A new report from Textile Exchange emphasizes that a transition to regenerative agriculture is fundamental to the long-term health of the fashion and textile industries.
Textile Exchange said as brands face an increasing risk from disruptions to fiber production from climate impacts and biodiversity loss, regenerative agricultural approaches can play a key role in helping farmers develop more resilient systems, bringing immense social and environmental benefits to the industry and beyond.
The report points out that with interest in regenerative agriculture gaining momentum, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Brands are looking for a comprehensive analysis of this growing opportunity, as well as a roadmap to engage meaningfully.
Sponsored by Kering, J.Crew Group and CottonConnect, Textile Exchange has developed the “Regenerative Agriculture Landscape Analysis” to give the fashion and textile industries a framework and toolkit to credibly understand, implement and describe the benefits of work in the space.
In mapping out the important considerations for the industry, Textile Exchange said it hopes to enable companies to understand how to approach and engage in regenerative agriculture projects and partnerships. The report’s initial “Matrix of Regenerative Programs and Engagement Pathway” equips brands to ask the correct questions to identify and support initiatives that align with their values. The aim is to help the industry gain clarity on how these efforts will help meet their overall climate, biodiversity, social justice, and other sustainability targets.
The report also addresses an important gap seen in the discussion–the need to acknowledge the Indigenous and Native roots of this concept and to include racial and social justice as critical components of any system termed regenerative.
It highlights the need for brands to clearly articulate their vision and intentions as they invest in regenerative agriculture, and to ensure that social justice and livelihoods are embedded in their approaches. These interlocking themes lead to its top-line conclusion, the report surmises, that for fashion, regenerative agriculture is an opportunity for investment in a fundamentally different system that moves beyond the current extractive one.
Textile Exchange calls on brands to invest in inclusive and credible regenerative agriculture projects that can boost the resilience of the industry within the planetary boundaries. Brands should also ensure that those who are the direct stewards of the land, including Indigenous people, communities of color and farmers or their chosen representatives, have an active decision-making role in any regenerative project from the start.
“Regenerative agriculture is about growing raw materials in alignment with natural systems and Indigenous practices,” Beth Jensen, “Climate+ Strategy” director at Textile Exchange, said. “It’s a complete contrast to the extractive approach that has become the norm in recent years, but it doesn’t fit neatly into a single definition or set of practices. While this can be a challenge for companies, it’s also an opportunity to lift up farmers and growers as the essential leaders in this movement.”
For Géraldine Vallejo, sustainability program director at Kering, “Regenerative agriculture can provide multi-benefits for nature and communities, and it is direly needed to help reverse the trend of climate and biodiversity loss.”
“At Kering, we are working with partners and farmers on the ground to scale projects through the “Regenerative Fund for Nature” in partnership with Conservation International,” Vallejo said. “This is not the time to wait for others to take the lead. We must all invest in supporting regenerative practices as a matter of urgency. This report provides brands with a thoroughly researched and practical roadmap on how to get started.”
Arif Makhdum, agronomist and country manager for Pakistan at CottonConnect, said if smallholder farmers are empowered to use regenerative farming practices, they can replenish the land for current and future generations, boosting yields while building resilience to climate change. This way, farmers and their families will thrive, and so will our planet.”
“At J.Crew and Madewell, we have identified regenerative agriculture as a critical step forward on our journey towards reducing our impact,” Liz Hershfield, senior vice president (SVP) and head of sustainability at J.Crew Group and SVP of sourcing at Madewell, said. “Textile Exchange continues to push the envelope with its innovative approaches to the endemic issues that plague the retail industry.”
Textile Exchange is a global non-profit driving positive impact on climate change across the fashion and textile industry.