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Why Gap Inc. and Textile Exchange Are Going Public With Sustainable Fibers Toolkit

Gap Inc. and Textile Exchange have partnered to publicly release the San Francisco-based apparel giant’s Preferred Fiber Toolkit (PFT), a resource to be used by sourcing and design teams to guide companies on meeting their sustainability goals.

The Toolkit will be developed as a publicly available, industrywide resource, providing clothing companies with consolidated, validated guidance to help them create healthier communities while better protecting the planet’s environment, the duo said.

As an industry, apparel and retail have struggled to cohesively measure and explain sourcing material choices, often resorting to a brand-by-brand decision-making process that can be subjective and opaque, the organizations said. With customers, employees and other shareholders expecting higher levels of transparency than ever, brands are working to source and market more sustainable fibers.

The Toolkit includes a comprehensive evaluation of raw material choices building on quantitative data inputs from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s (SAC) Higg Materials Sustainability Index. It also incorporates holistic indicators, such as biodiversity and land-use change, and waste-elimination guidance for contributing to the circular economy.

Human rights, labor concerns and animal welfare within raw material sourcing are also considered to layer in additional nuance beyond environmental data, they said, adding that this tool will provide clear direction to create alignment and reduce the proliferation of conflicting guidance.

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“The development of the PFT has been crucial to Gap Inc.’s ability to set goals and develop internal awareness on how to design better products and set fiber strategies,” Diana Rosenberg, product sustainability manager at Gap Inc., said. “A rigorous and data-driven approach allows for greater confidence in our sustainable materials sourcing decisions, while creating an incentive to select more planet-friendly raw materials.”

As Textile Exchange updates this tool for broader use, it will have refined methodology and an independent review process. This Toolkit will serve as a complement to the SAC’s Product Tools by expanding coverage of fiber sourcing considerations beyond the measurable environmental impacts contained within the Higg MSI.

“Textile Exchange was part of the early days of the work alongside other independent reviewers such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC)… we are pleased to be given the responsibility and ownership of the tool starting in 2020,” Liesl Truscott, director of Europe and materials strategy at Textile Exchange, said.

“We will continue to improve upon the foundational work of Gap Inc. to create a tool that combines quantitative and qualitative data from materials into a decision-making tool for the industry,” she added. “This tool will drive the work of Textile Exchange to meet our 2030 Climate+ goals.”

Textile Exchange will update the Toolkit with new data and a broader set of fibers and materials and begin using this tool to drive the adoption of the materials recognized for their contribution. It will also work to identify areas of further reduction of impacts to support the industry in meeting science-based targets. The updated Toolkit and the proposed review process will be shared with stakeholders for comments and feedback later this year.

“The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is thrilled to see the release of the Preferred Fiber Toolkit,” Joël Mertens, senior manager of Higg Product Tools at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, said.

“With the embedded Higg MSI data and other qualitative indicators in the PFT, users can consider environmental impacts and additional sustainability values in their sourcing decisions,” Mertens added. “By aligning the PFT with Higg MSI data, users of both tools can seamlessly track the impacts of their decisions from fiber to full materials and products.”