CHALLENGE: TO SUPPORT TEXTILE EXCHANGE’S AIM TO INTEGRATE HUMAN RIGHTS ACROSS ITS STANDARDS, PLATFORMS, AND INITIATIVES, TEXTILE EXCHANGE PARTNERED WITH ARTICLE ONE TO CONDUCT A HUMAN RIGHTS RISK REVIEW OF PREFERRED FIBER AND MATERIALS SUPPLY CHAINS.
With Article One’s help, we were able to gain a better picture of the full landscape of human rights risks in the extended fiber and material production supply chains. These insights will help us not only to strengthen our internal strategies on human rights, but also to elevate to companies in our membership the importance of human rights and human rights due diligence, especially on these challenging upstream human rights risks.— Siobhan Cullen, Human Rights Strategist, Textile Exchange
Fiber and materials production plays a central role in providing hundreds of millions of people around the world the ability to generate income and support adequate standards of living. At the same time, fiber and materials production is often associated with human rights infringements, from forced and child labor to hazardous and unsanitary working conditions. These infringements can occur in multiple tiers of the fiber production supply chain, which can be characterized as complex and opaque, making it challenging for companies to gain the visibility they need to prevent adverse human rights impacts.
Textile Exchange’s role as an industry convener, standard setter, and best-practice promoter has been critical in advancing system-wide progress on many sustainability issues. In 2021, Textile Exchange began a comprehensive revision of the Textile Exchange Standards framework with the intent to transition its eight standards into one unified standard. Textile Exchange partnered with Article One to support this transition by conducting a human rights risk review to develop a more complete understanding of the landscape of human rights risks and impacts associated with upstream fiber production supply chains.
To conduct the risk review, Article One researched internal documents and publicly available information sources, including Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber and Materials Market Report and Material Change Insights Report to map key production processes in the upstream supply chains of natural fibers, animal derived fibers, forest derived fibers, synthetic fibers, and recycled fibers. We also interviewed key internal and external stakeholders to enhance our understanding of these supply chains and surface other concerns, risks, or trends that were not identified through the initial desk research.
Next, we identified the full universe of salient human rights risks in these supply chains and prioritized these risks based on their potential severity and likelihood. We also analyzed the inherent human rights risks of countries linked to these upstream production activities. Finally, to complete the risk review, we developed human rights risk maps for each commodity we assessed.
The risk review identified a number of salient human rights risks shared across most upstream fiber supply chains, such as poor working and living conditions, discrimination, unethical recruitment practices, and forced and child labor. Human rights risks specific to certain supply chains were also identified, too, such as the impacts of production activities in the animal and forest derived supply chains on the land and cultural rights of local communities.
Additionally, the risk review found that rightsholder groups in certain countries were inherently at higher risk than those in other countries. Moreover, we identified that certain groups are likely more vulnerable to human rights risks due to specific risk factors, such as gender, age, and work status. These potentially affected groups include women, children, migrants and refugees, indigenous communities, and human rights defenders.
Findings from the risk review will be used to inform Textile Exchange’s future standards, platforms, and programmatic initiatives, which benefit a membership that includes some of the world’s most influential textile companies, brands, and retailers. Some of the findings have already been shared with Textile Exchange’s membership at the 2022 Textile Exchange Conference, where members convened to discuss challenges and opportunities to strengthen human rights due diligence further upstream.