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Ebru Debbag of Soorty: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More…

Ebru Debbag of Soorty: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More Sustainable

Be patient: The industry is working towards a moving target, and it is the journey that matters the most as the target evolves as well.

As part of our series about how companies are becoming more sustainable, we had the pleasure of interviewing Ebru Debbag of Soorty.

Ebru has been a part of the global denim and jeans industry for over 3 decades and she has pioneered in the industry`s transformation to highlight its connection to the people and the environment at large. She is the Global Executive Director at Soorty and also runs her think-tank Indigofriends dedicated to educate, inform and interact with everyone striving to be an inspiration for change. Ebru is also a co-founder at the first permaculture NGO in Turkey dedicated to set examples that a sustainable lifestyle is possible for everyone.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had been involved in textiles and fashion at a very early age as my dad was a cotton farmer and my mom designed children`s clothes. I studied textile engineering and ended up in staying in my first job for 27 years at a great denim mill till 2017. 15 years ago, I have started in engaging more on the social and environmental impact of our jeans and how technology and new ways of thinking could revolutionize the way we manufacture and consume. I joined Soorty to deliver impact at scale and be a part of a team dedicated to implement communicate progress.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

The mission of Soorty is to deliver denim and jeans which are kind to the people and to the environment. This is not a romantic story as it needs a solid business plan, use of technology, collecting and measuring data, collaboration with all supply chain stakeholders, communication, innovation, and investments. We are committed to build positive change however it is not easy to bear the costs when the industry is not willing to compensate for the investments.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

There are multiple projects that we are running at the same time, and I will try to highlight some of them as we are constructing our circularity model as a business structure.

We are working with science-based targets to measure and mitigate our impact on the environment as well as making sure that our communities benefit from our actions.

Pakistan is a developing country with multiple problems and Pakistan`s alternative energy agency is promoting the use of cleaner energy with a target to reach %61 by 2030. Soorty is one of the most leaders in enabling this target with its renewable energy expansion and besides the solar energy plant that empowers its garment operations, Soorty has also invested in a wind power generation project becoming the 2nd mill in Pakistan to hold an energy storage unit. We are committed to use %50 renewable energy from a 2016 baseline by 2030.

Soorty has also invested in a 4 year project called SOCI (Soorty Organic Cotton initiative) together with WWF and OCA (Organic Cotton Association) where the target is to link the impact of our manufacturing practices to the field and also to the farmers. We are providing agri-finance and crop insurance reaching out to over 1000 farmers.

Soorty is also the 1st mill out of Pakistan to become a contributor to ZDHC and we believe that our initiatives will also drive the global competition in the right direction.

We are also looking closely at the new EU legislations and proactively developing processes and products which will comply with the needs of the global consumers. Together with our supply chain partners, we are co-developing innovative products where recycled fiber content and sustainable materials ensure circularity schemes and requirements. Our latest collection has %100 recycled fiber content denim fabrics and we have been producing gold certified C2C denim and jeans for the past 2 years.

Our laundries are equipped with smart technologies to ensure minimum resource use as well as focusing on efficiency and workers` safety. We have launched our Zero Stone process removing the stones from the equation, reducing the need for water, energy and chemicals. The Smart Blue process where we use updated technology to carry chemicals on the garment with foam instead of water reduces the water need on an average of %80 per laundry.

Zero Cotton Imitative is working with sustainable fibers alternative to cotton and the Longevity imitative is making sure we can extend the use and the re-use of the garments we produce.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

Sustainability efforts require investments and in the short term all the technology intense approaches will mean that the costs will initially increase. However, as these initiatives come to be preferred by the brands and retailers then the investments pay off both as competitive as well as the fact that there are savings on resource use. This is where scale impact makes the difference. The investment we have made for the Cradle-to-Cradle certified denim and jeans process will pay once the project scales.

The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

It is very important for us to present the interlink of systems that we are not immune to global problems and that we are all connected. What happens in the supply chain in global south will impact the industries in the global north.

Move and experiment — information is essential, but experience is what will make the difference. Take a trip to a waste disposal site to really present the impact of our wasteful actions.

Be optimistic — where these is a problem there also lies a solution.

Educate yourself so that you can tell better stories to inspire the youth.

Listen, mentor, and join the youth in action.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Be patient: The industry is working towards a moving target, and it is the journey that matters the most as the target evolves as well.

Listen to your intuition and trust it.

It is OK to speak up and be in contradiction.

Do not give up on self-care.

Do not stress over things you cannot change and shift your focus where you can make impact and enjoy doing so.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mother has been an amazing inspiration for me. She has always found joy in learning and practicing new things and was always fearless even in the eye of the storm. During the lockdowns at 83, she started a project with a target to hand make over 1,000 toys for underprivileged kids using production leftover socks and accessories. She managed to finish 1,100 toys which were distributed to children via an NGO. I could not help but took a photo of her with the toys and tweeted about it. Her news went viral in 2 days and she had millions of people commenting; reaching out to her to thank her, wanting her to be a part of their TV show…She has always inspired and led me to be a better version of myself.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a permaculture gardening movement.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

Be the change you desire to be — this has inspired me to move forward and event at times where I would be confused, disheartened and struggled it was a thought to come back to to make me re-start.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

Soorty`s and

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Ebru Debbag of Soorty: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.