3 Ways to Move Towards Integrity in Sustainability
Written by Ashley Gill - Program Administrator, Textile Exchange
Our focus for the month of January was Integrity. Over the past few weeks, we’ve provided information on Integrity and Risk at the Farm, the trend towards Material Traceability, and our webinar took a deep look at how certification addresses the risks of making sustainability claims. Even with so much information about what Integrity is supposed to look like, it may remain difficult to take that first step. Knowing the goal doesn’t always mean you can figure out where your foot is supposed to go next.
So, what can you do this year to move towards Sustainability embedded with Integrity?
1. Find the suppliers that are doing the right thing.
Any work to improve the sustainability of a product should include a close understanding of the conditions in which it was produced. Nike’s Apparel Considered Index (link to: helped to form the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Apparel Index Tool, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) includes a module that allows for evaluation of factories as part of the big picture of product sustainability. Nike currently uses a letter grade system to evaluate their factories’ compliance to their product specifications, and social and environmental performance. In the world of product sustainability, collaboration will be a much more effective catalyst than competition. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) so far includes 50 members, several of which are also members of Textile Exchange. This type of collaboration around creating expectations for suppliers means that the ones who perform well will be rewarded with plenty of business.
2. Work with suppliers to meet your directives.
When tools like the SAC’s Apparel Index are used, it is inevitable that lower performing suppliers will be identified. With a deeper understanding of what your business needs from them and the importance of certification, those same suppliers can make improvements. A big challenge with sending directives up the supply chain is that suppliers to may not feel that they are part of the change process. Effective, dynamic communication can overcome this by creating a partnership-type relationship between you and your suppliers. While working as a partnership, develop mutually realistic deadlines for certification and the other changes you’re looking to make. Make sure your suppliers have time to contact the nearest certification bodies certified to the standards you want, gather bids from these certifiers, make their choice and allow time for the actual auditing. Include your suppliers in your certification and verification strategy.
3. Reward the companies that are doing the right thing.
There are so many companies in the textile supply chain working to reduce emissions, to implement systems to keep organic and conventional cotton separate through their processing, and they have the certification that proves their commitment. The best reward you have to give is your business. With increased demand, Sustainability embedded with Integrity will benefit from economies of scale. When one company doing the right thing is recognized and rewarded, their work can continue, and others will join in.
At Textile Exchange, we want to see a global textile industry that protects and restores the environment and enhances lives. At any point on your journey to Sustainability, it’s likely that you’ll encounter roadblocks. And we’ll be there to help you find your way.
For more information on Nike’s Apparel Considered Index: http://www.nikebiz.com/crreport/content/environment/4-1-1-product-design.php?cat=product-design
For more information on Nike’s Index to Evaluate Factories: http://www.nikebiz.com/crreport/content/workers-and-factories/3-2-2-factory-monitoring-and-results.php?cat=profiles
For more information on the Sustainable Apparel Coalition: http://www.apparelcoalition.org/9.html