Global frontiers of sustainable innovation with Hayleys Fabric
It is the era of sustainability champions, who strive to redefine manufacturing and production to create rare opportunities, taking up this challenge head-on is a young Sri Lankan gaining global attention for her groundbreaking work in sustainable textile manufacturing: Hayleys Fabric Manager of Sustainability and Innovations, Leonie Vaas.
Last June, she made history for Sri Lanka when she was selected from thousands across the globe to be designated as 1 of just 10 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Pioneers by the United Nations (UN) Global Compact for 2021.
A chemical engineer by profession, Leonie is an auditor for Environment Management Systems and is a certified professional, sustainable manager. With an extensive range of experience in GHG reduction and ensuring carbon neutrality, life cycle perspective of products, plant and process improvements with sustainable technologies and textile chemical management, Leonie has paved the path for local sustainability champions to be recognised on a global platform.
As the first and only Sri Lankan to be recognised as an SDG Pioneer, Leonie primarily focuses on five key areas at Hayleys Fabric, including driving efforts in reducing GHG emissions, water preservation, improving efficiency with sustainable solutions for effluent treatment plants, building and training sustainability teams, as well as developing and applying new processes for ‘better and greener’ products.
The accolade recognised her successful work on environmentally friendly natural dyes from waste materials. Given that switching from synthetic to natural dyes can potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 36%, Leonie’s work is highlighted as worthy of replication globally.
“On the whole, synthetic dyes are easier to work with – allowing for a brighter and more diverse spectrum of colours to be applied to any textile with ease. That is why they are the most preferred option for any commercial-scale textile production. However, in the long term, natural dyes may hold the key to more sustainable, circular fashion supply chains,” Vaas explained.
Globally, the natural dyes market is currently projected to hit US$ 5 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of around 11% up to 2024. With the rising tide of environmental consciousness, customers are starting to gravitate towards more sustainable purchases.
“Through trial and error, we developed a natural substitute using natural and biodegradable ingredients. Our next goal is to scale up production to meet the fast-growing demand for sustainable textiles,” Vaas explained.