Taiwan’s Singtex Champions Clean, Green Production Practices

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The textile industry is an energy intensive sector that uses a great amount of water in the dyeing process. In recent years, water-free dyeing techniques have been employed in Taiwan. Singtex Industrial Co. Ltd. headquartered in New Taipei City was one of the first local companies to research and develop such eco-friendly techniques.

In 2007, Singtex's green manufacturing plant in Guanyin District of Taoyuan City in northern Taiwan began operations and helped the company become one of the first Taiwan enterprises to gain Bluesign certification the following year. A set of standards for air emissions, consumer safety, occupational health and safety, resource productivity and water emissions in manufacturing of textiles, the certification was jointly created in 2000 by representatives from the EU academic and private sectors, as well as environmental and consumer organisations. Around 80 enterprises in Taiwan's textiles sector boast Bluesign certification.

Singtex founder Jason Chen sought Bluesign certification in the mid-noughties to satisfy requirements laid down by its client Patagonia. The US outdoor clothing brand accounted for 3% of Singtex's revenue at the time, and it would not be the end of the world if the company had lost the contract. "Patagonia's environmental standards set up a paradigm for me to learn from," he said. In 2009, the company released its S.Cafe fabrics that infuse yarn with waste coffee grounds. Chen said coffee, the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, produces a massive amount of waste grounds. "Recycled coffee ground fibre is three times more effective than cotton in absorbing odour and five times better for ultraviolet protection.

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The odour-absorbing fabric has since helped the company secure orders from nearly 100 international apparel brands such as American Eagle, The North Face and Wacoal, accounting for a sizeable slab of Singtex's revenue.

To facilitate water-saving manufacturing procedures, Singtex bought new dyeing machines that reduce water consumption from 36 to 11 kilograms per item of clothing. Chen views the investment as worthwhile despite the fourfold increase in unit price per machine compared to less efficient models.

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Chen's insistence on using natural gas doubles production costs to the tune of NT$18 million (US$ 611,892) each year. In 2017, Singtex developed a water-free dyeing process that adds pigment earlier in the yarn-making stage. In addition, to build a labour-friendly working environment, the company plans to pay the agency fees for the 75 workers from Vietnam at the Guanyin plant by 2020.

Singtex's innovation efforts have won top honours at prestigious overseas competitions such as International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland; International Trade Fair Ideas Inventions New Products, or iENA, in Nuremberg, Germany; and Invention and New Product Exposition in Pittsburgh, the US. The textile company has shown its abilities in the face of difficulties to keep building energy-efficient production models and making environmentally friendly fabrics. These efforts also enable Singtex to win large orders. Two major Western outdoor clothing brands are reportedly in negotiations to buy more products from the firm this year due to its eco-friendly production procedures. 

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