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Report: 63% of Textile Companies Can Map Supply Chains Back to the Fiber Source

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is cotton sustainable?

There’s a lot done, but much more to do.

That’s according to the latest benchmarking report from global non-profit organization Textile Exchange (TE), published Wednesday, which in 2014 tracked the progress of 57 textile companies—with a combined wealth of more than $500 billion—in their attempt to become more sustainable.

Ranging in size from small start-ups to global brands and mostly headquartered in the U.S., the report found that 93 percent of respondents claimed to have a sustainability mission in place and 81 percent have addressed raw materials use at the strategic level.

In addition, 70 percent of companies said they use a voluntary sustainability standard to help them ensure the integrity of their organic products, while 64 percent track other preferred materials, such as recycled polyester and cellulosics, like lyocell and modal.

But while 74 percent reported on organic cotton usage and 63 percent said they can map their supply chains back to the fiber source, just 20 percent provided data on how much recycled polyester they consume and even less (18 percent) shared numbers for lyocell.

Furthermore, just 35 percent of those surveyed publicly report on how they stack up against key performance indicators or targets.

That’s where the Lubbock, Texas-based organization’s Benchmark Program comes in.

For the first time, TE is offering companies that complete its organic cotton and preferred materials market survey the opportunity to measure their progress both internally and against industry peers in four main areas: sustainability strategy, supply chain, materials usage, and sales and marketing.

“Companies working to improve their impact on the environment, natural resources, people and animals can compare best practices and results,” explained Liesl Truscott, TE’s director of European and materials strategy. “Our aim is to have these companies learn from each other and even feel a sense of urgency to make improvements similar to those of their colleagues in the industry. As we move beyond the pilot phase we’ll also be encouraging more companies to join in.”

Through the program, TE gathers data on all aspects of a company’s sustainability performance and analyzes it, then determines an overall average for each category. Following that, each company receives customized feedback that compares reported data from other textile companies, so stakeholders can identify best practices and encourage more action and investment in such key sustainability areas as materials use and supply chain transparency.

In the first year of participation, companies receive a comprehensive baseline analysis of their sustainability performance; in subsequent years, they will be able to chart their own year-on-year improvements and measure their pace of change against their peers.

Companies that participated in the benchmarking pilot—65 percent of which are TE members—included Inditex (a top user of organic cotton), H&M (one of the top five biggest consumers of lyocell by volume) and Puma (lauded for its use of recycled polyester).

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