Textile companies have embraced sustainability across their supply chain, but the degree of their commitment varies and leaves room for improvement, according to a new benchmarking report from Textile Exchange.

The report from the Lubbock, Tex.-based global nonprofit organization that works to accelerate sustainable practices in the textile industry measures the progress of 57 leading textile firms in their effort to become more sustainable.

The report cites specific progress made in the area, with 93 percent of companies reporting to have a vision or mission to be more sustainable, 81 percent saying they are addressing raw materials use at the strategy level and 74 percent setting individual targets for specific materials.

Among the participating companies, which submitted detailed data about their organic cotton and other “preferred materials” use to TE, 70 percent said they use a voluntary sustainability standard to help them ensure the integrity of their organic products and 64 percent are tracking other preferred materials.

Ranging from small start-ups to global brands, 74 percent of the companies said they are reporting the amount of organic cotton they consume and 81 percent claim to be communicating the sustainability attributes of their products to their customers.

Prepared for TE’s Benchmark Program for Organic Cotton and Preferred Materials, the report also noted several areas for improvement.

Only 69 percent of respondents said they had policies in place on raw materials, of which just 69 percent on animal welfare, compared with 81 percent that said they had plans in place on human rights and ethical trade. Setting long-term goals for a preferred material portfolio were less common at 57 percent of the companies than the 74 percent that said they are setting targets for specific materials.

While 73 percent of participants provided data on organic cotton, the numbers dropped off dramatically for other preferred materials. TE said this is an area for improvement, so that companies’ use of preferred materials such as recycled polyester and preferred cellulosics such as lyocell can be better analyzed.

The Benchmark Program allows companies to track their own progress and also relate it to others’ experience and results in four main areas: Sustainability Strategy, Supply Chain, Materials Usage and Sales and Marketing.

“Textile Exchange’s Benchmark Program provides a framework for the industry,” said Liesl Truscott, European and Materials strategy director. “Companies working to improve their impact on the environment, natural resources, people and animals can compare best practices and results. Our aim is to have these companies learn from each other and even feel a sense of urgency to make improvements similar to those of their colleagues in the industry. As we move beyond the pilot phase, we’ll also be encouraging more companies to join in.”

Through the Benchmark Program, TE gathers data on all aspects of a company’s sustainability performance, analyzes these data, and determines an average for each category. In addition, each company receives a confidential report that compares reported data from other textile companies to help identify best practices and encourage more action and investment in key areas such as materials use and supply chain transparency.

In this first pilot year of the program, companies receive a comprehensive baseline analysis of their sustainability performance to compare with the sector average. In subsequent years, they will be able to chart their own year-on-year improvements and measure their pace of change against that of their peers.

Founded in 2002, TE works throughout the textile supply chain to find the best ways to minimize and even reverse the negative impacts on water, soil, air and the human population created by the $1.7 trillion industry. TE is headquartered in the U.S., with a presence also in Europe, Latin America, India, China and Africa.

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