Report from the Textile Exchange Conference 2018 in Milan
On 22-24 October 2018, Textile Exchange (TE) held its annual textile sustainability conference in Milan. The event was attended by over 800 delegates from over 40 different countries. Delegates represent the whole textile supply chain from raw textile fibre to retail. The theme of the conference was ‘United by Action – Accelerating sustainability in textiles and fashion’.
Round Table Discussion about the RWS standard
The conference was divided up into three parts – Round Table Discussions, plenary talks and breakout sessions.
The first day of the conference was entirely dedicated to Round Table Discussions. This included a meeting of all Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) stakeholders. At the RWS Round Table, Textile Exchange gave an update about the adoption of the standard, indicating that the number of certified farms and supply chain partners grew in 2017 and 2018 and is expected to grow even further going forward. In 2019, the standard will also be extended to Mohair. The South African Mohair industry is collaborating actively with Textile Exchange on the development of the standard.
The RWS Round Table also gave the opportunity for all stakeholders in the room to introduce themselves starting from growers, to wool processors to brands interested in or already sourcing RWS wool. The meeting ended with a presentation of a few case studies of wool growers, brokers, traders and top makers collaborating with fashion brands on getting an RWS certified product to the retail floor. Examples were Eileen Fisher, H&M’s premium brand Arket and Marks & Spencer.
Education on Wool Life Cycle Assessment
Day two and three of the conference offered plenary and breakout sessions. One of the breakout sessions was on the topic of Wool Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – the facts behind the figures. This session covered Environmental Benchmarking Tools, LCA, sustainable on-farm practices and chemicals used in the processing supply chain. The focus of the session was to help delegates better understand environmental benchmarking tools. Explaining that in order to assess the true environmental impacts of wool as well as all other textile fibres the whole life cycle of a product (from cradle to grave) needs to be taken into account using real-life data and not data based on assumptions.
Urgent research needed on microplastics
Plenary sessions, as well as other breakout sessions, covered a broad range of topics from recycled polyester to the circular economy. One major topic across several sessions was plastic leakage and microfibres. 1.5 million tons of Microplastics find their way into the ocean each year. Many organisations are focussing their efforts to better understand the issue and find solutions. Different fibre industries are conducting research on how their fibre enters in form of microfibres into the water system and how it behaves once in water. However, the common message was that solutions can only be found if everyone joined forces as these solutions to prevent further leakage of microfibres need to be found urgently.
Threading the needle report
Textile Exchange also introduced their recent report published together with KPMG. The report is called ‘Threading the needle – Weaving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) into the textile, retail, and apparel industry’. The report provides a roadmap for companies seeking to reach the United Nations SDGs within their own textile supply by 2030. The report can be accessed for free here.
Earned brand 2018 report
Another study introduced by brand agency Edelman talked about how brands can earn, strengthen and protect consumer-brand relationships. The study talks about the belief driven consumers who are voting with their money. According to Edelman 1 in 2 people choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. These consumers expect businesses to take the initiative to change rather than wait for governments to impose change. The study claims that 46% of consumers think that brands have better ideas for solving a country’s problems than government and 53% think brands can do more to solve social ills than the government.
Edelmann stresses that brands and industry have an opportunity and obligation to act sustainably and constantly improve their impacts on the environment and society. The full report can be accessed here.
More information about the conference, in general, and about other topics discussed, can be found on the Textile Exchange page.
The Schneider Group is also certified for the Textile Exchange Responsible Wool Standard. More information is available here.