Mauritius Apparel Sector Focuses on Sustainability

A shrinking economy that has left in its wake many shuttered factories and unemployed workers around the globe has spurred a concerted effort among the members of Mauritius' apparel industry to demonstrate to potential sourcing partners that Mauritius offers benefits over other manufacturing locales, say producers from that country, a number of whom exhibited at the recent TexWorld USA show in New York City. 

Honing in on the sector's competitive advantages is key to attracting business, said Ramasamy Marveen, of Enterprise Mauritius, a private-public trade and business development agency, citing the country's duty-free access to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and the industry's short lead times, flexible manufacturing and state-of-the-art technology as just a few of the benefits of manufacturing in Mauritius.

To set itself apart further from stiff competition that includes high-volume, low-cost producers in countries such as China, India and Pakistan, Mauritian factories are also putting a heavy emphasis on sustainable manufacturing, Beas Cheekhooree of Mauritius' RS Denim noted in an interview with Apparel, adding that many of the factories in the country are already WRAP certified. The move toward sustainability was fueled in part by a United Nations program that was launched with the goal of helping small developing island nations through sustainable initiatives, he says.

Noting that "billions of pairs of jeans are manufactured each year all over the world - and the denim manufacturing consumes a lot of water, chemicals and energy in the process," Cheekhooree says the fashion industry as a whole can play a role in changing the environmental impact of production by analyzing the impact of each process on the planet's ecosystem and reworking these processes to cause minimal disturbance.

Joining many companies in East and Central Africa that are "embracing sustainable and organic manufacturing as a practical necessity and point of differentiation to be competitive in the world," RS Denim likewise has put in place goals to help it become more sustainable, he says. These include efforts to increase its use of eco-friendly denim and to reduce energy and water consumption and the use of harmful chemicals.

RS Denim is also working with Enterprise Mauritius and COMPETE, a USAID-funded program designed to improve trade in East and Central Africa by taking advantage of the benefits of AGOA, which include a third-country fabric provision, introduced last year, that allows Mauritian companies to procure both yarns and fabrics from any source and export the apparel made with those fabrics duty and quota free.

Provider of knit garments RT Knits has also devoted itself to sustainable development. This past spring, it opened a new environmentally friendly 800,000-square-foot facility that includes a solar energy system that provides heating and light, a water-recycling system and a wind energy system for extraction and ventilation - measures the company estimates have reduced the company's CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent.

Additionally, RT Knits recycles waste from fabrics, plastics and paper and also uses recycled products such as paper, polybags and cartons, Cindy Seeyave, the company's U.S. marketing executive, told Apparel. It also places a high priority on education, raising awareness about environmental issues and encouraging its employees to reduce their own use of non-renewable energy.

"Mauritius is a beautiful place and we need to keep it clean and green," says Seeyave. "At RT Knits, we believe that not only is it important to sustain development for our future generations, but being - eco-friendly' reinforces our economic and social development." 

-Jordan K. Speer

Editor's Note: Texworld USA (, developed in cooperation with Lenzing Fibers, is a sourcing event for apparel fabric buyers, R&D and product development specialists, designers, merchandisers and overseas sourcing professionals. The next edition will take place Jan. 19-21, 2010 in New York City.

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