In the textile and leather sector, global and complex value chains, with production facilities scattered all over the world, makes it very hard to gain accurate information about where and how products, parts and components are made and where along the value chain, environmental, social and health risks occur. In order increase the industry’s ability to manage its value chain more sustainably, both consumers and businesses must first be aware of the nature and magnitude of these risks. Improving transparency and traceability of value chains has therefore become a priority.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), together with experts from governments, private sector, academia, international governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has looked into such risks and impacts and has launched a project for an international framework initiative on transparency and traceability for sustainability patterns in the sector.
The project aims at developing principles and policy recommendations, standards and implementation guidelines for traceability of sustainable value chains in the textile and leather industries.
In the context of this project and this survey, the concepts of traceability, transparency and sustainability will be understood according to the following widely agreed-upon definitions:
Traceability is understood as “the ability to trace the history, application or location of an object” in a supply chain (ISO, 2015), and “the process by which enterprises track materials and products and the conditions in which they were produced through the supply chain” (OECD, 2017).
Transparency, relates directly to relevant information been made available to all elements of the value chain in a standardised way, which allows common understanding, accessibility, clarity and comparison (EC 2017)
Sustainability, in this context, is understood as the manufacturing, marketing and use of garment, footwear and accessories, and its parts and components, taking into account the environmental, health, human rights and socio-economic impacts, and their continuous improvement through all stages of the product’s life cycle (from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its parts and components) (UNECE 2018).
Tier: for the purpose of this survey, Tier refers to a main phase of the value chain. Tier 1: Final product manufacturing and assembly (or finished goods production). Tier 2: Material manufacturing (or finished materials production). Tier 3: Raw material processing. Tier 4: Agriculture, farming and extraction. Other tiers: E.g. Agent, Wholesale/Third Party Brands