BY TRACEY GREENSTEIN (WWD Daily Edition – 22 July 2019)
Sustainable production of silk, which evidently can begin at the soil level, is making headway in China. For one of nature’s most luxurious fibers that means agricultural practices to ensure circular silk production, in addition to the reduction of carbon emissions and restoration of soil vitality for mulberry trees, among other CSR and sustainability initiatives. This is the work of Bombyx, named after the genus of true silkmoths and mulberry silkmoths, a company that creates sustainable high-end silk fabrics with a focus on manufacturing silk from organic growing and production processes, in tandem with certified eco-friendly practices. Bombyx was founded by Hong Kong-based Profits Fund Global Holding Ltd. in 2017, as a reflection of the firm’s 23-year-old pledge to support initiatives that “honor nature and corporate social responsibility best practices.” The firm invested in a production facility located in Sichuan Province’s Yilong County in China, where silkworms are raised and harvested at an eco-friendly organic sericulture base, the company said, adding that “each step of the manufacturing process incorporates sustainability practices such as water conservation efforts, and efficient use of non-renewable and renewable energy.” Here, Hilmond Hui, president of Bombyx, talks to WWD about the company’s aim to transform the silk industry in China and its efforts in CSR and sustainability.
WWD: Why is Bombyx differentiated in the market? How is it “more” sustainable than traditional silk?
Hilmond Hui: Compared to traditional agricultural practices included in silk production, Bombyx processes ensure that nutrients are put back into the soil so new crops of mulberry treescan be planted faster, runoff water and wastewater is collected and treated for use later on in production, and renewable and non-renewable energy is used efficiently. Overall, our processes reduce carbon emissions, restore the vitality of soil and produce healthy organic mulberry trees for our silkworms.
WWD: How is Bombyx attempting to change the production and sale of silk in China?
H.H.: Our goal is to set new standards through Bombyx’s transparent business practices and trusted supply chain by integrating social and environmentally responsible approaches into every step of our production process. Those steps ultimately benefit all stakeholders, the communities where Bombyx is developing sericulture bases and nature as a whole. As an organization, we believe that the sustainability of a business is synonymous with being good stewards of the environment, as well as upholding transparency and fair trade.
WWD: Bombyx created a customized program to train local farmers. Would you elaborate on that initiative?
H.H.: The idea to train local farmers and provide the latest technology to local sericulturists seemed obvious to Bombyx based on our values. Nanchong’s Yilong County has roots in sericulture going back to the original Silk Road. So, there is a culture there of sericulture and knowledge that goes back generations. Bombyx saw an opportunity to teach these groups both new technical skills to ensure they know the latest innovations and techniques in silk production, and soft skills to allow them to become qualified leaders in their communities. Topics range from introduction of agriculture and sericulture to mulberry cultivation, silkworm protection and silkworm improvement.
WWD: In what other ways does Bombyx incorporate sustainability and CSR?
H.H.: Bombyx works to better the future of local communities by donating money to education programs, creating jobs and helping to alleviate poverty in the local community. PFGHL, Bombyx’s parent company, and Bombyx recently announced they will donate more than $70,000 for the construction of a new kindergarten to improve school conditions and provide a better learning environment for students. In addition, crayons, books and other learning tools were provided to over 800 students in the rest of the school. Our environmentally friendly policies include the latest technologies and practices including energy-saving equipment, productivity control system, eco-friendly sewing machines and automatic sewing machines.
WWD: What’s next for Bombyx?
H.H.: In the next three years, we are planning to build three new facilities to allow direct control of the entire manufacturing process from mulberry tree to finished fabric.