The world has been horrified with the images and stories of the tragedy in Bangladesh. Hundreds of people lost their lives doing what people all over the world do every day, going to work. The Textile Industry has a long history of helping countries pull out of poverty, and of giving work to families with few other options. However, Textile production can also be guilty of pollution, damaging ecosystems and exploiting people in negative labor situations. These issues are complex, and the answers are not simple. There is no 3-step solution to ethical production, but this must not be an excuse to do nothing. Whether you have been working to improve the lives of workers involved in your products for years, or you haven’t yet started, we can all do more.
Integrity is one of the pillars of textile sustainability and is marked by two key actions: Transparency and Verification. If Integrity is “doing what you say, and saying what you do,” then you really need to know what your company is doing, or not doing, in all steps of the supply chain. This means identifying all of the companies involved in each step of production of your goods, learning how they operate and develop relationships in order to address impact areas such as working conditions.
Any plan to address issues in your supply chain should be paired with a form of verification. In most cases, third-party certification to an independent standard is the best option. Textile Exchange can provide you with support to explain the process, identify resources, and to choose the method that will best suite your needs.
Situations like the factory collapse in Bangladesh are simply unacceptable. This is the third deadly incident in just six months and it can’t happen again. Below is a list of tools, resources to use and groups to participate in. We urge you to take action. If you need guidance, please let us help.
Internal policy or code of conduct
Some companies adopt an existing list of social requirements and require their suppliers to follow them. This can be verified through self-declaration (often an affidavit or signed declaration) or through direct audit by the company. Many codes of conduct are based on these three lists:
Having a Code is only the first step - engagement with your supply chain to make sure that workers and managers understand and are implementing the code on a daily basis is critical to ensure its adherence.
Many companies choose to require certification from their suppliers. There are a number of existing standards which include social requirements. These are typically verified through third-party certification, although in some standards, the standard-setting body is responsible for verification. The most prominent are listed below.
Your company can also be a part of developing social requirements and implementing them in a way that works.
Courtesy of Textile Exchange Integrity Platform
Textile Exchange recently participated in the essentials module of the Sustainable Fashion Academy (SFA) Design and Sustainable Performance Program in Stockholm, Sweden. We are excited to have partnered with SFA on this program for 3 years in a row. Through our partnership with SFA, we presented a full day course on developing a preferred fiber strategy. This session followed previous sessions on lifecycle analysis and the business case for sustainability.
We started our day by looking at product lifecycle stages and the impacts such as energy, water, waste and chemicals that are present at different levels in each. After a closer look at some key fibers through these same impact lenses we identified alternatives that are available to improve one or more impact areas. We also explored the different tools that are available to help designers and product developers evaluate their material selections and compare then to other choices that could be made. We closed out the day by exploring some of the key factors that need to be considered when developing a preferred fiber strategy – including the role that integrity and traceability play in developing and communicating your plan. It was great to see the enthusiasm of those in attendance, working together discussion and activities to begin applying their new knowledge.
Now that participants have completed the essentials portion of the program they will move into their deep dives which will provide more training related to their particular focuses on design, operations or communications. We had a fantastic time working with a great group of brands and look forward to partnering with SFA again in the future.
For more information on the Sustainable Fashion Academy please visit. http://www.sustainablefashionacademy.org
Courtesy of Ben Mead
Dear Global Community,
This week we would like to draw your attention to a new set of Chemical Snapshots that we created and just released to support you in your work on restricted substances, Zero Discharge, and material or textile processing selection.
As you know, since 2002 we’ve been working hard to inspire and equip you with knowledge and tools so you and your organization can be successful in advancing sustainability practices.
In reviewing all of your suggestions and feedback on previously released tools, we realized that many professionals like you are in need of clearer and straightforward information on impacts such as water, waste, energy, and chemical management.
In fact, many people haven’t delved into chemistry since high school or college! Also, a lot of information out there is quite technical and might be difficult to digest, collate, and vet.
With the most recent releases of FastFacts and Chemical Snapshots, we focused on simplifying the language and reducing the jargon that often are a part of technical topics in order to increase general industry awareness. All FastFacts tools as well as the PVC Snapshot are free to everyone. The additional seven Chemical Snapshots, which are listed below, and the next bundle of ten Chemical Snapshots, also listed below, are free to TE members and available for individual purchase or as a discounted bundle.
- AP’s and & APEO’s (Alkylphenols and Alkyphenol Ethoxylates
- BPA (Bisphenol A)
- DMF (N,-N- Dimethylformamide (D)dimethyl formamide)
- DMFu (Dimethylfumarate)
- PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid)
- PFOS (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid or Perfluorooctane sulfonate)
- PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
- Sensitizing Disperse Dyes
We will be releasing a second bundle of Chemical Snapshots this summer that cover the following substances:
- Azo dyes/amines
- Halogenated flame retardants
- Halogenated solvents
- Heavy metals (chromium, lead, cadmium, mercury, antimony, arsenic, cobalt, copper, nickel, zinc)
- Short Chain Chlorinated Paraffins (SCCP)
Our Chemical Snapshots highlight those chemicals that are found in industry-wide Restricted Substance Lists and included in the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Substances.
If you are a professional working within a brand or retailer or you are manufacturer, our Chemical Snapshots will help you understand why the textile, apparel and footwear industry is so concerned about the use of all these chemicals and what you can use instead. You shouldn’t miss them!
All Chemical Snapshots are structured in the following way:
- How and in what products are these chemicals commonly used;
- The main environmental impacts;
- The presence (or not) of legal restrictions for a specific chemical;
- An inspiring selection of the best industry practices;
- And finally, the alternatives you can take into consideration.
All Chemical Snapshots are completely free for our members and can be purchased individually by non-members. A special discounted price is available if you purchase the entire collection.
Click here to download the complimentary PVC Chemical Snapshot!
We look forward to hearing from you: your input and feedback is so important in creating better, more effective tools in the future.
Courtesy of Carlotta Cataldi
In February, Fast Company released their list of the top 50 most innovative companies of 2013. I always scan the list looking for our members, and it didn’t take long to find one. In fact, it took almost no time at all. Nike headed up the list at number 1. Target and PPR also made the list. It’s no surprise to find our members on this list; the journey to sustainability will always involve innovation.
New questions = new answers
It was common, in the past, to look at resources as limitless, but that perspective has faded away as we have come face to face with the impacts of consumption. Understanding that resources have an end has created some new design challenges because true sustainability imposes limits on resources. Use only as much rubber as can naturally be replaced. Workers must be treated fairly and paid enough to raise strong and healthy families. Water should leave a facility just as clean as it came in. Companies using these limits are asking themselves new questions: How can we make a shoe that isn’t so dependent on rubber? If we begin to consider social and environmental factors, what is the real cost of production of our products? How much is our waste costing us?
Fast Company’s list reflects the broader work these companies have undergone to address the sustainability of their products and business.
One of the reason’s Nike was chosen as the most innovative company of 2013 was because of the Flyknit Racer, a shoe with uppers knit into one piece, instead of layering fabric. The shoe was made in a completely different way than their previous shoes and it meant a change in their manufacturing process, which equaled a change in their supply chain. They did not shy away from a huge potential shift but instead embraced it as part of the innovation. http://www.fastcompany.com/most-innovative-companies/2013/nike
PPR is in the middle of a huge environmental review of all of their brands and they plan to publically identify the results. They will use the information to create a tailored approach to lower the amount of waste and cost in each of their brands. http://www.fastcompany.com/most-innovative-companies/2013/ppr
Who did Fast Company miss? Who do you think should have made the list?
The mission of Textile Exchange is to inspire and equip people to accelerate sustainable practices in the textile value chain. Inspiration can come from looking ahead to a brighter future. We envision a textile industry that restores and protects the environment and enhances lives. Our work day in and day out is towards that vision. But inspiration can also come from taking the time to look back at how far you have come, and all the work it took to get you here.
Last week, some of us attended the 2012 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City, Utah. Before the trade show started, there were two days of meetings with the Sustainability Working Group (SWG) of the OIA. We are honored to be a part of this award-winning group. The week was a great chance to see our members face-to-face and hear what they have been up to.
Most of the OIA meetings were spent on updates from the work that’s been done in the past few months, since the last OIA SWG meetings in January. I was struck by how much work has been done by companies and others to address issues like transparency, chemicals management, labor practices, and product indices. Instead of listing every piece of information, just take a look at some of the high points of progress.
Our own Anne Gillespie, Director of Industry Integrity, is co-chairing the Materials Traceability Group with Steve Richardson, of Patagonia. The Materials Traceability task force on Ethical Down has a first draft on a standard that would ensure the down from poorly treated birds doesn’t end up in your supply chain without your knowledge. This is the first down traceability system outside of vertical integration.
The work that went into developing past standards like the OE standards has been adapted to create a standard that allows companies to track any kind of raw material. We are calling this the Content Claim Standard (CCS) and it is a generic chain of custody standard that can be used with any input material, in any supply chain. The standard provides a first step for a company looking to build closer relationships with their suppliers, and a system to verify what their products are made of. Over 100 people have joined the task force to review the standard. For some companies, ten years ago, this was a pipe dream.
The Chemicals Management Working Group is also working on creating a way for companies to start the process of managing their chemicals. In the last 18 months, hundreds of hours have been committed to building a framework for addressing chemicals, providing the right resources for finding existing chemical management systems, and creating a road map for the internal process of adopting one of these systems. Instead of focusing their attention on denying responsibility, companies in the industry have made the issues their own. They have not only addressed the claims in their own supply chain, but helped other companies to do the same.
Read more about OIA Sustainability Working Groups
Read more about Roadmap to Zero
And the work isn’t just being done by huge companies with large resources to devote. I spoke with one of our members (a supplier) about how the year had been for them. Just 12 months before, he heard someone speak about managing chemicals. As he spoke, he laughed, relaying his first reaction to the speaker.
“No way, we couldn’t possibly have the time or money to figure that out. We want to do it, but where would we start?”
Today, his company is getting ready to announce their partnership with bluesign (bluesign is an independent textile standard used to limit and exclude chemicals deemed hazardous to humans or to the environment from processes). A number of their products are already certified, which means they have come a significant way in managing their chemicals. Their buyer, a huge brand, took the time to sit down with them and get everything going. All that, in just 12 short months!
Read more about bluesign.
There is still much work to be done. Dyes still find their way to waterways, children are still working in factories, farmers are still exposed to carcinogenic chemicals, and too many product claims continue to confuse consumers.
But there are also some amazing results from the work we’ve already done. Take a look at your own company. What have you accomplished in the last 10 years? 5 years? 6 months?
Use your accomplishments as inspiration to keep working towards your vision.
TE Member, Marks & Spencer, has become the first major UK retailer to go fully 'carbon neutral' five years after launching its sustainability project, 'Plan A.' Since the launch of Plan A, M&S has reduced waste by 31 percent or 80,000 tons and 100 percent of waste is now recycled. Nothing ends up in the landfill.
The "2012 How We Do Business Report" confirms multiple achievements that M&S has accomplished.
Mark Bolland, the Chief Executive, said, “I am proud of what we've achieved. We now have a better, greener and more ethical Marks & Spencer. Moving forward, we will continue to engage customers in sustainable consumption, as we have with our Shwopping initiative, the first cradle-to-cradle clothes retailing business model. We remain as committed to Plan A as we have ever been. It is an essential part of our DNA and fundamental to our plans to become an international, multi-channel retailer.”
M&S launched Plan A in January 2007, setting out 100 commitments to achieve in 5 years. They have now extended Plan A to 180 commitments to achieve by 2015, with the ultimate goal of becoming the world's most sustainable major retailer. Through Plan A, they are working with their customers and suppliers to combat climate change, reduce waste, use sustainable raw materials, trade ethically, and help their customers to lead healthier lifestyles. For more details on Plan A, visit http://plana.marksandspencer.com/about.
Written by: Paul Swan
Group Manager, Market Intelligence and Reporting
Australian Wool Innovation Limited
Today’s textile consumers, brands, and retailers are exposed to a wide array of ‘environmental’ labels, and fibre rating and certification schemes. Examples include organic certifications, environmental rating tools such as MADE-BY’s, and more specialist tools such as Intertek’s recently launched Instant LCA Textile Web Portal.
For LCA-based tools, as in any area of analysis, the quality of the outputs is to a large extent a reflection of the quality of the inputs – and the central challenge for tool designers, and the key assumption for users, is that the input data and assumptions are robust, and soundly-based as possible.
In this ‘environmental’ information space, the wool industry has an arguably unfortunate reputation, and the purpose of this short blog is to give you an insight into work underway which we expect will lead to a better informed assessment of the environmental attributes of the fibre wool.
Photo provided by Paul Swan
A couple of notable updates include:
1) The International Wool Textile Organisation (www.iwto.org) and Australian Wool Innovation Limited (www.wool.com) have recently partnered in conduct of an expert review of all existing wool LCA’s. The review, by Dr Beverley Henry of Australia’s Queensland University of Technology, will soon be released publicly on IWTO’s website.
Dr Henry’s review identified 9 LCA’s which are available as published scientific papers or public reports, and critically analysed their scope, methodologies and assumptions. Recommendations were made in relation to consolidation and updating of these LCA’s, addressing methodological weaknesses, and filling data gaps. This will be a good resource for anyone interested to understand what has been completed and published in the field of wool LCA, and its limitations.
2) At the 81st IWTO Congress held in New York recently, FSA’s Steve Weidemann presented a short summary of his research which has piloted use of ‘system expansion’ as a method for allocating footprint to co-products within the sheep production system – all previous published wool LCA’s have used economic allocation, which is the least preferred allocation method according to ISO14044:2006, by contrast to system expansion.
Steve’s work will be published at a LCA conference in France in October 2012 – and it would appear to have major impact on the CO2 and water footprints for the fine apparel wool supply chains examined.
3) One of the major data gaps in existing wool LCA’s is hard contemporary data on product wear life and recycling. AWI has a major study underway in 7 country markets collecting data on comparative product wear life, and recycling practices. This work, due to be completed in September 2012, will go a long way to filling a major data gap in this field.
4) As part of a major research program conducted in Australia, CSIRO and FSA are quantifying the carbon cycle on a number of commercial wool enterprises, across a wide range of climatic zones. This work, which will take 3 years to complete, will provide a large volume of hard data in a much-needed area, including soil carbon fluxes.
These are a subset of work undertaken in the field of wool LCA, where our intent is to have a better-informed assessment of the environmental attributes of the wool fibre. I hope to have the opportunity for further updates in the near future, and will advise as soon as the Henry Review goes up on the IWTO website.
As part of Textile Exchange’s ongoing collaboration with textile educational institutions, Lee Tyler and I attended North Carolina State’s Textile Fundamentals course last week. The course is a comprehensive study of the entire textile process from fiber formation through finishing.
Our complete day by day summary and recap of the week is online at: http://textileexchange.org/event/textile-fundamentals-course-hosted-nc-state-university.
For us, the most valuable part of this week was the interactive aspects of classroom time, combined with detailed lab tours. It is rare for people to have access to such an array of machines and experts, all in one location. Obviously, this is why the class has been so popular since the 1960’s.
We are publically sharing what we have learned with the Textile Exchange community, because it is important that those involved with the textile industry understand the “fundamentals”. Understanding the science and processes behind what goes into the products you buy or what happens to them after you sell them creates better understanding and communication between all supply-chain partners. Many industry partners know the fundamentals intimately, but this is an opportunity for anyone at their company to quickly be exposed to textiles and how they created in a concise course that lays the foundation for their continuing education on the job. TE has the specific focus of “sustainability” and this course has allowed us to fully appreciate not only the very real obstacles to becoming more sustainable, but also the very real opportunities that lie in the “exchange” of ideas.
Written by: Sophie Mather
Bio synthetics give you the best of both worlds, true innovation AND the added benefit of being sustainable. Creating quite a buzz today within media, industry and also within politics, the concept of bio-based products is not new, having been first developed back in the 1940’s. Using bio raw materials, polymer developments help to overcome some of our current global issues such as: depleting oil reserves, escalating levels of GHG emissions and the rising cost of synthetic raw materials. These emerging polymers offer alternatives to standard fabrics such as Nylon and Polyester, which are at the core of our fibre purchasing needs.
As a textile industry we are outlining what this means to us, through standardized terminology and a single definition. Bio Synthetic: A polymer created from either a part percentage or 100% natural renewable resources (living organism), for the manufacture into synthetic fibres.
To be part of an innovation journey such of this is fun. Each challenge ahead of us poses new sets of parameters in which to work, that are great for stretching the boundaries of innovation. It is also a journey that brands, retailers and suppliers can jump on at various stages; as a complete novice or with experience and ideas already established in this field.
Entering into this for the first time, there are already commercial fabrics available. PLA is polyester derived 100% from corn that was first commercialized as Ingeo from NatureWorks LLC. (http://www.natureworksllc.com/). Known as a hybrid due to its part oil, part renewable content, PTT also sits within the polyester family. Its 37% renewable content is derived from corn and commercial fabrics are branded as Sorona® from DuPont™. (http://www2.dupont.com/Sorona_Consumer/en_US/index.html). Finishing off the portfolio of commercial synthetics, PA11 is a bio based nylon derived from castor oil, and is known as Rilsan® from its polymer supplier Arkema. (http://www.arkema.com/sites/group/en/home.page)
For those that have already established an understanding and want to go further, the market for emerging biosynthetics is rich and moving at a rapid pace. R&D around developments into bio spandex, drop in solutions that utilize existing process technology and differing raw materials all offer really exciting and innovative solutions to take this into the future.
What keeps me driven in this area, is the fact that this is not just about sustainability or like for like performance. These intriguing developments first attracted me through the performance plus attributes that they have the potential to deliver. The soft hand and inherent stretch that Sorona® offers, stands it aside from a regular polyester and the strength to weight attributes and moisture regain properties of the PA11 give performance not possible from a PA6 or PA66.
Coming out of the Textile Exchange 2011 conference, a number of members voiced an interest in collaboration in this area. Since then a Textile Exchange led Bio Synthetics working group has been formed between brands, retailers and suppliers, to create one point of view for the industry. For the brands and retailers this means one stronger voice to suppliers in order to maximize success and reap commercial results in a time and budget efficient manner. For the suppliers, this becomes a strategic alignment to the agenda set by brands and retailers, so that R&D resources can be streamlined for a greater return. Regularly new findings divert a course of action or open up a new kettle of worms, but if we approach them collaboratively we have a far greater hope for success. Synthetics as we know them today have had 70 years to get to the level of sophistication that we know and love, so we need to give bio synthetics a chance.
Highlights of this work will be shared in report and presentation format at the annual Textile Exchange conference 4th-5th October 2012. For anybody interested in finding out more about the Bio Synethic working group please contact Beth.
 Definition specific to the TE Bio Synthetic working group and created by consensus of the working group members. April 2012.
Written by: Heather Mak, Manager at SustainAbility
A sea change is under way in the standards, certifications and labels universe.
Energy Star, which began as a leadership standard/label by the US EPA and Department of Energy, has become painfully aware that it is now a cost of entry. After the Government Accountability Office unearthed that a gasoline powered alarm clock received the Energy Star label, the EPA/DOE realized that they had to evolve the scheme, and added on very costly third party certification requirements to ensure credibility. This ended up alienating many of the consumer electronics companies who were early supporters of Energy Star. In the world of seafood, earlier in 2012, eight of the largest Alaskan salmon fisheries who were early proponents of the MSC certification scheme stated that they no longer were going to use it. Over time, Alaskan salmon fisheries had built credibility as a sustainable source and had built a brand in their own right.
What is going on? In some cases, standards, certifications and labels have outlived their purpose for businesses, and there are many other tools to take their place. As part of SustainAbility’s research, Signed, Sealed…Delivered?, we looked at the value and challenges that businesses obtain from standards, certifications, and labels, and more importantly, how each of these would have to evolve to create actual impact, which is the focus of Textile Exchange’s Integrity Platform.
How should this happen?
We believe that standards should focus on being pre-competitive and adaptive. That is, we see the end of companies competing on their use of different standards. Witness what the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is creating with its index, a multi-stakeholder effort that merges previous initiatives to create a common, industry-wide tool for measuring the environmental and social performance of apparel products and the supply chains that produce them, with a focus on measurable impact. Similarly, standards will have to adapt quickly to new changes, while recognizing that producers have limitations as well – they cannot drop everything and change overnight. And most importantly, these standards will have to focus more strongly on outcomes instead of processes for real value to sustainability and the business.
In the certification space, new forms of assurance need to go beyond mere auditing, relying on different stakeholders such as social enterprises, NGOs and government. An example is LaborLink, a program from the non-profit organization Good World Solutions, which uses mobiles as a worker-centric platform to engage directly with workers. The mobiles are used to collect confidential data points on worker satisfaction, livelihoods, and social impact, or even communicating educational messages. This is a time and cost effective complement to audits. This is one example, but we think that assurance will take the form of partnerships, deeper relationships among unconventional partners, and may even be assisted by regulation.
And finally, we believe that labels will simply become a stamp of verification, acting as a mark of process for brands, instead of becoming brands themselves. For example, H&M has been experimenting with certified organic and recycled fibres in its clothing, without necessarily shouting from the rooftops about it. And in some cases – sustainability is used as a way to supplement the brand, such as what Indigenous Designs has done with its QR code tags to disclose the provenance of its Fair Trade garments.
The textiles value chain is a complicated one – and it will take some time to realize this sustainable value chain. But as it goes with clothing, we will have to keep trying all these tools until they fit.
The full report for Signed, Sealed…Delivered? can be read online at http://www.sustainability.com/library/signed-sealed-delivered-1.