Aditya Birla Textiles has powered its way to a leadership position in the textile, acrylic fibre and spinning markets by investing in people, processes, technology and sustainability. The journey we have undertaken to achieve this position has involved transforming ourselves and our business strategy in many ways. We have transformed from a commodity player to a business that creates unique, sustainable and value-added products. We have transformed our approach to customer centricity from acting on customer feedback to a data-driven, innovation-based approach to customer excellence. We have transformed from a business that focuses on sustainble operations, to one that goes beyond – aiming for sustainable products and sustainable value chains.
With Jaya Shree Textiles (JST) and Vikram Woollens (VW), AB Textiles is a leading player in the domestic linen and worsted yarn segment in India. We have revolutionized the Indian textile market by popularising ‘linen’ in India across a wide customer base with its brand “Linen Club”.
In this report, the fourth sustainability report of JST and VW, we highlight some of the transformational initiatives undertaken as part of our domestic textile business, as well as key highlights of sustainability performance of JST & VW for the financial years 2017-18 and 2018-19.
As a business, we are guided by the Aditya Birla Group Sustainability Framework consisting of stakeholder engagement, responsible stewardship and future proofing. You will find in this report an outline of how this framework has been imbibed in the context of JST & VW. Further, we are embracing global alliances and frameworks to ensure that all our units, wherever are in the world, are aligned with the same ambitions of sustainability excellence. Some of these global frameworks that apply to JST & VW include ZDHC Roadmap to Zero, SAC Higg Index, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), OEKO-TEX®, the WASH Pledge, Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), UN SDGs and others.
Beyond certifications and standards, we recognize that specific themes have emerged as key focus areas for achieving sustainability excellence, given the risks and opportunities for the textile business and the environment we operate in. These include the following:
We are constantly finding new ways to make our supply chain responsible, inclusive, resource-efficient and agile. Our raw materials supply is prone to disruptions due to the many climate-related and market forces – and we continuously work on building resilience to these forces.
The value chains of the textile and apparel business are chemical-intensive. At Aditya Birla Textiles, we aim to deliver healthy products to our consumers with minimized environmental footprints. To achieve this, chemicals management forms an important aspect of product designing, safe operations and ensuring quality of effluents from our units
The idea of circular economy is built on the concept of circular material use, including recycling, reuse, and industrial symbiosis. The transformation from a linear economy, which is dependent on extraction of resources and generation of waste, to a circular economy, has the potential to unlock environmental and economic benefits. We aim to achieve circular economy principles through innovation, scalable solutions and unlocking markets for sustainable products.
Coupled with customer centricity, product innovation has the potential to make one of our most important stakeholders - our customer, a collaborating partner in our journey to achieve the Aditya Birla Group Sustainability Vision. Our relentless focus on customer centricity allowed us to develop many value-added products (VAP).
Digital technologies are disrupting the way business is conducted. They are being leveraged by leading businesses to manage resource and energy inputs more effectively using connected devices, data driven analytics, automated decision making, predictive maintenance, and other applications. Our textiles business is incorporating digital solutions to make our operations as well as our supply chains more efficient, safer and more economical.On a closing note, I would like to highlight that no matter how much our business will evolve to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow, our people are and will continue to be our most important assets. The safety of our people, their training and development, the diversity of our workforce, ethical working practices in our operations and our supply chain are at the top of our priorities. Hence, we constantly endeavor to create conducive, safe, protected and happy environments for all our internal and external stakeholders. We owe our growth to the collective effort of every employee, contractors and vendors, that have contributed to our 70-year long journey towards sustainability excellence.
It is with great pride that we present to you the fourth sustainability report of our domestic textiles business, comprising of JST and VW. Through this report, we address the sustainability developments at JST and VW units; their alignment with global sustainability standards and ABG’s Sustainable Business pillars of Responsible Stewardship, Stakeholder Engagement and Future Proofing.
We have focused this report on specific thematic areas including: Responsible Supply Chain, Chemical Management, Circular Economy, Product Innovation & Customer Centricity and Digital Transformation. While we are committed to progress on all these fronts as well as each of our material sustainable issues, I would like to particularly shine the spotlight on the following initiatives at JST and VW:
Our innovative “Wealth-Out of-Waste” (WOW) program, aligned with the principles of circular economy, has resulted in the unique products using flax production waste to produce intimate blended yarn and linen rich fabric. The upcycling of this flax waste has created two value-added products (VAP) of fabric and apparels with appealing designs. The blended fabric is an Over the Counter (OTC) product marketed under the brand “Mazury” and the apparel is available for sale on e-commerce websites like Flipkart, Myntra, Amazon, etc., marketed under the brand “Cavallo” by Linen Club.
Our water recycling projects have reduced the water consumption and water intensities at VW and is soon to be commissioned at JST. At a time when a water crisis is gripping many parts of the country, we believe this is one of the most important steps any water-intensive industry can take. Further, water recycling eliminates all risks of effluent quality, by eliminating the effluent itself. This is a testament to our commitment to chemical management.
The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Programme is a collaboration between over 50 brands and value chain associates and affiliates working towards complete elimination of hazardous chemicals. We are proud to be associated with the “ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme.” Through this collaboration, we will be aligning with a holistic, open approach, supporting safer chemical management practices across our entire value chain.
Proactive innovation is ingrained in the DNA of Aditya Birla Group. At JST, we have innovated and experimented with many blends in the fiber, yarn, fabric and garment stages across the value chain; enabling the expansion of our VAP portfolio.
We respect and recognize the invaluable role of our people, whose tireless dedication has resulted in our continuing achievements. We are continuously working on diversity and inclusion of our workforce as well as several initiatives to enhance well-being and happiness of our internal stakeholders. We have witnessed an increase of women employees from 10% to 20% this reporting year. We aim to increase these numbers gradually. We also conduct periodic trainings and meetings for our employees, workmen and staff and organize sessions with the CEO, Unit Head, Functional Heads through our communication channels like Dil Ki Baat, TownHall and Manthan. These initiatives help give a platform to all our people to voice their opinions and to integrate their views with the direction of the organization.
In this report, you will find snapshots of many other initiatives we have undertaken along with highlights of our sustainability performance over the reporting years of FY18 and FY19. In addition, we have also encapsulated our approach to future-proofing our business and engaging with our stakeholders. We look forward to your feedback in this regard.
The last two reporting years have successfully placed JST and VW on a strategic alignment with the Group’s sustainability vision. At JST, we have doubled the capacity by 21,000 spindles, now making it the fourth largest linen yarn spinner in the world, with 60% of India’s spinning capacities being met by JST alone. In the previous sustainability reports, we had articulated the significant challenges pertaining to the wool industry and our efforts to combat it with value over volume. This had been our constant focus over the years with introduction of many value-added products (VAP).
We have also made important strides towards making our supply chain more sustainable. Through the European Flax® label and audit process, we ensure that the flax we use for linen manufacturing is cultivated sustainably, with minimization of waste. We have also made a conscious decision to move away from water-retted flax to a natural dew-retted flax, which significantly reduces the water consumed in our supply chain. Similarly, through the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), we ensure the wool procured comes from sustainably managed farms, where sheep are treated responsibly.
In our own operations, we have carried out several initiatives to manage our energy, water and waste more effectively.
Rooftop solar plant of 1.5 MW has been installed and the second phase of the project is approved with a capacity expansion of 3 MW. This first installation has reduced our grid dependency by 5-10%. Installations for condensate recovery and a flash steam recovery project to achieve operational efficiencies across the respective plants were employed following a thermal audit.
Water Recycling plant installation of 200 KLD is complete in VW and in JST where the initial phases of 500 KLD, 800 KLD is in operation & 2700 KLD is near commissioning stage. This along with many other microinstallations at the plant, such as, intermittent process water recycling, collectively contribute to achieving our target towards being water neutral.
Our waste management plans are increasingly aligned with the circular economy concept. The Wealth-Out of Waste (WOW) initiative led to the birth of “Cavallo” and “Mazury”, intimate blends of linen and cotton. This has garnered accolades across ABG units under RePrism, an Aditya Birla Group Awards. We plan on scaling up the production in the years to come.
The extensive and focused initiatives have yielded substantial and quantifiable results at both our units in the reporting period. Both of our units were recipients of the “Commendation for Significant Achievement in Corporate Excellence” at the CII-ITC Sustainability Awards 2018 held in New Delhi. This is a testament to the dedication of our people and their relentless focus on sustainability initiatives. Our success has provided us a great foundation and confidence to take up more ambitious projects in years to come.
The textiles business of the Aditya Birla Group has constantly and consistently aimed to deliver the highest quality products. The last couple of years has seen immense progress on the innovation front. Our domestic textiles units, JST and VW, have invested resources into pioneering initiatives that have not been thought of in this market space on a commercial scale. The focus on circularity and R&D applications has led to an increase in operational efficiencies.
We believe that economic performance should go hand in hand with environmental and social performance, and that each complements the other. The fact that our turnover has increased at over 10%, despite signs of economic slow-down is testament to the fact that we have a robust business strategy that works on the ground.
This strategy has enabled our strategic investments in sustainability initiatives that have led to improved operational efficiencies as well as improved socioeconomic development of local communities. As we grow – both in terms of revenue and market positioning, our efforts in the space of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are expanding. Our CSR spending currently stands at INR 85 Lakh, and we aim to enhance the impact created through our CSR projects as part of our sustainability roadmap.
At JST, we embrace change with open arms. We have identified the risks & opportunities in the textile markets and aim to transform these into catalysts for our better performance. We move forward with a clear understanding of the volatile markets, resource constraints, changing demographic space and evolving consumer preferences. Our greatest strength is our ability and willingness to transform ourselves and our products, by adapting to this evolving environment.
Sustainable innovation at JST and VW is centrally driven as a Group policy and greater emphasis is on the sustainable business model to cope with future challenges. The Value Creation Engine has been set up to drive R&D and Innovation throughout the Units. It is to complement the work of the Aditya Birla Science & Technology Company Private Limited, which carries out the core of the research study for all of ABG’s businesses.
The last two years, our motto has been to maximize value over volume. A great proportion of the projects executed at the plant have delivered great results, but above that, they have delivered value. Some of these projects undertaken at our sites are:
We have experimented with many blends to produce high-quality fabric. Linen and wool are blended with naturally occurring fibers and cellulose fibers like cotton, hemp, wool threat and also recycled polyesters. In the reporting years, we have carried out some co-creation projects for business with our business value chain partners. These included:
This gives us various grades of fabric, coupled with a chemical-free dyeing process that we have applied to majority of our blends. For polyester, chemical dyes we use are certified by Restricted Substance List (RSL). We have also instituted a chemical management team that has its primary focus on achieving Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC).
Our approach to innovation at JST and VW is structured and categorized. As a responsive mechanism, we have “Reactive Innovation”, wherein the ideation and conceptualization is based on the customer or market feedback received. One such change we have made was the creation of “Linen Club Studio”, that has designers working full-time to add value to the fabric produced. Similarly, we have “Proactive Innovation”, where we identify the gaps and needs of the market and hence, develop products. Most of our blending techniques are in-house innovations working in the improvement of fiber, yarn, fabric or garments.
Linen Club is the leading linen brand in India with a significant market share. However, we felt the need to build the brand at consumer level. With this intent, Linen Club launched its brand campaign in 2017 with the tagline- Made for the Different. We have positioned Linen Club as a sustainable product through multiple brand campaigns and amplified across 360-degree media touch points. The objective of these brand campaigns is to increase awareness about Linen consequently establishing Linen Club as the superlative linen brand in India.
Through digital platforms, we are spreading awareness on linen and its properties, its sustainable nature and the value chain of linen manufacturing and retailing. We have collaborated with influencers and renowned designers, who are instrumental in new product development alongside being out brand advocates. Our brand extensions in the last two reporting years are:
Mazury: Intimate linen cotton blended fabric range
Cavallo: Linen blend apparel catering to the e-commerce segment
Liyana: Premium hand-crafted linen sarees
By investing in enhanced in-store visibility, improved packaging, we aim to deliver a better experience at our retail stores. In line with linen’s property as a sustainable fibre, our carry bags are made from linen waste.
We publish this sustainability report with immense pride this year owing to the progress we have made in various domains of sustainability. We have established Linen Club Studio, a state-of the-art design house, where we meticulously design and develop artistic linen apparel. We have aligned our design and product development activities with the sustainability roadmap of the domestic textile business. Linen products are recording immense growth within India over the past couple of years, encouraging and challenging us to deliver variety and range while delivering quality and safety.
We have also institutionalized chemical management systems and are shifting to the usage of sustainable chemicals whose impacts percolate down to usage of safe fabric even by toddlers. We will continue to innovate in order to produce bacteria-free, chlorine-free and natural fabric for our consumer by reinventing our process methodologies and aligning them to changing market dynamic.
JST’s organizational and market positioning landscape has been shifting towards an innovative and a value creating engine. Exceptional services are being offered to our clients. This is of importance to address here as the shift in business priorities have a direct impact on the people who are a vital part of the system.
For us to maintain our market leadership, enhance operational efficiencies, build a B2C network and strengthen our VAP portfolio; there is one common binding thread: continuous investment in our people.
We are committed to their capacity building and well-being while aligning our workforce strategies to the strategic direction of our business. The market requires us to be more agile and more intelligent while adapting to the required technical and functional capabilities with shorter lead times. A change in approach from “offering products” to offering “solutions & experiences”, requires a behavioural change in people.
With this evolving business environment in mind, we stay focussed on the task of continuously multi-skilling of our workforce and improving their productivity. We have devised various methodologies for our worker skilling in collaboration with experienced consulting firms.
I would also like to highlight that in this digital world, e-commerce and digital marketing has an increasingly larger role to play in the market we serve. Accordingly, we have also committed to training our workforce to thrive in this digital business environment, with a focus on key functional capabilities such as leveraging technology for consumer insights, market intelligence, customer services, and new product development.
Finally, I have immense pride in sharing with you some of the policy changes we have made in the past year to better serve and upskill our people. We have now created a scope for accommodating colour-blindness in our operations and have recruited people with this condition as workmen in certain units. We recognize that up to 80% of the purchase decisions of a family, particularly for apparel products, are made by the women of the family. Hence it is important for us to have a representation of them in the serving board of directors of the company. We have prioritized improving gender diversity within the organization to improve our connectivity with the primary customer base in the apparel and fashion-industry.
We aim to make our fabric reflective of our values and hard work. Efforts that go into spinning every yarn and weaving every piece of cloth, are innumerable. We at JST & VW, have taken the responsibility for ensuring the welfare of every stakeholder involved in these efforts. In the fourth sustainability report of the Units, we detail out all the sustainability initiatives taken and the path forward.
The Sustainable Business Framework of the Aditya Birla Group has given us a bedrock to build on. The ABG standards guide us on the sustainability journey at JST & VW. Every manufacturing unit has determined its own trajectory to achieve a larger goal, a cleaner environment and a happier community. At JST & VW, all our sustainability-oriented initiatives have been well-received with the contribution of our people ever-increasing.
In accordance with our ABG Sustainability Pillars: Responsible Stewardship, Stakeholder Engagement and Future Proofing, we have identified five thematic areas, diversified under Responsible Stewardship, viz., Responsible Supply Chain, Chemical Management, Product Innovation and Customer Centricity and Digital Transformation.
We have always strived to go beyond compliance for our targets. For example, pertaining to our air emissions, currently <50 SPM, is much lesser than the allowed emissions threshold of <150 SPM. Similarly, our commitment to reduce fresh water consumption has driven us to construct high-technology water recycling plants at both JST and VW (fully operational) as a step towards becoming Water Neutral. Many intermittent process installations enabled an improvement in our water and energy efficiencies. On the same line, we aim to increase the capacity of our rooftop solar plants which, in totality, would reduce our grid dependency by 5 -10%. We have also made immense progress on the supply chain front, with the setting up of two warehouses, reduction in lead times, digitalization of the supply chain, continuous capacity building of our suppliers, procurement of flax fibre directly from the scutchers and streamlining of our chemical management systems. All these processes in conjugation, are helping us build a robust management system at the Units. Furthermore, at the RePrism Awards of ABG, JST secured a position for our brands “Mazury” and “Cavallo”, made of waste linen fibre. We aim to scale up the production of these brands in the coming years.
We continue to place a strong emphasis on stakeholder dialogue and collaboration by working various initiatives to address every concern of the stakeholders. Our community engagement framework focuses on the aspects of education, healthcare, sanitation facilities, local infrastructure development and promoting selfsustaining business models. The aim of all these initiatives is to create maximum positive impact and identifying the drivers that will enable us to do so.
Apart from our manufacturing processes and SOP’s, we also owe the quality of our fabric to the various sustainable and responsible textile forums that oversee the industry best practices. Our adherence to textile industry standards like GOTS, RWA, RSL, OEKO-TEX®, European Flax®, etc., boost our collaborative efforts globally. Through this sustainability report, we disclose our performance, basis the principles outlined by the GRI framework. We thank all our customers for their continued support and welcome any feedback for the improvement of our sustainability performance.
The ABG Sustainable Business Framework was developed considering that the environment we operate in poses sustainability challenges that require us to develop smarter and more innovative solutions. All businesses of the Aditya Birla Group, including Textiles, Acrylic Fibre and Overseas Spinning Business (AB Textiles) are guided by this framework comprising of responsible stewardship, stakeholder engagement and future-proofing.
AB Textiles takes great pride in the sustainability culture that has been fostered across all units. Our domestic textiles units, JST and VW, have demonstrated this culture through various initiatives as detailed in this report particularly in the key thematic areas we have highlighted: Responsible Supply Chain, Chemical Management, Circular Economy, Product Innovation & Customer Centricity and Digital Transformation.
I would also like to highlight the myriad global standards and frameworks that our domestic textiles units adhere to. These are testament not only to our commitment to the highest standards, but also our culture of collaboration with institutions and associations committed to sustainability of the textile value chain. I am particularly proud of our association with the following:
Developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the Higg Index is a set of tools that enables brands, retailers, and facilities to accurately measure and score a company or product’s sustainability performance. We have been applying these tools to score our units for several years.
The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Roadmap to Zero Programme is a coalition of fashion brands, value chain affiliates and associates. The programme is aimed at substitution of hazardous chemicals for safer ones in the textile, leather, apparel and footwear value chains.
GOTS is recognised as the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres. Only textile products that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibres can become GOTS certified. All chemical inputs such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries used must meet certain environmental and toxicological criteria.
OEKO-TEX® consists of 18 independent research and test institutes in Europe and Japan. Our products comply with OEKO-TEX Standard 100, which certifies that every component of the product has been tested for harmful substances and that the product is harmless in human ecological terms.
Water has emerged as a prominent business and public sector issue in recent years, driven by the lack of access to clean water and sanitation in many geographies. The WBCSD Pledge for Access to Safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) at the Workplace demonstrates best practices with respect to WASH as well as contribution towards SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). We are proud to be signatories to the WASH Pledge and are fully committed to its guiding principles
The Responsible Wool Standard is an independent, voluntary standard. This standard helps us to certify that wool we procure is sourced from farms that follow sustainable practices, including ethical treatment of sheep and best practices in the management and protection of the land.
Beyond certifications and standards, it is the culture of sustainability driven by our people and backed by the overarching ABG Sustainable Business Framework, that is truly our greatest achievement. I sincerely thank the talented teams at JST and VW for living this culture every day. I also thank our stakeholders for all their contributions.