Scaling sustainability – inside the world’s largest denim manufacturer

brett mathews | 21st February 2019

BURSA – The world’s largest denim manufacturer, which has set new benchmarks for sustainability and innovation in recent years, has told Apparel Insider it plans to expand production capacity to 300 million square metres of denim in 2019. In an exclusive interview at ISKO’s headquarters in Bursa, Turkey, CEO Fatih Konukoğlu, told us, “sustainability is in our DNA,” adding that being a sustainable, responsible business is in many respects about good housekeeping. Konukoğlu also suggested there is a clear financial imperative for his business to minimise its use of resources. “Of course sustainability makes sense financially,” he told us. “After all, it is about saving. Using less water means you save water, using less energy means you save energy, using less yarn means you save yarn. This way of operating should be the norm in the industry.”

ISKO has developed into the largest, best known denim manufacturer in the world in recent years. To offer some perspective, the whole of Bangladesh – one of the world’s leading denim hubs – produces around 700 million square metres of denim annually. Such stature means the business has found itself at the vanguard of a minor revolution which has taken place in denim manufacture in the past decade, much of it centred around sustainable new methods of production, but also focused on intense research and development and innovation.

The business recognises that with this leadership status comes responsibilities. Konukoğlu tells Apparel Insider: “We need to show our industry what is possible in terms of sustainability, innovation and so on. Setting these benchmarks, we can guide the rest of the industry. We recognise we have the budget, ability and expertise to research and invest in important areas – not everybody has the resources we have.”

Konukoğlu also has a positive message about the sustainability challenges facing the global denim industry, which has traditionally been known for its large environmental footprint. “Most of the sustainability issues can be improved over time,” Konukoğlu says. “There are none that are impossible to solve.” To illustrate his point, he points to massive advancements that continue to be made in terms of minimising water and chemical use during production. “The whole industry is reaching the same goal in different ways … change is coming to the industry,” he adds.

The full interview with Konukoğlu will appear in the next printed edition of Apparel Insider magazine, out in March. For subscriptions, click HERE,