Global non-profit Textile Exchange, which works with all sectors involved in the fashion and textile supply chain says the term “preferred materials” was defined in 2010 as “a fibre or raw material which results in improved environmental and/or social sustainability outcomes and impacts compared to conventional production.”

However, it explains that by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions must reduce by 45%, and for that to be possible, it is essential to tighten the standards of what qualifies as meeting that goal.

Textile Exchange’s definition has had to evolve over the years to reflect the fashion industry’s growing ambition and progress.

To reach that goal materials will need to be produced sustainably and it is hoped this will reduce climate damage as well as benefit humans and the natural environment.

The new definition for preferred materials is:

“A fibre or raw material that delivers consistently reduced impacts and increased benefits for climate, nature, and people against the conventional equivalent, through a holistic approach to transforming production systems.”

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By eliminating the “and/or” in the definition, the Textile Exchange explains its new approach follows the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Ecosystem Restoration narrative.

Textile Exchange points out that working to cut emissions is impactful. However, if human rights are ignored or the sector fails to protect biodiversity, there is the risk of solving a problem whilst creating others along the way.

By incorporating outcome-based indicators into this definition, Textile Exchange hopes to encourage a rise in the production of materials sourced from the land that strengthens the resilience of the environment and local communities. It is also refocusing its efforts to significantly increase the number of recycled textile-to-textile content used by the apparel industry.

At the start of 2023 Textile Exchange CEO La Rhea Pepper handed over the reins to chief operations officer Claire Bergkamp.

In November, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) partnered with Global Fashion Agenda on a project to streamline and eliminate the duplication of industry standards.