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Cotton shirt producer esquel receives oeko-tex certificate (china)

Cotton shirt producer esquel receives oeko-tex certificate (china) Source:
Date: 04-09-2012
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The Chinese textile industry is undergoing fundamental structural changes in the form of higher salaries and a strongly increasing domestic demand, both of which have resulted in higher price levels. At the same time standards have also risen moving away from pure cheap production and towards high-quality textiles.

The corporate philosophy of the Esquel Group, one of the world’s leading cotton shirt producers, has for many years been orientated towards maximum product quality and sustainable production. Its major production base in Foshan, China of the company have been certified as environmentally friendly and socially-acceptable production sites in accordance with the OEKOTEX  Standard 1000.

Excellent Qualities
The Esquel Group was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Hong Kong. It is one of the world's leading manufacturers of cotton dress shirts, T-shirts and polo shirts. With a total of 54,000 employees and production facilities covering China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Mauritius, the vertically-integrated company produces over 100 million woven and knitwear clothing items per annum – mainly for prestigious international brands such as Hugo Boss, Nike, Lacoste, Marks & Spencer, Tommy Hilfiger and Gant.

Esquel has primarily been committed to quality. Based on this principle the company has consistently focused on the vertical integration of all production phases – from cotton cultivation through yarn spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing, finishing to garment manufacturing, to ensure the highest quality in every step of the manufacturing process.
The company even produces its own accessories and packaging. Esquel has its own sales distribution network with worldwide merchandising offices which puts it in a position to respond flexibly to customer requirements and to ensure optimum provision to the trade. John Cheh, the Vice Chairman & CEO of Esquel Group is convinced that it is precisely this strategy that has been the cornerstone of Esquel's success, namely that "quality starts with the raw material.

This is why we grow extra-long staple cotton in the company's own fields in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. In addition to the traditionally cultivated plantations, we also cultivate fields with organic cotton. Each individual production phase at Esquel is underpinned by an endeavour to achieve top quality and sustainability."

Safer products - sustainable processes
Back in 2000 the company started to have its products certified according to the OEKO-TEX Standard 100. Now all the items produced in the Chinese production sites comply with the required human/ecology criteria. For John Cheh this is an important component of company quality assurance.

"In accordance with our corporate culture, the independent proof as certified by the neutral test institutes of the OEKO-TEX Association, demonstrates that our products are harmless to health and represent an additional quality guarantee both for us and our customers."

Apart from product quality, sustainability issues are also very important at Esquel. In 2000 Esquel was one of the first textile companies in China to succeed in having its production sites certified under the international environmental management standard ISO 14001. Through extensive investments in innovative and environmentally-friendly production technologies for all processing phases of the fully-integrated company, both efficiency and competitiveness have been significantly improved.

Environmentally controversial substances such as APEOs and the dyestuff Blue Navy are not used as a basic principle. Moreover, outcomes such as energy savings, a reduction in water usage and waste water load plus the reduction of emissions have also had a positive influence. For John Cheh, the commitment to sustainability has been worth it: "Already as a result of high process-related water and energy consumption, our ongoing optimisation measures of all production processes have become a firmly embedded element of our corporate philosophy.

For instance, we have our own modern thermal power station which ensures our independence from external sources. Our recycling and reuse of process water in our water treatment facilities has contributed to make savings in our fresh water usage of 54 % between 2005 and 2011.

The successful certification in 2011 of two plants in Gaoming in Guangdong province as environmentally-friendly and socially-acceptable production sites in accordance with OEKO-TEX Standard 1000 impressively also proves Esquel's sense of purpose in relation to environmental protection issues. The areas covered by the certificate include spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing, finishing and making up of garments, i.e. the production of cotton shirts and knitwear items such as dress shirts, T-shirts, polo shirts etc. Esquel also holds the OEKO-TEX Standard 100plus certificate for selected spinning yarns.

The staring point for all Esquel corporate activities is the all-encompassing philosophy of "e-culture". This requires all employees to be a good citizen and a good employer (ethics), cherish the environment (environment), explore and embrace innovative solutions (exploration), reduce wastage through functional excellence (excellence) and dare to err, but learn quickly (education).

According to John Cheh, the specific importance of sustainability is not solely restricted to the savings made within one's own company: "We are always of the view that sustainability requires a holistic approach. It is a question of a continuous journey, not a final destination. The implementation of sustainable production conditions is not only of benefit to the environment, but also has a positive effect on business performance.
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