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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Walmart, BMZ Funding Drives Textile Innovations Here and Abroad

The textile industry isn’t exactly the poster child for sustainability or ethical business practices, but Walmart and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) are working to change all that by funding projects geared towards revolutionizing textile manufacturing.

The textile industry isn’t exactly the poster child for sustainability or ethical business practices, but Walmart and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) are working to change all that by funding projects geared towards revolutionizing textile manufacturing.

First Walmart, The Walmart Foundation and The U.S. Conference of Mayors awarded $3 million to six leading research and academic institutions earlier this week on behalf of the U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund at the 85th Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. The grants were awarded in recognition of their work focused on innovations in textile manufacturing.

The Fund focuses on the development of domestic manufacturing with a specific goal of making it more feasible, sustainable and competitive to make consumer good in the U.S. The Innovation Fund has now provided a total of $10 million in grants since launching in 2014. This is the third and final round of grants for the Innovation Fund.

The grant recipients were selected for their ability to address to key challenges that currently present barriers to increased domestic manufacturing, including reducing the cost of textile manufacturing in the U.S. by addressing obstacles throughout the production, and improving common manufacturing processes with broad application to many types of consumer products.

“Advancing the production or assembly of consumer products in the U.S. is the number one goal of the Innovation Fund,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. “As these projects come to fruition over the next few years, we hope the research not only enables cost-effective solutions for manufacturers, but also improves the sustainability of the U.S. textile industry.”

Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of The U.S. Conference of Mayors suggested that the winning projects could help boost economic growth and job creation in cities. “The final round of innovation projects we launch today, like those we’ve launched over the past two years, are specifically designed to grow manufacturing in our cities and to fuel the economic growth this nation depends on.”

The 2017 Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund grant winners are:

  • Washington State University to establish an environmentally friendly process to recycle cotton waste by fiber regeneration using a wet spinning technique
  • North Carolina State University to create a universal and sustainable commercial textile dyeing method that doesn't use salt or alkali; doesn’t produce effluent; and produces more than 95 percent savings of both energy and water
  • Clemson University for development of sustainable polyester fibers that achieve a high level of water and oil repellency
  • Oregon State University to develop a sustainable, cost-effective dyeing and printing of smart fabrics process
  • Texas Tech University to support research on various aspects of textile manufacturing, dyeing efficiency and specialty finishes
  • University of Massachusetts Lowell to develop magnetic dyeing technology to address the technical and environmental issues of current dyeing techniques

Support for the Innovation Fund is part of Walmart’s broader commitment to help revitalize U.S. manufacturing. In January 2013, Walmart announced a commitment to buy an additional $250 billion in products that support U.S. jobs by 2023.

These commitments represent a significant investment that will help accelerate the pace of U.S. manufacturing. By making production in the U.S. more cost-effective and efficient, the global retailer believes it can bring American consumers more American-made products and ultimately create jobs in communities across the country.

Meanwhile, Better Cotton Initiative have announced that BMZ, a Federal Ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany, has awarded the BCI Growth and Innovation Fund (GIF) a grant totaling €2 million.

The Growth and Innovation Fund, managed by BCI’s strategic partner, The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), is BCI’s global investment vehicle for supporting Better Cotton projects around the world. The GIF helps BC advance its goal of reaching five million farmers and accounting for 30 percent of global cotton production by 2020. In 2016, the Fund invested more than €5 million in projects and the BMZ contribution will enable a significant scaling-up of the portfolio for the next season.

“We are delighted to welcome BMZ as a funding partner and thank them for their support. The BCI Growth and Innovation Fund is a global partnership set up to support Better Cotton farmers around the world. BCI currently has 66 Retailers and Brands members who contribute to the Fund and global institutional donors and government agencies are invited to match the contributions from the private sector to achieve a multiplier effect. We look forward to working closely with BMZ as a key partner in achieving our goals,” said Alan McClay, CEO of the Better Cotton Initiative.

The funding will be invested globally in training and capacity building to address sustainability issues in cotton farming, including pesticide use, water efficiency and severe working conditions, which include issues of child labor, gender inequality and unfair pay.

“Making globalization socially and environmentally fair — that is our goal, both in our Textiles Partnership and in the Better Cotton Initiative. BCI is a leader in the effort to achieve better environmental and social standards in cotton production. Together with the private sector, civil society and producer country governments, we are defining standards,” said De. Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.