The apparel industry of Türkiye recently announced its roadmap for green transformation to fully comply with the European Green Deal (EGD). The deal is an economic growth approach based on a circular economy, adopting the principles of raw material efficiency and renewable energy use.

The apparel industry, which is among Türkiye’s strategic sectors with its high value added production and contribution to employment exports, has completed the ‘Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan’ document, which is the roadmap of the adaptation process to the ‘Green Deal’.

The document, which consists of 40 actions under six component headings, was announced to the public at a meeting headed by Exporters Assembly of Türkiye (TIM) & Istanbul Apparel Exporters Association (IHKIB) president Mustafa Gültepe with the presence of four other presidents of the Apparel Exporters Associations, representing the whole apparel industry in Türkiye.

Gültepe said they closely monitor the legislative arrangement introduced by the EU that have the potential to influence the apparel production in the newly emerging green supply chain. Reminding those at the meeting that the Turkish apparel industry started its work on sustainable production long before the ‘Green Deal’, Gültepe said: “With the ‘Apparel Industry Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan’, we will be sending a very strong message to our European business partners about our commitment for green transformation.”

Maximising green production capacity

More than 40% of Türkiye’s total exports are to the EU countries, and the ratio for apparel exceeds 60%. Gültepe said: “EU countries are of vital importance for our exports with their geographical proximity. Therefore, we have to quickly prepare the sector for the zero carbon target in 2050. In order to reach this target, we have to increase our design, innovative and branded production under green production capacity, as the EU based companies are restructuring their supply chain on the basis of sustainability criterion s set by 2030.”

“In this emerging green supply chain, apparel products will have to be long lasting, recyclable and eco friendly. We are the third largest supplier of apparel to the EU. To protect and increase our market share, we must make our preparations with this fact in mind, and rapidly transform our infrastructure.”

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Financial support ‘vital’ for green transformation

Gültepe explained that the road map foreseen with the Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan will cover all the transformation agenda of the industry, adding: “Our apparel industry has already completed many projects and ongoing projects on
sustainability for years. Now the EU Green Deal envisages a full green transformation for the industry together with the related industries. Financing the green transformation is vital especially for SME’s. With the projects prepared by IHKIB, we benefit from EU grants effectively. With the actions in this document, which is a roadmap for the sector, we are committing on sustainability for our European business partners. We also expect from our partners to review their purchasing policies and support the funding and investment needs on the production side while they are setting their own sustainability targets.”

Creating a partnership chain

Mehmet Kaya, board member of IHKIB and head of the Apparel Sector Joint
Sustainability Committee, emphasised that Türkiye is one of the rare countries in the apparel supply chain where all apparel products from fibre to the final product are produced. Kaya reminded that Türkiye also distinguishes itself from its competitors with its design power, quality, proximity to target markets and strong supplier infrastructure.

Pointing out that it is essential to add sustainability to the existing plus advantages, Kaya said: “We believe that we will turn the green transformation process into an opportunity with the partnership chain approach. Rather than being just a link in the regular supply chain, we should be an indispensable unit in the ‘partnership chain’. Here, the criteria of compliance’, ‘competitiveness’ and ‘sustainability’ come to the fore. We need to be fully complied in terms of environmental, social and managerial aspects, competitive in terms of price performance, and complete the sustainability compliance. We have to meet these standards not because someone demands it, but because we are the partner to share the responsibility of the supply chain on a fair ground. We have prepared our sustainability strategy and action plan with this understanding.

“The contribution of all our stakeholders to the study was very important. We set out our targets with a participatory, inclusive and active approach. As a result of our analysis and feedback from the authorities, we gathered the transformation agenda under six components and created 40 actions. Thanks to the collaborations arising from participation, we already started the implementation process in 13 of the actions we determined.”

Kaya emphasised that no company can provide the harmonisation process with its own resources, so financial support is vital. “Quality has a value and value has a cost. The Turkish apparel industry should no longer seek competitiveness over cheap products. Therefore, we need to complete the transformation very quickly. It is also vital to ensure that necessary incentive mechanisms are provided by the EU, thinking the positioning of the apparel industry of Türkiye within the European ecosystem.”

Emphasising that the need for recycled and sustainable raw materials will increase rapidly in the new period, Kaya added that they have to complete the infrastructure quickly in this regard.