Consumers are waking up to the impact of how clothing and other textiles are made. It is increasingly seen as essential for retailers and manufacturers to understand how their clothes are produced and the key sustainability risks in its raw material supply chains.

 

Cotton

Cotton is the most popular plant fibre used in textiles production, however, this brings with it a series of challenges including:

  • High water usage
  • High pesticide and fertiliser use
  • Water pollution from chemical runoff
  • Soil erosion
  • Poor working conditions
  • Traceability challenges

Approximately 25% global pesticide usage is attributed to cotton production. Changes can be made to the cotton supply chain to make production practices more sustainable. Alongside this, some organisations are looking into alternative plants to produce clothes and other textiles, for example, hemp, flax and bamboo. However, these too can have environmental impacts depending on how and where they are grown.

Bamboo

We conducted a high-level environmental and social impact assessment of bamboo production in China, for BAM clothing.

Our assessment concluded that bamboo has the potential to be a highly sustainable crop. It has low requirements for artificial fertiliser, pesticides, or irrigation water if grown in the right place and in the right way. Extensive production in well-managed natural forests has the potential to support biodiverse forests and provide a good income to the local community. However, there are threats to the sustainability of bamboo if grown in the wrong place or under inappropriate management.

Animal products

It is not only plant products used in textile production. Materials such as leather, wool and cashmere are all popular materials used in fashion but they come with their own sustainability challenges. These are by-products of meat production, and the rearing of livestock can have environmental consequences. This can include:

  • Animal welfare
  • Deforestation
  • Water use
  • Overgrazing
  • Greenhouse gas emissions

Sustainability Solutions

We can support you with the following solutions:

  • The measurement and monitoring of water and carbon footprints
  • Comparative assessments of different products
  • Supporting farmers with best-practice production approaches
  • Communicating sustainability issues to consumers

Read our sustainable textiles capacity statement