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Textile Exchange’s Benchmark Program Now Covers Nature Impacts

Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark (CFMB) program is launching a new tool to help the fashion and textile industry take urgent action on biodiversity.

The Biodiversity Benchmark, developed in partnership with The Biodiversity Consultancy and Conservation International, and supported by Sappi, will allow companies to understand their impacts and dependencies on nature, chart a course to delivering positive biodiversity outcomes and benchmark their progress.

The CFMB has tracked corporate fiber and materials sourcing practices since its launch five years ago, mobilizing the fashion and textile industry to accelerate the uptake of preferred materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester and preferred manmade cellulosics. The program has around 200 participating brands and retailers, including Gucci, H&M Group, Patagonia and The North Face.

In 2020, the CFMB is open to suppliers and manufacturers for the first time, and more than 20 textile companies, including Birla Cellulose, Lenzing, The Schneider Group, Sulochana and World Textile Sourcing are stepping up to take part.

“Participating companies are already making significant headway in identifying their portfolio of materials, the sustainability programs they are investing in, targets for uptake and improvement, and calculating their volumetric uptake of preferred fibers and materials in use,” Liesl Truscott, director of European and materials strategy at Textile Exchange, said. “The new Biodiversity Benchmark can help take them to the next stage, from decarbonizing their materials to embedding positive biodiversity outcomes in their strategies.”

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The CFMB’s inclusion of biodiversity comes as 77 political global leaders committed to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 at the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity in September, and over 1,000 companies signed up to the Business for Nature Coalition.

“As an organic cotton farmer, biodiversity is at the heart of everything for me,” Textile Exchange CEO La Rhea Pepper said. “It provides benefits that address climate change, such as carbon sequestration, regulation of local climate air quality, and moderates extreme natural events. Additionally, biodiversity plays a key role in other benefits, such as pollination, erosion prevention, waste-water treatment, biological control of pests and disease, and preventing species extinction. Our sector can do so much that is nature positive, and I look forward to seeing the first benchmark results.”

The Biodiversity Benchmark was co-created by Textile Exchange with The Biodiversity Consultancy, technical and policy specialists in biodiversity and ecosystem services, and Conservation International, a global nonprofit working to protect nature. Generous support was also provided by biobased materials provider Sappi, as a corporate partner.

The Biodiversity Benchmark journey starts with the integration of biodiversity into business strategy and operations, making commitments, setting targets, and aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Next comes transparency, which explores the mapping of sourcing locations against the biodiversity value of the location. This step is critical to making good intervention decisions, prioritizing, and designing actions.

Materiality follows mapping, incorporating biodiversity risk assessment and the important role of stakeholder engagement. Implementation measures to mitigate biodiversity risks within supply networks draw on the AR3T Action Framework as outlined by the Science Based Targets Network.

The next step is monitoring the effectiveness of mitigation actions, which is crucial to evaluation of progress towards expected outcomes and targets. The survey concludes with corporate reporting, steering companies towards publicly disclosing their biodiversity risks and opportunities, activities underway and progress on efforts to mitigate those risks.

“The fashion and textile industry now has an opportunity to establish a leadership position in how it tackles biodiversity and nature loss,” Biodiversity Consultancy CEO Dr. Helen Temple said. “Nature is in the spotlight more than ever before and understanding where and how companies impact on nature and what they can do about it has become increasingly important, both in terms of operational decisions and in the pursuit of the systemic, transformational shifts we need to drive nature-positive change.”

The Biodiversity Benchmark was developed with the support of a multi-stakeholder advisory group, involving some 30 biodiversity experts, NGOs and representatives from across the fashion and textile industry.