Everest Textile Co., Ltd.
- Garment factory boosts Ethiopia’s prestige by supplying region with critical personal protective equipment
Growing challenges caused by climate change have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many companies struggling to find stable footing amid global trade disruptions. In such an environment, with survival on the line, many firms — large and small — must weigh whether initiatives to become more sustainable remain a priority.
How then does a company continue to find growth and sustainability in such uncertain times? One success story is Tainan, Taiwan-headquartered Everest Textile Co. Ltd., which stuck to its principles as it adapted and innovated to not only survive, but continue thriving amid the challenging global trade environment.
Since 2007, Everest has been working to make its worldwide operations sustainable, issuing the “Everest Sustainability Model.” It started in Taiwan, introducing energy-saving measures, developing and implementing non-toxic processes, and sourcing only environmentally friendly textiles.
Everest’s factories in Tainan and Thailand have been awarded Taiwan’s EEWH diamond-level certification for ecology, energy savings, waste reduction and health — setting the benchmark for green factories. At its factories in Taiwan and abroad, Everest has replaced air-conditioning with water curtains and large fans, significantly reducing electricity consumption and costs while also improving air circulation.
‘Win-win’ investment in Ethiopia creates thousands of jobs and introduces cutting-edge technology
Due to rising labor costs in China and Vietnam, many firms have been taking a hard look at whether there are other locations that offer better returns for long-term investment. Foreseeing the need to establish manufacturing bases in other countries earlier than most, Everest President Roger Yeh led a team to investigate investment in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Americas.
In addition to a fabric mill and dyeing facility in North Carolina, Everest also established garment factories in Haiti and Ethiopia, both of which benefit from tariff-free exports to the US. The Ethiopian government established free-trade zones catering to manufacturing, such as Hawassa Industrial Park, where Everest built its garment factory. In addition, Ethiopia’s prime minister and the Ethiopian Investment Commission have provided the firm with invaluable assistance. In return, Everest has not only created thousands of job opportunities, but has also introduced cutting-edge technology and provided training to improve the lives and capabilities of local workers.
Everest has continued to invest into the Ethiopian factory and already counts on a workforce of about 2,800 people. Initially, the firm established 54 garment production lines featuring the latest equipment and technology, including U-shaped assembly lines, a hanging system, automatic template machines and semi-automatic equipment. Everest has added more workers and shifts to cope with surging demand, and plans to hire an additional 5,000 employees. The next phase of the investment includes a fabric mill and dyeing facility to turn the factory into a one-stop production base from fabrics to ready-to-wear products for the European, American and African markets.
Hawassa factory improves workers’ standard of living through benefits and education
Thanks to UN and foreign government assistance, Ethiopians’ education and employment opportunities have been improving steadily. Everest has built upon this foundation, providing salaries that have helped improve the standard of living for its employees. Workers also participate in daily morning exercises at the factory and are provided free transportation and lunch.
At Hawassa, local cadres have become the primary management, giving local supervisors insight into corporate management’s vision. Daily meetings are held to share common ideas and techniques, helping to propagate best practices throughout operations. As part of the ongoing education of the employees, consultants teach professional skills and technology courses, as well as Toyota-style management and leadership courses. In addition, the firm’s six factories worldwide share knowledge and concepts, helping to develop talent from within.
As the Ethiopian plant benefits from good weather, the natural beauty of its surroundings has been cultivated to improve the overall aesthetics. In addition, Everest has started numerous tree-planting initiatives, giving employees a budget to plant and take care of trees on their own.
Protective equipment made from innovative materials help turn Ethiopia into a supply hub for Africa
By setting the standard for garment factories at the industrial park, which has helped to attract investment, Everest built a good, productive relationship with the Ethiopian government. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this relationship has only strengthened thanks to efforts by all parties.
As the world began to come to grips with the pandemic, Everest’s research arm led development of a five-layer laminated fabric with a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) membrane, which provides up to 99.9 percent protection from the novel coronavirus. The company also developed a three-layer mask made of highly water-repellent fabric, allowing for it to be washed and reused, making it more suitable in societies such as Ethiopia’s where people are not accustomed to using disposable masks.
“The government asked Mr. Yeh to make these revolutionary fabrics available for production and to maintain the supply of raw materials to help the factory — and the park — remain in operation and keep unemployment down.” Mr. Yeh said. In addition, by working with other manufacturers based in the industrial park, Everest was pivotal in turning Ethiopia into a major supplier of personal protective equipment to the rest of Africa.
Everest’s protective products were vigorously promoted abroad, boosting the visibility of the firm and the park. As word spread about their effectiveness — particularly when compared with Chinese products of inferior quality — they quickly gained a reputation for providing the best protection. Local government agencies, guards, police, the military and even other manufacturers based in the region specifically seek out Everest’s protective equipment.
Most masks lose their effectiveness after four hours and are disposable, creating a waste problem. By comparison, Everest’s multi-layer masks remain effective at protecting wearers from contagion for days at a time. If properly maintained, the firm’s masks can be washed up to 20 times and worn for a month. This not only lowers daily mask costs, but is also more environmentally friendly, all while providing a high level of protection.
- Five-layer mask features PTFE membrane that provides up to 99.9 percent protection from novel coronavirus
- Highly water-repellent mask can be washed and reused
- Personal protective equipment can be washed up to 20 times and worn for a month, lowering costs in an environmentally friendly way