In honour of World Environment Day, we spoke with Rossana Gonzalez Carruyo, Director of Environment at Gildan, to get her perspective on the role that strong environmental practices play on driving Company performance. Read as she discusses her passion for environmental education and learn about how she reinforces industry best-practices at Gildan:
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your line-of-work?
I have worked in environmental protection and health and safety for over 20 years now, but I’m still relatively new at Gildan: I began my position as Director of Environment a year ago.
When I started my career, I worked as a scientist in industrial microbiology and spent most of my time in a lab doing research. After that, I worked in corporate environmental control for many years. I also taught environmental education to post-graduate students at two of the most important private universities in western Venezuela, which was something I really enjoyed doing because I’ve always been passionate about spreading awareness about environmental protection and inspiring people to engage in topics related to it.
What is your role at Gildan?
I’m responsible for providing oversight and support to our manufacturing facilities on environmental matters, and I also help develop environmental procedures aligned with new regulations and best practices. This is important because creating and implementing environmental standards across all our locations and facilities can be complex, which is why having strong oversight and management plays a big role at large Companies such as Gildan. That’s where our dedicated sustainability team comes in: Beyond ensuring that our operations are responsibly managed and more environmentally efficient, we work with our energy and engineering departments to align targets in order to reduce our energy and water consumption. Environmental management involves all areas within the Company, and each must work closely together so that we can reduce our impacts and become more efficient overall.
What are your main goals or aspirations as you fulfill this role?
One of my main goals is to help our different departments streamline their processes, communications, and data collection related to the environment to ensure we’re as efficient and aware of our performance as we can be. Another goal of mine is to ensure that our employees understand just how much Gildan cares about its environmental impact. The people in my position before me did a fantastic job laying down the foundation for data collection and developing our environmental system and targets, and my job is to ensure that everyone from across our Company understands how this system works, as well as just how important sustainability is to us and to our communities and investors.
Can you share your thoughts on what Gildan is doing to address its environmental impacts?
We are doing a lot to address our environmental impacts: from the investments we make in new technologies and more efficient energy sources, to the environmental initiatives we support in the communities where we operate. We are innovators, and we have implemented best industry practices throughout all that we do. What’s really exceptional about this is that this isn’t something new at Gildan; it’s a journey that started close to 15 years ago! Gildan has been one of those companies that has always looked to conserve the environment, far before sustainability and corporate responsibility were common practices.
We also have great standards, which are already well-integrated into the processes and technologies at our facilities, and we work closely with local governments to adapt our processes and meet their environmental regulations. This is something that can be really complicated for a company as global as Gildan because we need to consider all of our different locations while understanding and working within the local laws of where we operate, and then implementing the most stringent standards.
Which one of your projects are you excited about?
Our main project right now is improving and strengthening our environmental management system, which is based on the ISO 14000, a series of international environmental management standards, guides, and reports. This system allows us to monitor our environmental performance and management in areas like water, wastewater, landfill waste, and energy, and it helps with following up on and improving our performance. The system also helps us track local laws and regulations, and it allows us to easily gather information so that we can better assess our performance and identify areas where we can improve. It makes our work much more efficient.
Why do you think people are developing more interest in Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainable business practices?
Now more than ever, people are curious about what they buy and about the composition of a garment, and they are interested in things like wastewater management, climate change, and sustainability. As the world changes, that interest will only continue to grow. Companies must also recognize that customers and communities have rights, and we need to respect those rights. We must ensure that we operate responsibly and continue to enhance and develop our environmental practices so that we can uphold the rights of our communities.
Personally, I believe that if we can all learn to be more conscious about environmental issues, we’ll be able to make a better world together. That’s why I hope to dedicate my entire life to improving systems as well as teaching and inspiring others about the environment.