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What is Fashion’s Role in Earth’s Biodiversity?

A new Textile Exchange report has found that 51 percent of fashion and textile companies recognize biodiversity loss as a priority risk, and 8 percent already have a biodiversity strategy in place.

As biodiversity fast becomes a focus area for the industry, the newly released “Biodiversity Insights Report” aims to accelerate action by analyzing data shared by 157 companies, including Hermès, H&M, Kering, Ralph Lauren and Norrøna.

With 1 million of the planet’s 8 million species threatened with extinction, a landmark joint report published earlier this year by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the integral role of biodiversity in mitigating climate change.

Now, within the context of this year’s COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, Textile Exchange is identifying the key areas where fashion and textile companies are making progress to reduce their impacts on biodiversity and outlining opportunities where more can be accomplished. In turn, the organization aims to mobilize the industry toward becoming nature positive by 2030 in line with its Climate+ goal to be the driving force behind a 45 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from textile fiber and material production by the same year.

The Biodiversity Insights Report uses data submitted through the Textile Exchange Biodiversity Benchmark to provide a baseline that tracks the level of engagement and effort companies are putting into monitoring and minimizing their impact on the natural world. It aims to help companies of all sizes formulate where they should be heading and to articulate what best practice looks like today.

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A new report from Textile Exchange has found that 51 percent of fashion firms recognize biodiversity loss as a priority risk.
Coral reef, Ras Mohammad National Park, Egypt Gregoire Dubois

The report urges brands to build on their existing materials strategies, coupling fiber standards–currently prioritized by 80 percent of brands–and regenerative, restorative approaches, used by 32 percent, with initiatives that take their biodiversity benefits beyond sourcing efforts to collaborative landscape-level action.

The Biodiversity Benchmark was developed by Textile Exchange in partnership with The Biodiversity Consultancy, Conservation International and a co-led multi-stakeholder advisory group of 60-plus organizations, experts, companies, and industry specialists, including the Science Based Targets Network, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and CDP.

“We must act urgently to reverse the nature-climate crisis by 2030,” Clare Shine, CEO of University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, said. “The global fashion sector is uniquely positioned to lead and inspire collective imagination on how we view and value nature. This transformation must start now and mobilize people and resources along the design, supply and retail chain.”

Textile Exchange is also collaborating closely with The Fashion Pact, a global CEO-led coalition across the fashion and textile industry on the Biodiversity Benchmark. The Fashion Pact leverages the power of the collective in order to drive action, building upon and going beyond existing initiatives to accelerate positive impact in three areas–stopping global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans.

“The role of this report, and the Biodiversity Benchmark itself, is twofold–to help companies make the link between biodiversity and the work that they are already doing with their materials strategies, and to use reporting and disclosure as a mechanism for mobilization and getting concrete biodiversity strategies in place,” said Liesl Truscott, head of corporate benchmarking at Textile Exchange.

A new report from Textile Exchange has found that 51 percent of fashion firms recognize biodiversity loss as a priority risk.
Forest elephant, Loango National Park, Gabon Gregoire Dubois

Additional key insights from the report found that sustainability standards are the most widely used measure by companies seeking to address their biodiversity impact, with 80 percent increasing their uptake of certified materials as a way of managing their impact on biodiversity. Certified organic cotton and other cotton standards are the most popular.

More than one-third of companies are starting to take action to remediate biodiversity loss. Beyond standards, 38 percent are beginning to implement restorative or regenerative measures in support of biodiversity, creating opportunities for collaboration across the value chain and within broader landscapes.

A growing number of companies is also investing in biodiversity either financially or in kind–38 percent are making some kind of investment to improve outcomes for biodiversity, focused on projects within their own supply chain or beyond.

The report concludes that greater transparency is still needed to track biodiversity outcomes. Impact is still limited by the fact that only 14 percent of companies know the countries where their key raw materials are grown or extracted. Beyond country of origin, companies should also understand the broader landscape of where they are sourcing their materials and 15 percent have already started mapping this against priority areas for biodiversity.

Textile Exchange is a global nonprofit that manages and promotes a suite of six leading industry standards, as well as collects and publishes critical industry data and insights that enable brands and retailers to measure, manage and track their use of preferred fiber and materials.

With more than 640 members who represent leading brands, retailers and suppliers, Textile Exchange has been positively impacting climate through accelerating the use of preferred fibers across the global textile industry and is now making it an imperative goal through its 2030 Strategy: Climate+.

Conservation International works to spotlight and secure the critical benefits that nature provides to humanity. Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, Conservation International’s mission is to empower societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, global biodiversity and the well-being of humanity.