Why the time is right for the Fiber & Materials Benchmark to step up and set the pace

Published: January 9, 2019
Written by: Liesl Truscott, Director of European & Materials Strategy for Textile Exchange

Urgency, know-how, and expectation – the perfect storm

The time is right. The tension created by the level of urgency, advancement in know-how, and soar in societal expectations means we can now act fast to transform the textile industry’s fiber and material sustainability ratings. We have the urgency. We have the know-how. We have the buy-in. And we have the tool to drive change.

Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber & Materials (PFM) Benchmark provides a race to the top for the industry. Three years down the track, the PFM Benchmark is tried and tested, and the industry’s largest scale benchmark of its kind.

Why is the time right? Let’s take a look at the three components to this nexus:

URGENCY.

We now know enough about the impacts and the dangers of not acting: These are not only hotspots of business risk but hold life-threatening implications for people and planet. Blood-chilling statistics from serious scientists include: 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe (IPCCC), 60 years of cropping left if soil degradation continues at the current rate (FAO), and between 200 and 2,000 extinctions occur every year based on current knowledge of species numbers. That’s 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate (WWF).

The textile industry draws significantly on agricultural lands, forests, and fossil fuel reserves for raw materials to produce its feedstocks. The industry also contributes to the massive amount of material waste and the pollution problems we face. The PFM Benchmark focuses on the sourcing and primary processing of raw materials and the transition to more sustainable options of both renewables and recyclables. Ultimately, slowing and closing the loop on textile materials and resource use needs to be a big part of the solution.

KNOW-HOW.

A few years back, companies could be excused for not having the knowledge, or the means, to identify suppliers further back than their immediate vendors. A combination of anonymity in trade and lack of technology to track or trace product movement left companies in the dark, yet increasingly exposed to high-risk situations such as human rights abuse, pollution incidents and water scarcity associated with their products. Advances in technical capabilities have increased transparency and likelihood of exposure, but can be a useful tool for corporate management and intervention.

These days, companies are increasingly mapping suppliers, identifying geographies and product origins, and working harder to address social and environmental risk, which can strengthen integrity through improved transparency. Technology platforms are more available, getting easier to use, and allow for a more joined up approach to procurement and sustainability management.

The PFM Benchmark leverages know-how and technological advancements to test companies’ management systems, product integrity status, and tracking of product uptake and growth trends.

EXPECTATIONS.

The race is on, the pressure is palpable, and nobody wants to be left behind. Whether a company wants to excel in sustainability, is worried about regulation, or is sensing a shift in the marketplace, more and more businesses acknowledge the importance of a responsibly managed supply base. Stakeholders, from consumers, to employees, to investors, want more assurance that they are not associated with destruction to planet and people.

The PFM Benchmark offers companies a holistic approach to managing, measuring, and integrating a preferred fiber and materials strategy into business operations. By taking part, a company will be able to demonstrate their commitment and progress to sustainability through a third party. Participants will have access to Textile Exchange experts to help them identify areas for improvement. The Benchmark provides a direct comparison with a company’s peers. There are now over 100 participants (and numbers are growing), which means this is no small opportunity. The PFM Benchmark is business-led; companies lead the way and leaders set the pace. Linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the PFM Benchmark is set to become the industry tool for large scale tracking of progress against SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and is relevant to most of the other SDGs.

New and Improved Benchmark for 2019

The PFM Benchmark has remained fairly constant for the past three years, allowing for year-on-year comparisons to gauge performance improvements. Its now time to upgrade. The Benchmark is currently under intensive review and the new and improved 2019 PFM Benchmark will be launched in May 2019. If you wish to be kept informed of progress, join our webinars, and contribute through stakeholder consultation please contact us: support@textileexchange.org.

To find out more about the PFM Benchmark visit: https://textileexchange.org/pfm-benchmark or contact us: support@textileexchange.org

Watch a 3-minute video on the importance of the benchmark: