London - UKFT and The Textile Livery Group held the Sustainability in UK Textiles conference earlier this month to share best practice on sustainability within the UK textile industry and discuss how the sector can grow its capacity and capability, while remaining competitive.

The conference, held on the 12 May 2022 at Drapers Hall in London, brought together leading textile manufacturers, innovators, policymakers and sustainability experts to explore the opportunities a greater drive to sustainability offers the UK textile sector.

The conference was opened by UKFT President Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, an enormous supporter of the sector, and featured an address from Minister Jo Churchill, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), outlining early proposals for legislative changes, including Extended Producer Responsibility.

Speakers from leading textile manufacturers including Alex Begg, AW Hainsworth, Camira Fabrics, Humphries Weaving and knitwear specialist John Smedley shared their latest experiences and developments, while leading academics from the University of Huddersfield and University of Leeds outlined how the research and education can support the sector.

Dr John Parkinson from iinnouiio explained how his start-up is reinvigorating traditional recycling techniques to recover wool and cashmere for today’s market, while Jo Dawson, founder of HD Wool and chairman of wool merchant H Dawson, outlined how he is building on a 130-year heritage to take the performance benefits of wool to a new audience.

Megan Stoneburner from Textile Exchange, presented a series of tools to measure and monitor sustainable performance and Anthony Burns from ACS Clothing, a Scotland-based enabler of circular fashion, discussed how the company is now looking beyond Net Zero.

Resources and Waste Minister Jo Churchill said: “The fashion industry accounts for around 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 20 per cent of industrial water pollution globally – so I am hugely excited to see innovations in our textile manufacturing industry which will reduce over-reliance on virgin materials and boost the green credentials of our UK textiles sector.

“Our landmark Environment Act will encourage ecodesign and transparent labelling to make it easier for consumers to make environmentally-friendly choices.”

Adam Mansell, CEO of UKFT, added: “The global textile industry is often cited as one of the most polluting but we know that isn’t true for our industry here in the UK. With the support of The Textile Livery Group, we brought key players together to help our sector better tell the story of the capability and capacity of UK textiles.

“Against a backdrop of significant supply chain disruption and substantial cost increases, together we also explored how companies can identify sustainable priorities and prepare for changes driven by legislation, retailers and consumers.”

“The UK textile industry provides enabling technologies for almost all other sectors, from food to pharmaceuticals, from healthcare to elite sports, automotive, aerospace, construction and defence. These sectors, which rely on textiles, are part of the drive towards a circular economy. When coupled with the amazing creativity of our UK designers and some of the most innovative retailers in the world, this creates a unique opportunity for the UK industry to be a global leader.”

The Chair of The Textile Livery Group, said: “The Conference was the product of twelve Livery Companies and UKFT coming together, to pool funding and their shared interest in a healthy, vibrant and sustainable UK Textiles Industry – one which attracts innovators and is able to grow the world market for smart, sustainable, British textile solutions.”

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