NEW YORK — The nascent Fashion Positive initiative of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is taking some key steps toward its mission of being a catalyst to improve the textile and apparel supply chain.

On Friday, Fashion Positive issued its first “groundbreaking” Cradle to Cradle Silver Certification to Fairfax, Va.-based MetaWear for its organic cotton men’s and women’s T-shirts that meet the highest standards for chemical safety, clean water effluent standards, compostability, superior social fairness and renewable energy production.

Lewis Perkins, president of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, called MetaWear “a company on the cutting edge of restorative manufacturing.”

MetaWear is the only Global Organic Textile Standard-certified turnkey factory in the U.S. offering full-package manufacturing, dyeing and finishing. The company’s seaweed inks, jail-work release programs, and solar and geothermal green energy systems have served as the platform to support the optimization of chemicals, energy, water and social progress, fundamental to the Cradle to Cradle Certified Standard.

Founded in 2014 and based on the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program, Fashion Positive works across five categories — safer materials, material reuse, renewable energy, water stewardship and social fairness.

MetaWear president Marci Zaroff said offering the nation’s first Fashion Positive Cradle to Cradle Certified T-shirts, demonstrates “that style and quality are not mutually exclusive with social and environmental responsibility.”

That concept was also brought out at a panel discussion called “Fashion & Circular Design” at Cradle to Cradle’s Product Symposium at the Conrad Hilton Hotel here, where the group also announced it has created a Fashion Positive Materials Library that will launch in 2016 as a database and resource consisting certified “building block materials,” including yarns, fabrics trims, dyes and apparel.

The panelists — Perkins; Linda Greer, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, who runs its Clean by Design program; Scott Hahn, chief executive officer of Loomstate; Scott Miller, director of Business Development at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and Claire Bergkamp, head of sustainability and ethical trade at Stella McCartney — also stressed the importance of industry collaboration, and identifying financial gains that can be achieved by using better manufacturing methods, but also creating a mindset of companies wanting to “do the right thing.”

Greer said a key point of Clean By Design, which has focused on China’s textile industry, “is to change the chemicals they are using and the circularity of their manufacturing process.”

“For us, the question is how to get there, and it comes down to the carrot or the stick,” she said. “You can either beat people into submission, note Greenpeace, which can work quite well, or what we have chosen to do [which] is to lead people to do the right thing through showing them the business value of change as the way to grab the attention of the leaders of the companies. Seduce them with the money and in the meantime they’re reducing their environmental impact.”

Miller noted that the SAC Higg Index, created in 2011 as a sustainability measurement tool meant to “drive radical transparency, set the stage for inherent improvement and benchmark performance,” has proven successful.

It now has 170 members around the world and the platform has grown to 7,000 posted sustainability modules and 25,000 unique connections.

Bergkamp said, “At Stella McCartney…we have had an interest from day one in trying to do the right thing and be a responsible company. Even at that, we are in many ways just at the beginning of being a sustainability company. The journey for us is asking the right questions and thinking about where we can cooperate.”

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