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Why Sustainability Matters

In many supply chains, it is an overwhelming challenge to identify and monitor raw material suppliers, the source of fiber and materials for the textile industry. The textile and apparel industries have an incredible opportunity to minimize the harmful impacts of the global textile industry and maximize its positive effects, through the use of Preferred Fiber and Materials. Impacts associated with raw material production are broad and include the following:

Greenhouse Gas/Air Pollution

The textile industry has the potential for air pollution in a number of activities: manufacturing, farming, extrusion, and others. Materials should be produced and manufactured using clean energy, without contaminating the air.

Associated with SDG #13: Climate Action

Land Use/Biodiversity

The biodiversity of plant and animal life provides critical functions for the ecology of the planet. Our farming systems, access to natural resources, and other functions rely on the biodiversity of our planet. The persistent loss of biodiversity may contribute to damage to local ecologies, the loss of wildlife, habitat and our overall ecosystem.

Associated with SDG #15: Life on Land

Chemical Use/Toxicity

The production of many materials involves the use of chemicals, and responsible management and reduction of chemical use is essential to ensuring that there is no harm to humans or to the environment.

Associated with SDG #12: Responsible Production and Consumption

Soil Loss/Soil Degradation

Farming practices have a huge impact on soil health. In some cases, these practices may do long-term damage on the ecology of a sensitive region. By examining all uses of land in an integrated manner, it makes it possible to minimize conflicts, to make the most efficient trade-offs and protect the health of the soil.

Associated with SDG #15: Life on Land


The use of water in the production of textiles may compromise the quality and availability of water, especially in vulnerable climates. The implication of the growing number of local water crises may be public health, environmental sustainability, food security, and others. Materials that heavily rely on water may contribute to these serious impacts, especially for the most vulnerable people.

Associated with SDG #6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Waste Generation/Recyclability

The amount of clothing produced each year continues to grow exponentially, while individuals keep their clothes for an average of only 7 wears. Where do the clothes go? Unfortunately, many end up in landfills or shipped to international reuse markets that may disrupt local economies. Choosing fiber made from recycled materials or renewable materials can help cut down on waste.

Associated with SDG #9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Labor Conditions/Health & Safety

The textile industry employs millions of people around the globe and their safety at work should be protected. The potential risks to worker health and safety require adequate provision of safe buildings, reasonable working hours, chemical management, freedom to leave, economic sustainability, and others.

Associated with SDG #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Gender Equality

Gender inequalities are still deep-rooted in every society. Women suffer from lack of access to decent work and face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps. Maintaining the status quo in farming and manufacturing may contribute to or uphold this inequality. Material sourcing should ensure that women have full and equal participation.

Associated with SDG #5: Gender Equality

Fair Pricing/Responsible Trade

As a truly global industry, textiles involve companies and individuals at drastically different economic levels and with varying access to information. These dynamics may — and often do — produce trade practices that take advantage of the power imbalance, to the detriment of those most vulnerable. Trade practices should result in mutually beneficial agreements that do not maintain these imbalances.

Associated with SDG #1: No Poverty

Animal Welfare/Endangered Species

Any time an animal is involved in the scaled production of goods, there is a risk for their welfare. Holistic respect of animal welfare includes protection of the Five Freedoms: freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury or disease, freedom to express normal behavior, and freedom from fear and distress.

Associated with SDG #15: Life on Land

Essential Terminologies:
Browse the full list of terms in our Glossary

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals is an inter-governmental agreement of the United Nations and 193 countries around a set of 17 specific, aspirational goals that address the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. With 169 targets to be met by the year 2030, and over 232 indicators for measuring progress, the Global Goals were designed to stimulate action in the following areas: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships. The themes covered by Global Goals all reflect current challenges and risks facing the textile value chain. Read more on Global Goals or access our key resources on the right. 

Textile Exchange joined forces with KPMG LLP, a leading global advisory firm, to develop Threading the Needle: Weaving SDGs in the Textile, Retail, and Apparel industry. This report is a culmination of industry interviews, non-government organization inputs, and desk research, the report highlights practical examples for companies in the sector and beyond, grappling with how to integrate the SDGs into their core business and global supply chain.

Threading the Needle Report

SDG Guides & Reports
Use these references to help guide you on how to start, how to report and also to review case studies.

SDG Mapping Resources
Use this Resource for a brief overview of the SDGs, Targets, and how industry Initiatives can advance the SDGs.

Value Chain Resources
Use this Resource to explore sustainability tools suitable for specific roles in the Value Chain.

Regional SDG Resources
Use this Resource to discover local and regional SDG actors & initiatives by sourcing country and region.

Learning Modules

Find out who is making a difference in Sustainability:

The Insider Series showcases an eclectic mix of industry leaders speaking from “inside” their organization.

Insider Series