Business

Brandix sets sustainability benchmark for global apparel industry

By Uwin Lugoda

In a world where carbon emissions are at an all-time high and climate change is an ever looming threat to the planet, sustainability has become one of the most crucial responsibilities of the cooperate world.

Industries around the world have been contributing to environmental pollution since the Industrial Revolution, and sectors such as the apparel industry play a major part in it. The production and distribution of crops, fibres, and garments used in the apparel sector collectively contribute mainly to water, air, and soil pollution. As a result, the apparel industry is responsible for around 10% of the world’s carbon footprint, also becoming the world’s second largest polluter of the world’s freshwater among all industries.

Therefore, the apparel industry comparatively functions under more pressure to work towards achieving sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint. Some companies, however, have already reached a new level of sustainability and are working towards a better future. Brandix is one such company.

Forward thinking

Brandix is no stranger to sustainability. Their efforts recently bore fruit when their factory in Batticaloa was recognised as the world’s first “Net Zero Carbon” factory by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) in 2019. The factory achieved this feat by completely neutralising its environmental impact from carbon dioxide emissions. This was done by being highly energy-efficient and using on-site renewable energy resources.

Brandix first embarked on their journey towards sustainability in 2007, with the goal of bringing their carbon footprint down to zero, and became one of Sri Lanka’s first few companies to start measuring their carbon footprint.

Since then, Brandix made a huge impact on the three main pillars of the environment – air, water, and earth – by reducing its emissions and incorporating new sustainable techniques. They managed to bring down the air emitted from 276.6g of CO2 for every $ 1 of revenue to 56g of CO2 while reducing water wastage by 13.1liters per clocked hour to 9.3liters per clocked hour. The company also went from sending 80% of their waste to landfills, to diverting 96% of waste from landfills.

“At Brandix, our sustainability strategy is to leave a zero carbon footprint and have zero impact on the environment. This means that we do not compensate by having a negative impact in one area so that we can have a positive impact elsewhere,” said Projects Director Natasha Boralessa during a press tour.

In 2008, Brandix received a platinum rating in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification – the most widely used green building rating system in the world – for its factory in Seeduwa and several other Brandix factories later on.

Following this, the company rolled out a broad 10-year strategy in 2010 to become a fully empowered sustainable operation by 2020. This strategy led them to become the first apparel company in the world to obtain the ISO 50001 Energy Management certification in 2011.

In 2017, Brandix built the factory in Batticaloa that spanned 10 acres, with the goal of making a fully self-sustaining factory with almost no negative effects on the environment. During this time, the company pledged with the WGBC to make all of its factories reach the Net Zero Carbon status.

The factory managed to achieve the highest LEED rating in Sri Lanka and the second highest in the world within the manufacturing industry by incorporating several methods and technologies to become more sustainable. Here are the methods and technologies Brandix used to achieve this feat:

1. Green building design

The building is designed according to the US Green Building Council and ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) building guidelines. Around 44% of energy is generally consumed for the cooling of the building. Hence, they focus on optimising the cooling energy through the building design itself. The east-west orientation of this building minimises the solar heat emitting through the building’s walls and windows. The solar panels also provide additional insulation to the building’s roof. As a result, the factory is able to save over 53% of energy in comparison to a conventional factory building.

Building management system (BMS) –Brandix monitors real-time building energy consumption with the support of a BMS. HVAC air cooling and indoor air quality are continuously monitored and controlled, with special focus on temperature and CO2 levels. Chillers and air handling units (AHU) can also be operated and controlled through their BMS system. Additionally, advanced submetering devices were provided to monitor daily energy consumption patterns.

2. Servomotors for sewing machines

The factory has 1,800 sewing machines that are operational for around 16 hours daily. All machines are provided with low-powered VSD servomotors instead of clutch motors. Clutch motors are continuously operational during production hours, whereas servomotors operate only during needle time, which accounts for approximately 17% of operation hours. A servomotor can save 68-73% of energy, compared to a clutch motor.

Air-saving devices – knitted garments require uncurling as part of a new operation requirement. For this purpose, compressed air was used continuously. The in-house team then went onto develop an innovative air-saving device to reduce the compressed air wastage by over 40%. They look forward to implement this device across new sewing machines as well.

3. Solar tubes for sky lighting

Eleven per cent of energy is used for the building’s lighting. The factory utilises solar tubes to provide solar light into the building without the solar heat. Additionally, a lux control mechanism is in place to switch off artificial light during daytime. These solar tubes have contributed to increase the indoor lighting level by an average of 122 lux in the building during daylight.

100% LED lighting – the Batticaloa factory lighting is 100% LED-generated as LED consumes less power than CFL, resulting in saving over 50% of the lighting energy load compared to conventional lighting. The lifetime of LED lighting is also double the span of conventional lighting. LED lighting can also be easily recycled and completely eliminates any disposal issues.

4. Production information system
The factory uses a production information system through which the material flow can be visualised, helping identify bottlenecks in line feedings. All material supplies are synchronised through this system, which has contributed towards eliminating all paperwork.

Reuse of waste threads – the factory segregates and stores used thread cone in separate bins. These threads are then reused when new styles are introduced.

Metal detectors – all garments go through metal detectors. This way, customers receive real-time information about their products.

Double-glazed e-clear glass – double-glazed argon-filled e-clear glass windows help minimise the heat load. These glass panes are fixed around the main and front building walls to facilitate daylight setting into the factory and a view of outdoor environment.

5. Paving block

All internal roads are made with high solar reflectance paving blocks. This helps prevent heat island effect to the building and also reduces rainwater run-off.

Waste collection and storage – all solid waste is segregated and stored in separate bins for recycling.

Water treatment system – thein-house water purification system provides safe drinking water to all its associates.

6. Wastewater treatment

The factory built a zero-discharge sewage treatment plant. The treated water is recycled and reused for flushing and irrigation purposes.

Electric charging facility – the electric charging facility is provided to promote electric cars.

7. Treated water pond

This pond receives treated water from the sewage treatment plant (STP). The pump house then releases the treated water to the irrigation network around the factory through efficient water sprinklers.

Sustainable site and biodiversity – the fish, ducks, and birds in and around the pond help enhance biodiversity at the premises.

Food waste composter – the food waste composter produces compost from food waste within a span of 24 hours. The output is then used as an in-house fertiliser and they intend to donate them to associates for their home gardens as well.

8. Rooftop solar PV

The factory’s installation of a 1.65 MW rooftop solar plant is one of Sri Lanka’s largest. The annual energy yield is 2,975 MWh, which even exceeds the annual energy requirement of the premises.

Plant monitoring and GHG reduction – Brandix implemented online solar monitoring by using the Sunny Portal software. As a result, they experience a 1,591-tonne net reduction of CO2 emissions annually and an overall reduction of 31,820 tonnes over a period of 20 years.

9. Efficient compressed air system

The compressed air network design at the plant is different from a conventional design. The system will generally have one air receiving tank after compression and drying, yet the system they now have in place is designed with two air receiving tanks to balance the system and minimise the loss of energy. An online compressed air flow meter is installed to monitor air consumption.

10. Magnetic bearing chillers

Brandix invested in the latest magnetic bearing chillers. These water cooling, magnetic bearing chillers have much higher part load efficiency and no losses experienced due to oil clogging. It saves over 37% of energy, compared with conventional chillers.

Refrigerant leak detector – the refrigerant leaks detector helps identify any refrigerant leaks. All chilled water pipelines are insulated.

11. Efficient water fitting

All water and sanitary fittings at the premises are LEED platinum-rated and helps save over 53% of water, compared to conventional water fittings.

Dish washers – the dishwasher is used for cleaning plates and it contributes towards saving a significant proportion of water used for this purpose.

Solar hot water system – the factory uses a solar hot water system to provide hot water and water for dish washing.

12. Bicycle facility

A bicycle parking facility is provided to promote cycling in the area in order to reduce vehicle emissions.
Brandix currently has plans to make its 25 manufacturing centres spanning Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Haiti, and Cambodia fully sustainable.