Huntsman is leading innovation and sustainability for the textile industry
1. Tell us about your role in the company and what are your key responsibilities?
I am the Vice President of Global Revenue and I oversee both the Commercial and Marketing functions of Huntsman Textile Effects. My role is to help our teams around the world connect with stakeholders, recognize and keep ahead of trends, and delight our customers with tailored solutions and support.
2. Where do you see Huntsman Textile Effects in the next couple of years?
Huntsman Textile Effects has been bringing sustainability and innovative solutions to the textile industry for the last few decades. We are proud to be an agent of change in our industry working closely with textile mills, and the brands that are their customers, to serve different end-use markets and find solutions to tough challenges.
Right now, mills and brands are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact, improve their bottom line, and capture market share. These imperatives are only going to ramp up in the next couple of years as markets become more competitive, more regulated, and more demanding. For Huntsman Textile Effects, this means we need to maintain our focus on creating innovative technologies, products, and sustainability solutions and on helping mills and brands deploy them to meet their business objectives.
3. Which are the major and potential markets for Huntsman Textile Effects geographically?
Despite the impact of the pandemic on the wider textile sector, we are continuing to see strong and growing demand for our environmentally sustainable textile dyes and chemicals. This demand is global, dominated by China and the South Asia region, with Pakistan as a real bright spot. We are excited to see Pakistan becoming more internationally competitive and opening up new markets for exports. We believe there is great potential for further growth as mills in Pakistan differentiate themselves through a strong sustainability proposition and by developing new high-value products.
4. As the world is slowly moving back to pre-pandemic environments, which markets do you think would benefit and how can Huntsman help brands and especially mills in Pakistan deliver on these demands?
Dyes and chemicals make it possible for brands and mills to differentiate and capture growth opportunities arising from key global trends like heightened awareness of environmental sustainability and changing consumer preferences.
The Home and Hospitality sector is trending upwards as patrons return to hotels, spas and gyms around the world. We are seeing strong demand for premium towels as well as for bed sheeting—and this is another area where Pakistan can leverage its long experience in home textiles to create more value. We work with manufacturers to help them use new technologies like odor-control solutions for towels and sheets that smell fresh for longer; softening agents for towels that are soft and absorbent, with natural bounce and bulk; and fluorescent whitening technologies for very high and brilliant whites. Choosing the right dye to achieve intense long-lasting color, even when towels and sheets are bleached for hygiene purposes, is also important.
Casual Wear is also another growing segment worldwide as people prioritize looking smart yet being comfortable in the ‘new normal’. This is creating opportunities for brands that can meet customer need for eco-friendly garments that are as and long lasting and easy-care as they are elegant and comfortable. Pakistan already has a good reputation among the major casual wear brands, and this stands local mills in good stead. To capture new business, they will need to be able to deliver on-trend 100% cotton and blended polyester-cotton fabrics with sought-after effects like wrinkle-resistance, rain- and stain-protection, UV-protection and quick-drying. The right partner can help mills do all of this in a way that is both cost-competitive and sustainable.
5. How much is Huntsman investing in R&D and what steps are taken to improve the environmental friendliness?
Innovation is a key differentiator at Huntsman Textile Effects. We hold around 750 patents and have launched more than 150 new products in the past five years. We focus our efforts on two fronts: technologies that help mills save water and energy and promote sustainability and waste management; and technologies that help them adhere to current standards and relevant Restricted Substances Lists and stay ahead of future rule changes and trends.
For example, mills in Pakistan will be aware of legislation in the EU, US, and China targeting the use of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which are commonly used in durable water repellents that protect garments against rain, snow, and everyday stains like ketchup and mud. As the chemistry has shifted over the years from long-chain C8 PFCs to short-chain C6 PFCs, and most recently to fluorine-free “C0” technologies, Huntsman has steered the industry with products like Zelan™ R3 and our PHOBOTEX® range.
We believe strongly in optimizing the entire ecosystem to create shared value. This is about textiles that are not just free from harmful chemicals and produced in ways that are better for the planet, but that also resist fading, staining, and odors, so they need less frequent washing and look good for longer.
An exciting new product that we are bringing to customers in partnership with Sciessent is NOBO™—a new odor-control solution that has the ability to continuously capture, trap and neutralize odors that can build up on garments. This new technology is economical and environment friendly. It also regenerates when it is washed, so it is very long-lasting and ideal for casualwear, sportswear, and school uniforms.
6. What are the benefits for the Pakistan textile industry when they collaborate with Huntsman?
As a key partner in the textile value chain in Pakistan, we pride ourselves on helping mills and brands be more competitive and sustainable as they create high-value products that differentiate them in the global market.
It is really heartening to see the textile sector in Pakistan stepping up as leaders in the global drive towards net zero emissions. Almost all of the signatories to Net Zero Pakistan are textile companies, and I think this reflects a real confidence in the solutions that are available and in the economic benefits for companies and nations that commit to saving resources.
As one of the top cotton producers in the world, Pakistan is in a good position for textile exports such as in the casual wear and home textiles segment. 100% textile fibres offer absorbency, comfort and good heat conduction for winter warmth and summer cooling.
We are very keen to share our groundbreaking AVITERA® SE dyes with more mills in Pakistan. These poly-reactive dyes dramatically reduce the dyeing and washing-off cycle and use up to 50% less water and energy, as well as lower temperatures in the wash-off process. In addition, it also improves productivity of the mill.
The global demand for polyester fibers has been growing steadily due to its versatility and ability to be used in many applications. As a result, demand for polyester-cellulosic (PES-CO) fiber is growing worldwide.
We believe that we have created the best solution available today for dyeing polyester-cellulosic blends. By combining AVITERA® SE reactive dyes and TERASIL® W/WW disperse dyes, AVITERA® SE Fast process delivers the lowest environmental impact for dyeing PES-CO blends. It combines alkali-clearable TERASIL® W/WW disperse dyes and AVITERA® SE reactive dyes to cut processing time from around nine hours to just six. These dyes lead to savings of up to 50% of water, energy and CO2 emissions – helping mills cut costs and contribute to a smaller energy footprint for Pakistan.
We also have a recent addition to the third-generation AVITERA® SE dyes. AVITERA® ROSE SE delivers the same environmental benefits but also dramatically reduces recipe costs for medium-dark shades and increases mill output by 25% or more. With exceptional overall fastness and minimal chance of cross-staining, it is ideal for the red-white striped cotton knit, as well as polyester-cotton fabric that is so popular in the casual wear market.
The AVITERA® SE dyes are also used by many top overseas mills in the home textiles and casual wear sectors, where they can be combined with the INVAZYME® SOFT pretreatment process. INVAZYME® SOFT is a biological catalyst that rapidly scours natural cellulosic fibers and blends at a low temperature and pH, preserving the natural hand feel and bulkiness of the fabric and significantly reducing weight loss during processing. This also leads to savings in wastewater treatment.
7. What opportunities do you see for companies in Pakistan who are in the Technical Textiles sector?
The technical textiles sector develops high-value protective clothing for firefighters, medical professionals, and the like. Recent years have seen a massive spike in demand for safer and more eco-friendly options in this field. In particular, the pandemic has taken personal protective equipment—or PPE—beyond the medical community and boosted interest in technical fabrics treated with antimicrobial and oil- and water-repellent finishes and anti-static agents to improve the wearer’s safety and comfort.
We work with mills in the flame-retardant clothing field. This is a very specialized area that demands a high level of competence and know-how as well as the right mix of products and the right processes. Protective clothing for high-risk professions can be treated with PYROVATEX® flame retardants to prevent fire damage while retaining the original fabric’s softness to help keep workers more comfortable in high-risk environments. Specialist dyes, like our MAXILON® range are safe to use with a flame-retardant finish, offering a wide range of shades from brilliant to dull and delivering exceptional wet-fastness properties.
8. In the world’s textile dyes and specialty chemicals business where does Huntsman stand?
Huntsman Textile Effects is a world leader and a trusted partner in the textile value chain. We stand out as an innovator, and we believe strongly in collaboration. Our collaboration extends beyond the technical facets; our in-house teams also work closely with local and world-renown brands to create long-term win. We are proud that our products and advice help brands and mills navigate broad shifts in the industry—like the move towards sustainability and cleaner and more transparent supply chains.
9. What are the key challenges the industry has experienced during/post-pandemic?
The global textile and apparel industry is being reshaped by several key forces: supply chain disruption and an increased emphasis on domestic markets brought by the pandemic now joins major ongoing trends like sustainability and digital technology and a worsening talent shortage.
We can expect to see brands shifting towards circularity and closed-loop recycling and embracing transparency with digital ‘product passports’, for example. Sourcing is only going to become more challenging as supply chain pressure continues, raw materials shortages escalate, and shipping costs rise. Everyone is going to have to build a lot more flexibility into their strategies. Brands are also increasingly interested in diversifying their sourcing base and in nearshoring and reshoring to secure their supply lines and allow for shorter lead-times.
At the same time, the industry is going to face more stringent chemical and wastewater management regulations and perhaps calls for greater social protection of workers, too.
Mills are on the front line of all of these changes. Whether facing up to heightened regional competition and tough sustainability targets, or seeing brands take production offshore or in-house, mills can be sure that Huntsman Textile Effects will be supporting with them. We help mills differentiate through innovation to capture new market opportunities, and we support them to adopt sustainable business practices that make sense both environmentally and economically.
This article first appeared on TEXtalks.
Lutfu Okman, Vice President of Global Revenue, Huntsman Textile Effects