‘Transition – From Process-led to Product-led’

ABFRL awarded ‘Most Sustainable Company’ by S&P Global

Ashish Dikshit, Managing Director
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited

Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail (ABFRL) recounts its sustainability journey in the financial year 2019-20 and how it is adopting the concept of new normal in the pandemic times. Named ‘Transition – From Process-led to Product-led’, the report trains focus on driving sustainability beyond ABFRL’s operations based on 3 key pillars – product design and development, customer centricity and supply chain. It is, after all, ‘unfolding the wings of change’.

Excerpts from the report:

The overarching goal is to leverage ABFRL’s scale as India’s largest pure-play fashion and lifestyle powerhouse and demonstrate how the sustainability paradigm can be shifted from niche to mainstream and in the process contribute to global goals like SDG and further the national sustainability agenda through active participation in programs like SU.RE.

The ambition is to constantly benchmark itself against the best and create a rightful place for itself in the league of global sustainability leaders.

Kumar Mangalam Birla – Chairman, Aditya Birla Group is quoted in the report saying: “Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail was one of the early adopters of the ABG sustainability framework and created a comprehensive sustainability programme, ReEarth, which focused on the needs of the fashion and retail sector in India. With apparel contributing to around 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions, sustainability in fashion retail is gradually becoming one of the industry’s top priorities.

“The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of sustainable businesses.

We have set an ambitious vision for the Aditya Birla Group to become the leading Indian conglomerate in sustainable business practices across operations. Towards this objective, we have developed a rigorous ABG sustainability framework, which guides our businesses to perform in the resource-constrained world and be resilient in a face of uncertainties such as the COVID -19 pandemic.

“Even when COVID-19 has led to business disruptions, ABFRL maintains an unswerving commitment to sustainability. All efforts are directed towards finding innovative and creative ways to not only navigate this crisis but also identify opportunities and business needs along the way to keep creating more value for all stakeholders in a sustainable manner.”

Product-led Sustainability

ABFRL has trained its focus on product-led sustainability strategy by developing an in-house ‘Product Sustainability Attribute Methodology’ to measure and enhance product sustainability across the value chain. In the current financial year, 47% of ABFRL products depicted at least one sustainable attribute.

It was the first Indian retailer to release a Restricted Substances List (RSL) and since 2012, it has been assessing its suppliers based on their adherence to the RSL.

In 2019, its product ‘Earth Chinos’ was selected as a case study in sustainable innovation at the UN environment road testing platform.

ABFRL’s sustainability efforts have been awarded by the S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) 2020 as ‘Asia’s Most Sustainable Company’ and has been ranked 8th globally in the textile, apparel and luxury goods industry for its ESG or Environmental, Social and Governance performance. In the latest 2020 edition of the S&P Global CSA, ABFRL also ranked 1st in the emerging markets and Asia. It achieved a percentile of 85 in the textile, apparel and luxury goods industry.

Ashish Dikshit – MD, ABFRL says in delight: “These rankings reflect our commitment towards enhancing the ESG besides social and economic initiatives that we undertake at ABFRL. In the last decade, we have pioneered sustainability drive in the fashion and retail industry. And we aim to lead the charge.”

ABFRL has improved its score by 7 compared to the last assessment cycle in the previous year.

Sustainability 2.0

In the last decade, ABFRL has pioneered the sustainability drive in the fashion and retail industry. The Sustainability 2.0 initiative will monitor the company’s products entire life cycle – from design, development, supply chain and customer delight. The drive aims to enable a low-carbon, circular and resilient fashion and retail industry.

Dikshit shares: “In this financial year, we have progressed in our intent towards building a circular economy. Our strategic collaboration with ‘Circular Apparel Innovation Factory’ (CAIF) is a significant move which will drive circular business practices across India’s textile and apparel industries.

“Even the trying COVID times, our manufacturing facilities in Karnataka and Odisha were converted for producing PPEs. Our brands re-engineered their capabilities to design and produce user-friendly face masks. Our brands also collaborated with reputed chemical and R&D companies to launch apparels with anti-viral and anti-microbial properties for added safety.”

ABFRL is part of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) WASH pledge and has achieved 98.7% compliance across MFL factories.

The company has reduced its dependency on freshwater by recycling and reusing 93875 cubic meters of water by conceptualizing ‘Integrated Watershed Management Programme’ to be extended to the local communities.

Dr. Naresh Tyagi – Chief Sustainability Officer, ABFRL adds: “We are focusing on integrating Livaeco Fibre and Recycled Polyester as sustainable raw materials in our fabrics and garments. We have collaborated with Intellecap and CAIF to launch the #BetterthanPlastic challenge to find new materials, systems and business models that can curb environmental impact and be integrated with the businesses in the coming year.”

Environmental Performance

25% of ABFRL’s total energy requirement met by renewable energy sources.

25 lakh units of solar power generated leading to reduction of over 2000 TCO2.

82% wastewater recycled and reused.

5% reduction in solid waste generation in the last financial year.

48703 kl rainwater harvested and artificially recharged in the premises.

ABFRL is moving towards creating an ecosystem for circularity through strategic collaboration.

A holistic product-centric approach places sustainability at the heart of the business. ABFRL has determined that its goal for 2025 will be to have 100% Built Environment to be certified under Green Building Rating System, with a focus on Resource Efficiency and Resource Renewable to ultimately help it achieve reduction in carbon, water and waste footprints.

Energy Mission

By financial year 2020, ABFRL aims to reduce the purchase of grid electricity by 12% through energy efficiency and 25% through renewable energy.

Going forward, ABFRL plans to explore energy efficiency and cost-effective alternatives for retail stores, to have digital dashboards to capture and monitor KPIs and derive a common specific energy consumption KPI and drive the performance across our business operations.

Sustainable Raw Material

ABFRL believes in using raw material including cotton, viscose, linen, wool, polyester and blends. The company strives to source and manufacture at factories that ensure environmental and social responsibility. It also explores sustainable and alternate materials like recycled fibres, circular fashion and materials produced by local artisans.

Being a market leader and the largest consumer of cotton in the country, ABFRL is responsible to address the challenges associated with conventional cotton cultivation. ABFRL has collaborated with Cotton 2040, with an objective to increase the sustainable cotton consumption in its products, improving small holder resilience and making traceability of cotton easier. The company has also developed the CottonUP practical guide to demystify sustainable cotton concepts which has helped in developing and implementing sourcing strategies across multiple standards such as BCI, organic cotton, and fair trade.

SU.RE = Sustainable Resolution

ABFRL is part of the SU.RE project that was launched in August 2019. SU.RE or Sustainable Resolution is a commitment from the Indian apparel industry towards sustainable fashion. As a signatory to it, ABFRL is bound to fulfill its 5 commitments which are defined as –

1. Develop a complete understanding of the environmental impact of the garments being produced currently.

2. Develop a sustainable sourcing policy for consistently prioritizing and utilizing certified raw materials that have a positive impact on the environment.

3. Make the right decisions about how, where and what is sourced across the value chain by selecting sustainable and renewable materials and ensuring their traceability.

4. Communicate sustainability initiatives effectively to consumers.

5. Through these actions, shift a significant percentage of the supply chain to a sustainable chain by 2025, that contributes to UN SDGs and addressing critical global issues including climate change.

Circular Apparel Innovation Factory

This is an industry-led initiative with ABFRL and The DOEN Foundation as anchor partners and driven by Intellecap, with a vision to make India’s textile and apparel industry circular by building the capabilities and ecosystem needed for this transition.

Through contribution of ABFRL’s knowledge and case studies on this innovation platform, it aims to test and scale innovations to accelerate transition to a circular economy. The company is also working on minimising, and wherever possible, eliminating consumption of fertilisers and pesticides to mitigate the adverse impacts caused to water bodies, soil and natural habitats.

Future Ready

ABG Sustainability Framework is all about being future ready by analyzing potential challenges and form solutions to harness emerging opportunities and combat risks.

ABFRL is looking at attaining global standards with domestic innovations, through the use of non-conventional energy sources and by exploring disruptive technologies.

CLO 3D Technology is one such disruptive technology that has been tested at ABFRL, which greatly reduces the need for physical sampling, to great success. CLO 3D is a garment technology provider whose solution involves using virtual samples across all the stages of product development. Physical sampling takes multiple iterations leading to excessive use of samples and increased wastage. This technology allows for more creativity while drastically reducing the process time, sampling cost and environmental footprint of sampling.

It also reduces the time to take the sample to the market and increases the number of design possibilities. ABFRL is also in the process of leveraging this to create a digital trade show (DTS). The company aims to achieve system integration of CLO-PLM-SAP.

ABFRL… is ‘making excellence a habit’!

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