In conversation with Ebru Debbag from Soorty
by Ndaah Kamuruko | Dec 13, 2022
“In conversation with” is a series of interviews by Green Story with leading fashion brands, sharing their stories, what sustainability means to them, the challenges they face, and how they communicate their green stories. Read on and get inspired!
Tell us a bit about yourself and the story behind Soorty.
My name is Ebru Debbag and I have been with the denim and jeans industry for over 3 decades where I started my 1st job as a young textile engineer with Orta Anadolu in 1992 where I stayed for 25 years.
I set up my initiative Indigofriends, in 2017 with a passion to share my experience and be a force of inspiration and transformation thus joining Soorty as their Executive Director. What intrigued me with Soorty was that the company already had a profound infrastructure. There was also an inherent drive to care for the people and I needed to connect the dots, highlight Soorty`s vision, strategize and communicate projects so that global stakeholders were informed and inspired. I am driven by the desire to implement circularity at scale, and this is what we are trying to achieve with our work, and it is not easy.
One of the striking banners in COP27 was “What happens in Pakistan, will not stay in Pakistan” in reference to the 2021 floods which shattered lively hoods. Soorty is a key player in sharing the regions vulnerable truth as we are providing denim and jeans for global brands at scale.
The main criteria in sourcing sustainable materials is working with reliable sources who can provide data on the materials. Jeans are made of many components and the manufacturing is followed through an interdependent system where companies act as both suppliers and customers along the supply chain where the output of one company becomes the raw material for the next. It is crucial to be able to have and integrate the data all throughout.
We establish long-term relationships with our suppliers and of course work with the best names in the industry. We ask for certain certifications, visit our supplier`s premises, look for solution partners rather than working on a transactional base. It is essential to be able to co-develop products and processes. We will soon be having the 3rd episode of our SpaceD gatherings in NY where we share both the expertise, the innovation behind the products that we co-build with our partner suppliers with our customers and other stakeholders. This is how we bring more attention to the teamwork that lies behind our products.
We are in a volatile industry where the chain reaction kicks off mostly with the demands coming from the brands and the retailers. As a responsible manufacturer we are innovating and designing using sustainable materials where we also strive to put the data behind each step as well and we offer our innovation to all our customers.
Our industry is still very much cost driven and at times cost of products override the sustainable options available. Our current use of materials is a mix of both sustainable as well as petroleum-based versions. I do not think that we can see sustainability as an end – it is a journey with evolving targets. We are seeing the brands making commitments in line with a commitment to stay under 1.5 degrees which is seeming to be a far-reach. There is enough data to show us all that the transition at scale is urgent and that the supply chain needs to work together to achieve the targets set. I would like to give our 2 initiatives as examples of our business transformation how we not only source but also integrate the use of fully certified sustainable materials.
SOCI, is Soorty’s venture into organic cotton farming. Covering 1,200 farmers and spread over 9,000 acres of pristine agricultural land, SOCI not only builds capacity for organic cotton, brings transparency and reliability to material sourcing, but also enhances the livelihoods of communities living in the region through offering women, from Khuzdar, financial independence, vocational training, and access to medical care and clean water for the local populace.
We are glad to own our state of art waste recycling plant that reutilizes 40% of the cutting table waste; sending it back to spinning and this adds up to 75 TONS of fiber being saved / month. We are also using PCW and evaluating the performance of our recycled yarns so that we can excel in our offer.
The reason I wanted to give these examples is to present that our transition is intentional and systematic.
The main challenge that we are facing is cost versus value. We need to move to a value orientation for sustainable choices to become common a practice. Using sustainable options should not be perceived as premium or a nice to have/tell story – they need to be mainstream so that we can make true impact. We are not yet there as an industry. We also address the profound need to educate all stakeholders in the industry and Future Possibilities is our dedicated platform where we share our best practices online as well as holding in person sessions where we inform, share, and inspire. Our SpaceD in NYC is a hub for college students to have hands on experience on all our sustainable practices and we believe that education will help accelerate the change we need.What are your top priorities for the upcoming years in terms of sustainable materials and their impact?
Top priorities will be centered around options for closing the loop – we also must be careful about the recycled materials and make sure that they can stay in use. Chemical recycling, separating polyester and elastane for recycling are potential growth areas.
Raw materials which can enhance longevity, durability will be in demand. We will witness the expansion of the use of bio-based materials such as algae however scaling will need further investments as well as commitment from the market.
Impact is an important criterion which is also not addressed enough in our industry and all the innovation I am referring to will also need to be assessed for their impact as we need to strategize based on data.