Textile Exchange Stance on Social Issues

Textile Exchange Position on Human Rights

Textile Exchange works to accelerate environmentally sustainable practices in the textile value chain. This goes hand-in-hand with social responsibility expectations to ensure that the rights of all people, particularly workers, are respected. 

Textile Exchange is concerned about the disturbing reports of forced labor in the Xinjiang region of China, where most of China’s organic cotton is grown, as well as reports of forced and child labor in other parts of the world that have occurred over the past several years.

Textile Exchange does not condone forced or child labor. While Human Rights and social issues are not within Textile Exchange’s scope of expertise, we believe respect for people is the foundation to creating an industry built on integrity. Human rights violations are not unique to cotton or textiles. Regardless of the region or the industry, we encourage companies to be part of the solution to systemic problems by:

Making long-term investments and prioritizing supply chain transparency.
Adhering to globally recognized, credible, third-party social standards that prohibit the use of forced or child labor, and take immediate action to identify, prevent or mitigate, and account for how actual and potential adverse impacts are addressed. This may include sourcing elsewhere when expectations are not met.

Using economic power to push for policy changes that support human rights.
Seeking advice from organizations with expertise on social and/or labor issues, such as the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to make the most environmentally sound and socially just sourcing decisions.

The Context Within which Textile Exchange Operates

Textile Exchange collects fiber production data and reports it as an industry resource. As “organic” is a legally controlled term around the world, we use the criteria established by those governing authorities as to whether it is certified as “organic” regardless of other sustainability issues involved. In this way, Textile Exchange is agnostic in its volume reporting. We report production from all over the globe within our Organic Cotton Market Reports (OCMR).

Textile Exchange reports data within our OCMR on certified organic cotton production that has been submitted to us, analyzed, and cross-referenced in accordance with our methodology. We include the data received from every producing country in the Organic Cotton Market Report to create a complete picture of the global supply. Textile Exchange does not perform certification work itself, provide on-the-ground program work regarding the production of organic cotton or any other fiber in any country, nor make recommendations for preferred sourcing locations.

Textile Exchange owns the Organic Content Standard (OCS) which is applied at the first processing stage through to the final product. The OCS accepts any organically grown material from farms certified to national organic standards within the IFOAM Family of Standards and through its chain of custody, ensures the integrity of the material claim in the final product.

What is Textile Exchange Doing to Stop Human Rights Violations in the Industry?

Textile Exchange sets social requirements for all Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certified sites, as well as Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) farms and Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS) farms. For the rest of the standards and sites where social requirements are out of scope, Textile Exchange has taken the following actions in 2020:

1. Textile Exchange updated The Content Claim Standard (CCS) Certification Procedures (released June 1, 2020 and effective September 1, 2020) to include a new allowance for certification bodies to take action should they witness unacceptable practices.

“The certification body should issue a critical non-conformity to any organization or site where evidence suggests that any of the following practices (collectively, the unacceptable practices) are occurring:

The worst forms of child labor, as defined by ILO C182 – Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182); or
Forced labor, as defined by ILO C029 – Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).
This is currently treated as a recommendation and is not required to be audited against. The discussion of whether this becomes a mandatory auditing requirement will be addressed with the CCS International Working Group.”

2. In October, the List of Banned Organizations was updated to prevent companies that have been sanctioned by the U.S. government – including entities that are high risk for forced labor – from becoming certified with the following language:

“No entity with which the United States government has limited or prohibited certain economic or trade activities (such entity, a “restricted entity”), including but not limited to any entity listed in the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/office-of-foreign-assets-control-sanctions-programs-and-information) or subject to any enforcement action under Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. § 1307) (prohibiting the importation of merchandise produced by forced or indentured labor), shall be eligible for certification to any Textile Exchange standard. In the event that a certified party is identified as a restricted entity, the certification body shall immediately notify Textile Exchange and withdraw the certification of such restricted entity.”

3. Textile Exchange now allows the raw material’s “country/region of origin” to be included on all transaction certificates. Again, before this becomes mandatory for all materials on all transaction certificates, a required review and feedback period are required, but it is expected to become mandatory with an updated certificate policy and template in 2021. When this information is carried forward on all transaction certificates, it would allow companies to make sourcing decisions of their own that may be out of the scope of Textile Exchange standards. To join this revision process, contact us.

Apart from standards work, Textile Exchange exists to be a source of guidance and collective action to solve problems in the textile industry and therefore will continue to provide value through educational events and materials.

What Can I Do?

Textile Exchange’s overall intent is to work together as an industry to invest in a future that supports production methods that protect both the planet and all its people. We encourage companies to be part of the solution to systemic problems by: 

  • Reviewing and publishing their own human rights policies including sections on legal compliance and grievance mechanism for anyone caught in suspected human rights violations.
  • Implementing sanctions and maintaining lists for known companies breaching human rights.
  • Making long-term investments and prioritizing supply chain transparency.
  • Adhering to globally recognized, credible, third-party social standards that prohibit the use of forced or child labor, and take immediate action to identify, prevent or mitigate, and account for how actual and potential adverse impacts are addressed. This may include sourcing elsewhere when expectations are not met.
  • Using economic power and collective action to push for policy changes that support human rights.
  • Seeking advice from organizations with expertise on social and/or labor issues, such as the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to make the most environmentally sound and socially just sourcing decisions.

Moving Forward

Textile Exchange is interested in identifying collaborations that can complement existing work on social risks and issues. In order to adapt and respond to Decent Work challenges, wherever such risks or issues may arise, Textile Exchange is seeking to actively engage with experts from civil society, retailers, brands, and consultancies with strong expertise in human rights and forced labor issues in supply chains, particularly in the textile sector, who can lead the dialogue on Decent Work and forced labor issues with our stakeholders.