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New study outlines directions for more transparent and sustainable textile value chains

Published: 17 November 2017

As the world’s second most polluting industry, the textile sector is responsible for a large portion of global CO2 emissions and industrial waste. Exploitative and dangerous working conditions are also widespread in the sector. At the same time, the industry has a complex value chain, with production facilities located all over the world, which makes it very hard to gain accurate information about sources and relevant environmental, health and social risks and impacts.

Large brands have started to embrace sustainability, but the majority of manufacturers and suppliers have not. In order to increase the industry’s ability to manage its value chain more sustainably, both consumers and businesses must first be aware of the nature and magnitude of the issues. Improving transparency and traceability has therefore become a priority, especially if we are to meet the ambitious objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its targets on enhancing responsible production and consumption (SDG 12).

UNECE, together with experts from governments, the private sector, academia, NGOs and international organizations, has been leading research in this area. A new study launched today (TEXTILE 4 SDG 12) identifies possible solutions, and provides recommendations for an international Framework Initiative on transparency and traceability for sustainability patterns in the clothing sector.

In particular, the study points to the need to:

  • conduct diagnostic work on transparency and traceability in the textile value chain, including the mapping of requirements for traceability systems;
  • communicate to governmental organizations, industry corporations, and consumers on the role of transparency and traceability for sustainable textiles value chains;
  • support targeted education and training to designers and high-level management of the fashion industry on responsible production approaches for the sector;
  • incentivise the business sector to invest in sustainable sourcing and supply chain mapping as a smart business strategy and a way to build trust with consumers;
  • harmonize existing standards, certification and regulatory frameworks to help tackle confusion among producers and consumers between multiple approaches;
  • use standardized information and auditing approaches according to strict rules;
  • sustain innovative business solutions, IT developments (including blockchain) and smart devices to advance transparency in textile value chains and consumers’ awareness and engagement;
  • support accelerators and start-ups working on social and environmental innovation in the clothing industry.

Such recommendations draw on discussions at the 30th UN/CEFACT Forum Conference on “Ethical and informed choices for sustainable clothing – Tracking and tracing textile supply chains” and The Emperor's New Clothes' brainstorming session held at the 2017 European Development Days (EDD). As a follow-up, a multi-stakeholder UN/CEFACT working group has been launched to support the development of the Framework Initiative.

Stakeholders interested in joining the working group on Textile4SDG12 are invited to contact maria-teresa.pisani@unece.org


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