In 2014, Crystal underwent “exceptional and unprecedented” expansion

In 2014, Crystal underwent “exceptional and unprecedented” expansion

Garment maker Crystal Group sees Vietnam as its "new star", with expansion projects under way that the company hopes will increase sweater production seven-fold over the next four years, and T-shirt production three-fold.

In its 2015 sustainability report, the Hong Kong based manufacturing giant, which had a turnover of US$1.7bn last year, outlined its progress to date in Vietnam, where it relocated its intimates division late last year to a new, larger production site.

Additionally, its T-shirt factory celebrated the opening of two large production blocks in a new industrial zone. Crystal says this extension will continue to expand and occupy a total land area of 33 hectares (ha) by 2019, contributing to a three-fold increase in production capacity and an 80% increase in employment for the entire Vietnam T-shirt division.

Other expansion projects are also underway, with the company's sweater division planning to relocate and expand, resulting in a seven-fold increase in production in four years’ time.

The group has also been busy adding value-added processes such as embroidery and washing to its facilities to enhance efficiency and eliminate the time taken to source these services, in addition to improving its capabilities and quality control.

"By strategically looking at the whole supply chain, we can holistically grow and improve our competitiveness," the company noted.

China: "Bright star"
In China, the home of Crystal’s established, mature production base, the company has focused on maintaining its competitive edge through innovation and sustainably increasing its capabilities, speed and productivity.

Some of those include the development of a hanger system in the laundry workshop of its denim jeans factory, which utilises residual heat from the drying machines to dry the washed jeans, reducing drying time and steam and electricity usage by about 30%.

The company has saved 60m litres of fresh water across its China operations in 2014, and produced 500,000 pairs of jeans using 100% recycled water.

Crystal also introduced its 'Eagle Project', which brought together 450 line supervisors and production unit managers from three T-shirt and sweater factories to participate in an 18-month leadership development programme, aimed at improving their managerial and professional skills, as well as focusing on communication, team building, stress management and many other managerial skills. The project will conclude in June next year.

In 2014, the company also organised a Global Sustainability Forum in China, through which, over 50 representatives from its sustainability teams around the world visited the group's pioneering denim jeans and intimate factories and exchanged experiences of managing CSR risks in daily operations.

Global achievements
Crystal said it last year underwent an "exceptional and unprecedented" expansion, setting up a number of new production facilities and increasing its global workforce by 25%, to 60,000 people.

The company, which operates around 20 factories in Asia, with production bases in China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Cambodia, produced 304m garment pieces in 2014.

Its three core development principles will remain in 2015, Crystal emphasised: robust globalisation; making conscious products; and people-oriented management.

"In the coming years, we will work even closer with our suppliers to spread our sustainability commitment to ensure that they become more engaged in our sustainability journey and gain their commitment to passing on these messages," the report explained. "This ripple effect will appreciably increase the sphere of our positive influence, eventually having enormous impacts on global sustainability – creating a better industry and a better world."

Chemical management
Of its group-wide achievements, chemical management was high on that list. The group has its own Restricted Substances List (RSL), which sets concentration limits for substances in materials or finished products. In 2014, Crystal made over 240 amendments to the RSL, with 59 newly-added items and 177 items now under stricter restrictions.

"These updates bring us in line with the increasing concerns of our customers and the community regarding hazardous substances," the report noted.

The company said it will continue to enforce better chemical controls by developing chemical management guidelines, launching a Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL), and expanding regular wastewater monitoring for hazardous substances.

It also pointed to its adoption of the Higg Index sustainability measurement tool across eight of the group's factories. A further six are expected to adopt the tool in 2015.

Water reduction was also an achievement for Crystal last year, with the firm exceeding its per-garment fresh water reduction target. And of the recycled water it used, the company said it is close to its target across its global operations.

Looking forward, Crystal outlined plans to launch its newly-developed Corporate Environmental Management System Manual for its group operations worldwide. This covers energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, water use, waste management, and chemical management.

Click here to view the full report.