ZDHC announces textile sustainability project in Africa

ZDHC Foundation is starting its first, two-and-half year project in Ethiopia, Africa, in collaboration with Bahir Dar University, as a direct result of a private-public-partnership between the German government and Dow Europe. ZDHC would aim to enhance local expertise for a more sustainable chemical management in the textile and apparel industry.

ZDHC’s role comes in twofold, namely; incorporating chemical management in the university’s undergraduate curriculum and establishing trainings and consultant infrastructure. Once realised, Ethiopia’s textile and apparel industry will become more sustainable and ultimately protect workers, the environment, and local communities.

Ethiopia’s textile and apparel industry has experienced a rapid development; in the last five to six years the industry has grown with an average of over 50 per cent. This advancement derives from several comparative advantages in the sector, ambitious governmental plans, and several bilateral trade agreements which have put Ethiopia in a favourable position to become a hotspot for textile and apparel in Africa. But with this acceleration in development, there are sustainability challenges that need to be addressed. Two main challenges have been identified: education skill gaps in the textile industry and lack of awareness of chemical management. This project aims to bridge these gaps and in a joint effort build expertise for better chemical management in Ethiopia’s textile and apparel industry, according to a media statement by ZDHC.

The project is a milestone for ZDHC as it is the first project in Sub Saharan Africa and the project goes hand-in-hand with ZDHC’s vision of widespread implementation of sustainable chemistry, driving innovations and environmental best practices in the textile, apparel, leather, and footwear value chains.

The project is divided into two work packages which will be rolled out consecutively. Given that it is one of the largest institutions in Ethiopia and its track record for excelling in subjects relating to the textile industry, the first package is ultimately focused on Bahir Dar University students and will adopt training of trainers’ approach. Lecturers will initially receive a training on the tailored chemical management curriculum. They will, thereafter, proceed to teach what they have learned to the textile faculty bachelor students. The second work package aims to enhance the capacity of consultants and experts, with the goal of accrediting at least four experts that can train and advise factory operators and managers in the implementation of better chemical management in the day-to-day practices.

In the first work package, ZDHC’s role in the project will be to implement training and provide training materials for the lectures and students at the Bahir Dar University. In the second work package, ZDHC Accredited Training Providers (ATP) will help build knowledge and support the suppliers. GIZ will support in identifying interested local providers and the project partner’s invite international providers to reach out to ZDHC in case they would like build or employ local experts.

Dow’s expertise lies in producing and selling high-quality chemicals, and while this project goes beyond the scope of Dow’s core businesses it increases the company’s commitment to take more responsibility for their business impact along the whole value chain. Dow will contribute to the project management, give input to training curricula and schedules, and conduct parts of the training from the company perspective. They are also offering support to ZDHC and the education sector.

The project will be implemented by the GIZ, on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economic Corporation and Development (BMZ) through its develoPPP project. GIZ is a service provider in the field of sustainable development with proven expertise in the textile sector in general and chemical management. Additionally, GIZ holds a unique position to support the implementation of this project as their Sustainable Textile Project (eTex) is already well-established in the Ethiopian textile sector and chemical management assessments of several companies have already been conducted. GIZ’s role in this project will be to coordinate stakeholder engagement and contribute with best-practices from other countries.

The ZDHC Foundation oversees implementation of the Roadmap to Zero programme and is a global multi-stakeholder initiative of more than 160 contributors within the fashion and footwear industry.

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