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.