Knowledge in demand

Let us take the Swedish School of Textiles as an example. In the textile and fashion industry the problem of finite resources is extremely obvious. If the trend continues, in 17 years time the textile industry will require twice as much textile fibre as that used today. Yet the cultivated land is needed for other purposes, so the equation does not add up.

Hence the students need knowledge of sustainability from economic, environmental and social perspectives.

“Such knowledge is exactly what the students get here,” says Jonas Larsson, senior lecturer in textile management at the Swedish School of Textiles.

Early in the training, they study approaches to sustainability in joint material and colour theory courses. These are expanded with more specialised courses, which have been adapted to the specialisations of the different courses.

“Those studying textile economy learn how to work strategically with sustainability issues, for example, with the help of life cycle analyses, where a product's total environmental impact is calculated,” explains project manager Susanne Edström.

The textile and fashion design students learn to design to facilitate recycling by not mixing different materials, while textile engineering students learn digital techniques for dyeing and printing, which are as effective as other techniques, but significantly reduce water and energy consumption.

“Interest in sustainability issues has increased dramatically in the industry,” says Jonas Larsson. They have stated that the most important thing now is education in sustainable development, and our students will be the perfect fit for their needs.

The students are also immensely interested and often choose to take higher education qualifications or project work related to sustainability. For example, they write about ways to reduce wastage, how to communicate sustainability to customers, or different ways to assist recycling and so-called redesign, where you make new from old.

“Our responsibility, as an academic institution in close cooperation with the industry, is to ensure that the students can bring new knowledge to companies, both with regard to production processes and the entire value chain,” says Susanne Edström.  We attempt to give the students a broad understanding of not just economic sustainability, but also environmental and social sustainability.

Text: Lena M Fredriksson
Photo: Private

Footnote: In addition to courses in sustainable development, representatives from the University of Borås also take part in numerous networks and delegations within the field, and in doing so contribute further towards the distribution of knowledge. Both by sharing their own knowledge and through the representatives acquiring new knowledge, which they then take back to the university and share with the students.