Sustainability Day in Cairo Highlights Progress in the Garment Sector

Sustainability Day in Cairo Highlights Progress in the Garment Sector

Complying with sustainable standards is essential for any textile and clothing company that wishes to be visible and compete in the market. The International Trade Centre’s Global Textiles and Clothing Programme (GTEX/MENATEX) in the Middle East and North Africa supports companies in understanding and adapting their productions according to the latest international requirements.

The Sustainability Day organized by the project in Cairo in March 2022 united beneficiary companies, partners, and donors to discuss the achievements and challenges in this regard.

Moreover, the participants discussed the project results achieved so far through the three pillars of sustainability, which are:

1) improved productivity, production flows, and processes, using Lean Manufacturing techniques.
2) improved environmental footprint through Resource Efficiency & Circular Production Processes (RECP).
3) better well-being of workers through a social compliance policy.

Results in resource efficiency and circular production processes

In the past two years, 20 Egyptian enterprises from the greater Cairo area, Alexandria, Elbahira, and Portsaid governorates achieved impressive results with the RECP component. Companies invested $ 2.7 million to implement the recommended RECP measures, and realized savings of $1.67 million per year, with an average payback period of the initial investment of 1,7 years. Overall, these measures will translate into an annual reduction of 81,230 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Aziz Elsalmawy, a RECP expert, lists as examples, “companies introducing servo-stepper motors to sewing machines, which reduced standby energy consumption by 90% of the original value”. Another good example was introducing motion sensors to control the light and sewing machine, which “with less than $25 initial cost per machine, has led to 20% energy savings in less than two years,” explained Elsalmawy.

Results in lean management

The training and coaching session on lean manufacturing – started in 2020 – also showed fruitful results. Over 60 participants from companies, business support institutions and other professionals in the garment industry have attended over 360 hours of online training, coaching sessions, and factory visits. As a result, beneficiaries are experiencing an ongoing transition process in the factory that leads to cultural changes and progressive initiatives for improving product and delivery quality, reducing production lead time and material waste, and much more.

Hend ELhindy, another ITC trainer, highlighted how the GTEX/MENATEX programme has helped 15 enterprises to mainstream lean thinking into their enterprise culture and implement changes: “Beneficiary companies introduced in-factory training schools, changed the factory’s layouts and processes, resulting in the reduction of their production lead time. As a result, an overall annual value of $178,000 has been saved, without laying off staff,” explained ELhindy.

Results in social compliance

ITC designed a programme on social compliance with the International Labour Organization’s Better Work and Score initiatives. Seventeen companies benefitted from the training, which led to 60 initiatives that radically improved the working conditions of companies’ employees. These included mainstreaming grievance mechanisms, accident reporting systems, establishing an occupational safety and health committee, and improving canteen facilities.

Matthias Knappe, ITC Programme Manager of Fibres, Textiles and Clothing, explained that the COVID-19 pandemic brought several challenges to the garment industry but also opportunities if companies respond quickly to changing market reassess their strategies and production.

“As the world is recovering from the pandemic and as demand in textile is picking up, Egyptian manufacturers are more than ever confronted with the need of becoming even more competitive while complying with strict environmental and social standards,” argues Knappe.

“Egypt has great potential. Sustainability will be vital to helping the country’s industry strengthen the ‘Made in Egypt’ brand in international markets as a sourcing destination that is reliable, efficient and actively reduces its environmental footprint and respects its workers’ rights and conditions,” he adds.

Next steps

In 2022, the GTEX/MENATEX project plans to further promote the sustainable and social agenda in the national garment sector by replicating the social compliance training and coaching programme to other companies while introducing a gender component and equal access to benefits.

In addition, the project plans an advanced programme on productivity improvement for those who have already participated in the activities.

About the project

The GTEX MENATEX programme is funded by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) of the Swiss Confederation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), focusing on six priority countries (Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Tunisia). The programme aims to encourage exports of textiles and clothing from developing countries to promote employment and income generation throughout the value chain.