happening at the moment in boardrooms around the world are centered around “mitigating the risk against environmental impact and against societal impacts which could actually decimate your bottom lines in the longer term.”

Earlier in the week, Milliken earned the recognition as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies,” a recognition it has been awarded 14 years in a row.

Milliken was selected again by the Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining standards of ethical businesses.

A materials science expert, Milliken has a portfolio of industry-leading specialty chemical, performance textiles and floor covering innovations and is one of eight industrial manufacturers to receive this designation in 2020. Only seven companies have received the honor for 14 consecutive years.

“Ethisphere tracks the returns of winners of the award,” Cook said. “The data is very clear that companies that do focus on the right things over time have higher returns than the averages of the S&P 500. I think it is a win-win but it’s hard work to get it all right.”

 

PUBLIC PRESSURE HAS A ROLE TO PLAY

Public pressure on companies to mitigate their impact on the environment has created more urgency to address the issue.

“What we see is that a lot of consumer-oriented companies are making big declarations about recycled content and that is going to create opportunities in the future for more recycling,” Cook said.  “We saw the numbers–such a small and insignificant part of the actual production today turns into recycling.  A lot of that is because there is not value.”

Packaging companies and branded companies have made commitments to increase recycled product to 25 percent and even as high as 50 percent by 2025 to 2030, Cook said.

He said continued consumer pressure will create more recycling streams. The economics change, he noted, when consumers are willing to pay a higher price because they think it is “important enough” to pay those prices for recycled content.

“We are an equity investor in PureCycle Technologies—and the technology continues to improve where we can take recycled content–post-consumer–and turn it into resins that can be used again without creating new resins. That could potentially be sold for a higher price.”

Cook said there is science around the recycling aspect of Milliken’s business, noting there has been a “pivot” within the company’s scientific community, particularly around polymer research.

“You have to break down the molecules and build them up…,” he said. “We don’t actually make plastics, but we make additives, which make them stronger. In that case, when you go through the recycling process, polymers break down and have to be strengthened again. Our team is researching how to facilitate and enable large scale recycling efforts by the global economy.”

 

The company’s award-winning DeltaMaxTM Performance Additive has significantly contributed to improved manufacturing processes with recycled polypropylene, which Milliken said is among the fastest-growing plastic globally.

The additive “balances the product quality and production challenges of manufacturing new products with recycled polypropylene, enabling the use of up to 100% post-consumer and post-industrial recycled polypropylene resins from which new products are made,” Milliken said.

 

EUROPE’S EXTENDED PRODUCER RESPONSBILITY

Manufacturers and retailers of plastic products are held financially responsible in the European Union under the concept of “Extended Producer Responsibility,” for dealing with their products once they hit the waste stream, Goldberg noted.

Asked if the concept should ultimately be part of the plastic waste solution in the United States, Cook said he thinks it does have a role.

“It motivates people to return products,” he said. “There are sub-economies that emerge as a result. We’ve seen the success of that with the aluminum can business in the U.S. States that have deposits on bottles can see recycled at rates as high as 60-70 percent versus low single digits in states that do not. It’s definitely a trigger that needs to be thought about.”

 

LOOMING PLASTICS LEGISLATION

“We are going to start to see increased legislation,” Cook said.

The CEO was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and said there are at least two active plastics bills “coming online.”

Cook pointed to laws around banning and curbing single-use plastics in several states and noted the “environment is going to change.”

But he warned that decision makers have to start determining “what we are solving for.”

“It’s very easy to [say we should] eliminate plastics, but then you might replace that with materials which actually have a big disadvantage from a carbon footprint,” Cook said.

“In this conversation of trash you have to remember that we’ve got an existential threat around climate change,” he added. “What are we trying to solve for? Is it plastics in the ocean? You need to focus on Asia. Is it recyclability? That’s part of the reason we find this forum so exciting. We get a chance to mingle with a lot of different people in the value chain and get their views on it.”

 

 

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

Sustainability Series: Apparel Industry Group Launches Project to Move Textile Industry from Linear to Circular

A broad apparel industry coalition is taking the issue of textile waste head on as the industry continues to explore the next generation of textiles.

The apparel industry group has launched a new collaborative project under the banner of Accelerating Circularity, with a mandate of eliminating textile waste in the supply chain.

The U.S. textile industry has made significant strides in eliminating industrial waste and incorporating technologies to recycle waste in its operations over the past several years.

“The new project seeks to move the industry beyond solely addressing post-industrial waste to developing new practices and technologies for post-consumer waste to reduce the millions of tons of waste in landfills” said Tricia Carey, Director of Lenzing’s Global Business Development Apparel and Secretary of the Accelerating Board of Directors.

“The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 15 million tons of textile waste is generated annually in the United States alone,” the Accelerating Circularity group said in a statement today.

NCTO members Unifi and Lenzing, are among the founding project partners, which also include Gap Inc., Giotex, Gr3n, Target, VF Corp, Revolve Waste and Fabrikology International Inc. This group represents a broad industry-based coalition of technology providers, fiber manufacturers, textile waste and supply chain experts and brands and retailers.

The group said its aim is to “accelerate the textile industry’s move from linear to circular.”

The Accelerating Circularity founding project partners include Gap Inc., Giotex, Gr3n, Target, VF Corporation, Lenzing, Unifi, Revolve Waste and Fabrikology International, Inc., representing technology providers, fiber manufacturers, and experts in textile waste and supply chains, as well as brands and retailers.

“In 2017 LENZING™ launched TENCEL™  Lyocell with REFIBRA™ technology, using cotton scraps to make new lyocell fiber and we continue to support industry initiatives to drive textile to textile recycling,” said Tricia Carey. “Accelerating Circularity developed out of supply chain and brand discussions of how we can facilitate collaboration and mapping a new route together.”

Carey said textile companies and experts will provide advice and input on how the industry must change.

“Essentially for Lenzing the consumer will become our raw material supplier,” she said. “This is a big change as we consider the next generation of textiles. With circularity you need everyone. This breaks the silos and you have to think about impact to keep cycling materials.”

“Shifting the apparel industry toward more circular solutions is a complex challenge with significant technical, economic, and business implications,” said Alice Hartley, Senior Manager of Sustainable Innovation at Gap Inc. and board member of Accelerating Circularity. “At Gap Inc., we have a responsibility to protect the environment and reduce waste at every stage of our production process – from design, to sourcing, to manufacturing. As we address the full life cycle of our garments, we look forward to working with these partners to collaborate, advance efforts and share learnings with the wider industry for the health of our planet.”

Accelerating Circularity’s board members include, Tricia Carey of Lenzing, Alice Hartley of Gap Inc., Beth Jensen of VF Corporation, Karla Magruder of Accelerating Circularity, Eileen Mockus of Coyuchi, and Laila Petrie of 2050.

Partner organizations include American Apparel & Footwear Association, Apparel Impact Institute, Circle Economy, Outdoor Industry Association, Textile Exchange, The Renewal Workshop, and United States Fashion Industry Association.

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series – Unifi, Inc.

North Carolina-based Unifi Inc., a global producer of synthetic and recycled performance fibers, has been a leader in the industry—not only through its corporate culture and REPREVE® recycled performance fibers, which have touched every corner of the apparel supply chain, but also through campaigns and collaborations with organizations to raise awareness of the corporate stewardship aimed at mitigating the impact of manufacturing processes on the environment.

The company’s recycling efforts have been driven and widely adopted by the entire apparel supply chain.

Unifi’s REPREVE brand, launched in 2007, has transformed more than 19 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for new clothing, shoes, home goods and other consumer products made by leading brands. The company is on track to hit its goal of 20 billion plastic bottles in 2020.

Jay Hertwig, Unifi’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing

The brand uses 45% less energy, 20% less water, and has reduced greenhouse gases by 30% versus virgin polyester production, according to Jay Hertwig, Unifi’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing. The company’s total recycling of 20 billion bottles will offset the use of petroleum needed to produce virgin fiber, conserving 323.4 million gallons of water.

“REPREVE was born through a manufacturing excellence project where Unifi was trying to determine how we could be more efficient from an overall manufacturing standpoint. Even though we have a high production efficiency rate, we still produce waste,” Hertwig said. “We developed a product made from 100% waste in 2007.  Patagonia and Polartec started demand for Repreve as Patagonia was looking for fleece with recycled content.”

REPREVE has come a long way in just a decade. The number of customers using Unifi’s recycled fibers has grown significantly—from those two brands in 2007 to more than 700 brands globally, according to Hertwig.

Moreover, Unifi has invested heavily in recycling technologies and manufacturing—more than $150 million—over the past decade.

The company now operates its own recycling center in Yadkinville, N.C., which opened in 2010, as well as the REPREVE Bottle Processing Center, a $28 million investment, which opened in 2016.

“We continue to grow our REPREVE production year over year. It has become almost 40 percent of the total production at Unifi today.”

Asked whether Unifi could achieve 100 percent REPREVE production, Hertwig said “Once we started to see demand grow for REPREVE, our vision formed to one day run 100 percent recycled REPREVE production. It’s a lofty goal that comes with many challenges, but one we still strive to meet.”

“As we continue to invest in sustainable and recycling technologies, Unifi expects a larger portion of our production will be REPREVE-based in the future.”

 

Green Movement and Congressional Scrutiny

As consumer awareness, activism around pollution and calls for more eco-driven products continue to deepen, lawmakers are also increasing scrutiny of plastic pollution in particular and considering proposals to curb it. Some experts have warned that similar bills could be proposed to target microfiber pollution from petroleum-based materials such as polyester, acrylic and nylon.

Hertwig addressed some of the underlying concerns from a sustainability perspective within the context of the end-goal that Unifi is pursuing—curbing pollution through recycling, while creating more cost-savings and efficiencies.

“There are many opportunities for increasing recycling, especially in the United States, where the recycling rate is less than 30 percent. Recycling around the rest of the world is much higher,” Hertwig said.

“We are actively working with our customers and our stakeholders to explore potential impacts that microplastics and microfibers have on the environment. All the while, we remain dedicated to diverting billions of post-consumer plastic bottles, and textile waste, from oceans and landfills. We feel this is one of the most effective ways to mitigate plastic pollution, including microplastics, and to help to shift our economy from linear to circular,” Hertwig added.

As more attention is paid to microfiber pollution in synthetic clothing, companies are taking a closer look at solutions, investing in testing and exploring the effects of fiber shedding.

“We’re working with some brands that are doing research around microfiber pollution. It is a challenge to be overcome—to prevent loose fibers—but laundry equipment manufacturers offer some solutions in terms of removable filter systems,” Hertwig said. “The majority of our production is filament yarn, and if the yarn and fabric is processed in the right way, the fabric doesn’t shed.”

Unifi is on track to meet its goal of recycling 20 billion plastic bottles by 2020 using its REPREVE® technology.

 

Champions of Sustainability

Hertwig said Unifi’s REPREVE brand is expected to have another good year.

“We are definitely seeing more and more demand in various supply chains that we have around the world for REPREVE and recyclable material in general.”

Unifi launched its sustainability awards in 2017 to recognize brands, retailers and textile partners that are committed to sustainable sourcing.

Unifi announced the recipients of its Third Annual REPREVE Champions of Sustainability Awards on Thursday, Feb. 13.

The awards were given to 26 brand and retail partners that transformed 10 million or more recycled bottles and 42 textile partners that each transformed 50 million or more bottles through the use of REPREVE performance fibers.

Unifi recognized several companies, including H&M which recycled more than a half billion bottles and Walmart and Quicksilver, which reached the quarter billion bottle milestone.

“What we wanted to do with Champions of Sustainability is recognize brands, retailers and fabric suppliers, and highlight their efforts in producing eco-friendly sustainable material with REPREVE,” Hertwig said. “It generated such a level of interest in the supply chain, that many brands, retailers and mills contacted us to learn more about how to be recognized for using Repreve. As the sustainability movement started to grow within their organizations, they wanted to make sure they were getting credit. It has been a surprisingly successful program.”

At the end of the day, Hertwig said Unifi aims to create a higher level of awareness. The REPREVE tagline is “For the Good of Tomorrow.”

“Part of our goal is to create awareness and also educate as many customers and consumers about the importance of recycling through our different marketing campaigns and event appearances,” he said. “We’ve been doing that with our REPREVE national mobile tour, which is relaunching later this spring. It’s traveling across the United States to brands, retailers and different sporting events promoting the importance of recycling, while showing consumers how a bottle can become a pair of shoes, a jacket or automotive seat material.”

Unifi’s REPREVE® on display outside of their factory in Yadkinville, North Carolina.

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

The U.S. textile industry’s investment in sustainability and the “circular economy” comes at a pivotal time.

Consumer demand continues to grow for eco-friendly products, legislators and regulators are taking a hard look at environmental issues across manufacturing industries, and executives across a broad industry spectrum are making sustainability a pillar of their business models.

For years, domestic textile producers have been developing effective sustainable technologies, practices and products to address the myriad challenges associated with reducing manufacturing waste, water and energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions—moves that have helped curb environmental impact.

While there is ample anecdotal evidence showing that the steps textile companies are taking in the U.S is reducing waste, water and energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, no academic or scientific studies exist to date that measure either the impact in the U.S. in aggregate.

However, scores of U.S.-based textile producers, brands and retailers publicly highlight their sustainability goals, commitments, policies and products on their websites.

Most industry executives and experts cite the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as the best credible source for measuring global textile and apparel pollution. China, which has a poor environmental track record and relies largely on coal-based energy, is the number one supplier of apparel imported to the U.S.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the global supply chain is accountable for consuming 98 million tons of non-renewable resources—from the oil used in synthetic fibers to pesticides and fertilizer in cotton production. Globally, the textile industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water annually, including cotton farming, according to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation study in 2017. In addition, the Circular Fibres initiative (a consortium of NGOs, philanthropists, brands, and cities cited in the MacArthur report) estimates the global textile industry generated 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Experts warn that all stakeholders both here and abroad will continue feeling the pressure to make greater progress in the years to come.

U.S. textile executives fully understand the drive for sustainability, which often yields benefits in the form of cost-savings and increased efficiencies, and many are at the forefront of the country’s recycling efforts, conservation efforts and advanced technology developments.

Against that backdrop, NCTO is launching a blog series on sustainability that will feature interviews with several textile executives and experts to highlight the industry’s progress, while also outlining challenges companies face in the quest to ultimately contribute to a cleaner environment.

 

 

 

WASHINGTON UPDATE: NCTO Unites with 13 Trade Groups to Support USMCA

The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), representing the full spectrum of U.S. textiles from fiber through finished sewn products, joined 13 trade associations in a letter to House lawmakers this week, urging members to vote in favor of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The House was expected to pass USMCA on December 19, 2019.

The USMCA updates and modifies the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and makes significant improvements that textile and cotton producers believe will help bolster cotton exports to the region, as well as the $20 billion in annual trilateral textile and apparel trade between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Mexico and Canada are the two largest export markets for U.S. textiles, totaling nearly $12 billion in 2018.

For U.S. cotton producers, Mexico is the top export market for U.S. raw cotton and the second largest export market for U.S. cotton textile and apparel products. Canada is the fourth largest market for those products, according to the National Cotton Council.

NCTO will continue to push for passage of USMCA in the Senate, which is expected to hold a vote early next year on the trade pact.

 

WASHINGTON UPDATE: U.S. and China Complete Phase 1 Deal

Just ahead of a new round of tariffs scheduled to take effect December 15, the Trump administration announced a “Phase One” deal on December 13 that will suspend indefinitely those tariffs and reduce the rate for the list that went into place on September 1 (List 4A).  The text of the agreement has not yet been released; the U.S. and China are expected to sign it in early January.

Based on the latest information available, the deal includes new commitments covered by specific chapters on Intellectual Property; Technology Transfer; Agriculture; Financial Services; Currency; Expanding Trade; and Dispute Settlement.  A fact sheet summarizing the agreement is available here As part of the Expanding Trade section, China has committed to purchasing over the next two years an additional $200 billion of U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural products, energy products, and services, compared to a 2017 baseline.

In addition to canceling the December 15 tariffs, the United States agreed not to move forward with a previously discussed 5% increase to the tariff rate for Tranches 1-3, meaning that the tariff rate on the $250 billion covered by the first three lists will remain at 25%.  For Tranche 4A, the grouping that went into effect on September 1 at a 15% rate, the U.S. will cut that rate in half to 7.5%.  As a reminder, most apparel and home furnishing products are on Tranche 4A, while textile fibers, yarns and fabrics are part of Tranche 3.   It is unclear precisely when the decreased rate for 4A will take effect, although press reports indicate it will be 30 days after the agreement is signed.  Further, no firm plans have been announced yet as to when the U.S. and China will launch the second phase of the talks or what the scope will be.

As we review this Phase One agreement, it is important that the administration strike the proper balance of maintaining its leverage with China by keeping duties on finished product until a final strong and enforceable deal with China is completed.  We look forward to reviewing and analyzing the deal in more detail. See NCTO’s official press release here.

Further, an exclusion process for the Tranche 4A list is currently underway and will extend through January 31.  The online portal is available here, with exclusion requests being posted on a rolling basis.  Included below are further details for engaging in this process should your company wish to submit an exclusion request and/or respond to requests submitted by others that may overlap with your production capabilities or that of your customers.

Submitting a Tranche 4A Exclusion Request 

To submit an exclusion request, Requestors must first create an account See the $300 Billion Trade Action (List 4) webpage for more information on filing a request for an exclusion, submitting a response to a request, or replying to a response.  Exclusion requests must be submitted by January 31, 2019.

Viewing and Responding to Tranche 4A Exclusion Requests

The list of Tranche 4A exclusion requests posted to the public portal is available here and can be sorted by HTS number to better identify products of interest.  Interested parties do not need to register for an account to view a request or file a response to a request.  Responses and replies will be publicly viewable and should not contain Business Confidential Information.

After a request for exclusion of a particular product is posted to the portal, interested persons have 14 days to respond to the request to express support or opposition.  To file a response, first click on the associated “Exclusion Request ID” to view the public details of the request, then click the “Submit a New Response” button.

Requestors then have 7 days after a response is posted to file a reply.  If a response is filed, USTR indicates that the original Requestor will receive a notification email.  Requestors may file a reply by following the link in the notification email or by logging into their account and viewing the relevant response.

We strongly encourage members to review and continually monthly the exclusion portal through January 31, noting the 14-day window for any responses.  Please let NCTO know if you file a response.

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: U.S. Textile Executives Comment on Positive Impact of USMCA Deal

The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), representing the full spectrum of U.S. textiles from fiber through finished sewn products, welcomed the deal on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade pact reached between the administration and House Democrats on Dec. 10.

 The deal paves the way for USMCA legislation to advance in Congress and NCTO will be fully engaged in helping move the trade deal across the finish line. The House and Senate must vote on USMCA and all three countries must ratify the trade deal before it can be implemented.

 In this blog post, NCTO interviewed four U.S. textile CEOs who outlined how the provisions and improvements in USMCA will benefit their companies. These companies represent a sampling of the larger U.S. textile base, which will see broad-based improvements if the trade deal is implemented.

 In 2018, the top 5 states representing textile employment were Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California and Virginia.

 The new USMCA, which updates and modifies the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), would greatly benefit the U.S. textile industry and bolster the industry’s $20 billion in annual trilateral textile and apparel trade. U.S. textile exports to Canada and Mexico—the industry’s top two export markets—totaled nearly $12 billion in 2018, underscoring the importance of the trade deal to the industry’s Western Hemisphere supply chain as well as its growth and investment in the U.S.

 NCTO worked with the administration during negotiations on USMCA and successfully lobbied for several provisions that were incorporated in the trade deal that will close loopholes and strengthen U.S. Customs enforcement.

 The USMCA includes the following provisions aimed at helping strengthen and bolster business in the Western Hemisphere: 

  • Creation of a separate chapter for textiles and apparel rules of origin with strong customs enforcement language.
  • Stronger rules of origin for sewing thread, pocketing, narrow elastics and certain coated fabrics. Under the current NAFTA, these items can be sourced from outside the regionUSMCA fixes this loophole and ensures these secondary components are originating to the region.
  • Fixes the Kissell Amendment, Buy American loophole, ensuring that a significant amount the Department of Homeland Security spends annually on clothing and textiles for the Transportation Security Administration is spent on domestically produced products.

 The following textile executives provide insight into the implications of USMCA for their businesses and urge Congress to swiftly pass the trade deal.

 

COTSWOLD INDUSTRIES INC.:

The USMCA trade deal will provide benefits for the entire U.S. textile supply chain, which has built a strong and well-established industry over the past 25 years under NAFTA, and stands to gain even more under the modified trade pact.

For New York-based Cotswold Industries, a vertically integrated textile engineering and marketing company that manufactures and distributes technical barriers, knitted and woven industrial fabrics and non-woven substrates to the apparel, industrial, military commercial workwear and home sewing markets, the new provisions in the trade pact will not only help provide certainty and stability in the Western Hemisphere but will also secure new opportunities.

James W. McKinnon, CEO, Cotswold Industries Inc., said his company exports a wide variety of fabrics to Mexico that account for more than 30-40 percent of its total exports.

“For us, the NAFTA agreement itself⁠—and now the USMCA⁠—is absolutely critical to maintaining the jobs and the business that we currently have, and that runs the gamut from automotive to home furnishings to apparel,” McKinnon said. “All of those sectors are critically important to maintaining the free flow of goods over the border and it’s mutually beneficial for not just the U.S. textile industry but for workers in Mexico and ultimately the U.S. consumer.”

Over the past 25 years, NAFTA has provided a “tax free, duty-free environment” that encourages shorter lead times,” he said.

U.S. textile producers have also benefited from the close proximity of Mexico to the United States as brands and retailers invested in the model of Just-In-Time manufacturing. With the explosion of online shopping, quicker deliveries have become even more critical with a greater reliance on manufacturing hubs closer to the U.S.

“NAFTA has been a counterbalance to cheaper goods from China and Bangladesh, especially in the industries where quick turn-around times and quick response is important,” McKinnon said. “NAFTA and USCMA allow that process to continue and allow us to be competitive to lower cost Asian production.”

McKinnon said the Western Hemisphere supply chain began to stabilize between 2005-2010 after offshoring in the 1980s and 1990s, which lead to a significant exodus of apparel business to Asia.

“The infrastructure in Mexico has been the leading cause of business staying there,” McKinnon said. “There was a huge investment there and that production is now mature and that infrastructure established. It is a known commodity that U.S. brands will take advantage of.”

USMCA will help maintain that critical supply chain, while opening new business opportunities for U.S. textile manufacturers.

Cotswold will be a beneficiary of stronger customs enforcement in USMCA as well as the fix in the Kissell Amendment, Buy American loophole, which will require the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration to purchase a significant amount of domestically produced inputs for its uniforms.

 

HAMRICK MILLS INC.

Hamrick Mills, Inc., a 119-year-old textile company based in Gaffney S.C., employing 470 people, is well positioned to take advantage of several new provisions in USMCA.

The company is a producer of greige woven fabrics in both poly/cotton blends as well as 100% cotton for use in the home furnishings and apparel and support apparel markets.

Hamrick Mills has built a strong business around the current NAFTA and anticipates new and expanded business with USMCA, said Cameron Hamrick, president of the company.

“I think there is a big desire to have certainty in the North American region. It’s a new trade agreement, which the textile industry gave input on that was later incorporated into the agreement,” Hamrick said. “There is less of a geo-political risk of operating in North America for the US market. Without that certainty, it could easily drive more big end users to Asia.”

He said a portion of the company’s career uniform shirting fabric and hospital scrub material is exported to Mexico for cutting and sewing and shipped back to the U.S. for consumption. Hamrick also sells greige fabric to Mexico for the sheeting market.

“Right now, a significant portion of our total business in the supply chain goes through Mexico,” Hamrick said, adding that the company sells its fabrics to converters, which complete the manufacturing process in Mexico and returns to USA consumers.

The stronger rule of origin for pocketing is a significant component for Hamrick Mills.

“Of course the pocketing provision strengthens the overall demand for textiles in the region because it has a stronger rule of origin, which is a big deal for us,” Hamrick said. “It gives the U.S., Canada and Mexico an opportunity to fill that need that was getting filled by the Eastern Hemisphere because of the exclusions [in NAFTA] for the non-visible components.”

Hamrick said under NAFTA, a majority of pocketing fabric was fulfilled by non-signatory countries, primarily from Asia. USMCA’s strong rule of origin on pocketing and interlinings will allow only the signatory countries in the region to participate duty free.  The fix to the Kissell Amendment loophole will also help Hamrick Mills expand its shirting business.

“We do a lot of shirting that we sell for Berry Amendment requirements. We sell products to various [apparel] companies that participate in Berry Amendment uniforms, and we would in turn be able to expand that through the Kissell Amendment requirements, especially in the areas of Homeland Security and TSA.”

“In order to compete on a global level, we need to have USMCA for textiles. That’s for sure.”

Hamrick said the trade agreement is critical to maintaining a Western Hemisphere platform and will create more certainty for the textile industry in North America, which will help our industry grow.

 

GREENWOOD MILLS INC.

Greenwood Mills, Inc., a 130-year-old textile producer based in Greenwood, South Carolina, is well positioned to take advantage of provisions in the USMCA.

James C. Self III, president and CEO of Greenwood Mills, said the company has two distinct businesses—fabric and apparel.

Under NAFTA, Greenwood has built a significant workwear fabric export business to Mexico, and on the apparel side, the company makes finished blue jeans in Mexico.

Self said one updated provision in USMCA that could be a potential benefit is the strengthened rule of origin for pocketing, which will require pocketing fabric to be produced in the NAFTA region, as opposed to allowing the use of fabric from other countries such as China, which is the case under NAFTA.

“There is a lot of interest over pocketing,” Self said. Under NAFTA, companies can use foreign pocketing fabrics but USMCA closes that loophole and it is an area we are looking at in terms of potential new business,” Self said.

Self said Greenwood is not currently in the pocketing fabric business because NAFTA allowed foreign-made pocketing which undercut U.S. pricing.

During the first few years after NAFTA was implemented in 1994, Self said Greenwood’s denim apparel business in Mexico thrived, although it has since slowed over the past decade as some denim apparel production started to migrate to Asia from Mexico.

“It’s still a significant business for us and the new deal could help that business. Anything that makes NAFTA more competitive against Asia is going to help,” Self said.

“With the great growth in e-commerce, quick turn is going to be more critical to a lot of our retail partners. Mexico is the quickest of the quick turns in this industry,” Self added.

Stronger customs enforcement provisions in USMCA will also help address long-standing and rampant textile fraud, such as transshipments from other countries trying to take advantage of NAFTA’s duty benefits.

Self said the fix to the Kissell Amendment, Buy American loophole for TSA uniforms could also help boost the entire industry.

“If it comes back to the U.S. and is treated the same way as the military, obviously that would be a big boost for Made in USA,” he noted.

 

INMAN MILLS

Inman Mills, which is based in Inman, S.C., is a textile producer of a diverse range of products, from cotton yarn to highly technical fire retardant fabric, primarily exports bottom weight fabrics to the region, according to Norman Chapman, president and CEO of the company.

“From a pure capacity point of view, USMCA would lead to an increase in volume and I think that would make companies stronger,” he said.

Chapman said the textile industry is a lot smaller since NAFTA took effect 25 years ago, but he noted that it is important to have a better free trade deal for the region, because it creates more volume for the industry overall.

Strengthening the rule of origin for pocketing and linings is a key benefit for companies, he noted.

“These are very competitive products but when they are coming in from outside of the agreement, you don’t even get a chance at bidding on them,” he said. “USMCA will require that they come from the region and it will add volume to this region, which is a good thing.”

For Inman Mills, the revisions closing the Kissell Amendment loophole is an important component of the agreement.

“That would be a significant benefit to us. Those are the types of fabrics that we manufacture,” Chapman said. “With Homeland Security and TSA and the pocketing and lining [modifications] it would give us an opportunity for increased volume.”

Chapman said Inman currently does a limited amount of pocketing but he said “most looms don’t care what they weave,” noting that more volume for the region is good for everyone.

 

 

Trade Update: Apparel Imports from China post Big Double-Digit Decline in October on a Year-Over-Year Basis

Apparel imports from China fell even more sharply in October year over year than in September, as the Trump administration’s tariffs continued to propel a shift in sourcing.

Apparel imports from China to the U.S. fell 30.4 percent by quantity in October compared with October 2018, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) monthly report released on Dec.5.

The administration began imposing retaliatory tariffs on finished apparel and textile on Sept. 1, as part of its crackdown on China’s intellectual property abuses.

“The steep decline in apparel imports from China in October on a year-over- year basis, marks the second month of declines since the Trump administration imposed tariffs on finished apparel and textile products from China and is a strong indicator that there is a shift in sourcing,” said NCTO President and CEO Kim Glas. “As U.S. manufacturers that have suffered enormously from China’s illegal IPR activities and state-sponsored export subsidies, we have long supported the administration’s crackdown on intellectual property violations. The tariffs on finished products are the only way to maintain leverage and truly resolve China’s rampant IPR abuse.”

For the year-to-date, apparel imports from China fell 2.25%, while apparel imports declined 1.2% for the year ending Oct. 31, according to OTEXA.

Glas said the administration’s actions against China could ultimately help lead to sourcing shifts to the Western Hemisphere, which is the U.S. textile industry’s largest export market.

Textile mill product exports to the Western Hemisphere declined 2.5 percent for the year-to-date as well as for the year ending Oct. 31.

But textile exports to some individual countries in the region increased. Honduras, a partner in the Central American Free Trade Agreement or (CAFTA-DR), posted an 8.5 percent increase by quantity for the year-to-date through October

There were also other bright spots in the data, particularly in apparel imports from the Western Hemisphere, which largely incorporate U.S. textile inputs. Apparel imports to the U.S. from the region rose 0.88 percent for the year ending October.

“Early indications in the trade data show that sourcing is shifting. Apparel imports from the Western Hemisphere that largely incorporate U.S. textile inputs increased modestly and if it continues, this is a trend that will have positive implications for the U.S. textile industry,” Glas said.

We Make Amazing: Under Armour Wins Unifi Inc.’s Champion of Sustainability Award

Unifi executives recently met with Under Armour leaders in Baltimore to present the company with its REPREVE® Champions of Sustainability award. To date, Under Armour has recycled 69 million bottles through its use of REPREVE recycled fiber, which offsets the use of petroleum needed to produce virgin fiber. This conserves enough water to nearly fill Baltimore’s National Aquarium to capacity.

Two National Council of Textile Organization (NCTO) member companies are making giant strides in the area of sustainability with the production and use of recycled performance fibers.

Unifi Inc., a global producer of synthetic and recycled performance fibers, which launched sustainability awards two years ago, has awarded Under Armour Inc. its REPREVE® Champions of Sustainability award.

By incorporating Unifi’s REPREVE recycled fiber in its athletic performance wear, Under Armour has recycled the equivalent of 69 million bottles, which offsets the use of petroleum needed to produce virgin fiber. Taking this step, the company has conserved enough water to nearly fill Baltimore’s National Aquarium to capacity.

“The REPREVE Champions of Sustainability Awards are meant to honor and inspire companies to source responsibly and take sustainability strategies to the next level,” said Jay Hertwig, senior vice president of Global Brand Sales at Unifi. “We’re proud to partner with Under Armour to create eco-friendly apparel for the good of tomorrow.”

For an industry that is often not given its due for developing and employing advanced sustainable technologies and practices that mitigate their impact on the environment, these awards highlight how Unifi and other major brands and textile partners are playing a role in sustainability.

Unifi’s REPREVE recycled performance fibers transform more than 18 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for new clothing, shoes, home goods and other consumer products made by leading brands. The company is on track to hit its goal of 20 billion plastic bottles by 2020.

Recognizing the importance of incorporating more sustainable inputs and practices into business models, Unifi joined teams with The Olio, a nonprofit organization based in Winston-Salem, N.C. that focuses on teaching and empowerment through entrepreneurship, glassblowing, art and sustainable practices. The Olio uses sustainable materials to make the trophies given to winners of the awards program each year.

The Champions of Sustainability awards continue to recognize brands, retailers and textile partners that are committed to sustainable sourcing.

In 2018, Unifi recognized 68 companies as Champions of Sustainability, which represented a 36 percent increase over the total in 2017. Nike and Target joined Polartec in the “Billion Bottle Circle” for recycling more than one billion bottles each, while Ford and H&M were recognized for recycling more than 250 million bottles.

Adidas, Hanesbrands, Volcom and Williams-Sonoma were also recognized for reaching new milestones in 2018.

The REPREVE Champions of Sustainability were awarded to 28 brand and retail partners in 2018 that each used the equivalent of 10 million or more bottles, and 30 textile partners that each used the equivalent of 50 million or more bottles, through the inclusion of REPREVE performance fibers.

The full list of third annual award winners will be announced in January 2020.