Biodiversity Benchmark

Why biodiversity, why now?

Against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic, forest fires, and increasing evidence of continued dramatic species loss, the importance of biodiversity has never been so clear. Biodiversity is vital for human health and livelihoods. Living organisms – plants, animals, and microorganisms – interact to form complex, interconnected webs of habitats and ecosystems, which in turn supply a wide variety of contributions to people and all life on earth.

Introducing the Biodiversity Benchmark

The Textile Exchange Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark (CFMB) Program is launching a new tool to help the textile industry take urgent action on biodiversity. The Biodiversity Benchmark will enable companies to understand their impacts and dependencies on nature in their materials sourcing strategies, chart a pathway to delivering positive biodiversity outcomes, and benchmark their progress. Outcomes and learnings can then be channeled back into the community to support further improvements.

Overview of the survey

  • The journey starts with the integration of biodiversity into business strategy and operations, making commitments, setting targets, and aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Next comes transparency, which explores the mapping of sourcing locations against the biodiversity value of the location. This step is critical to making good intervention decisions, prioritizing, and designing actions.
  • Materiality follows mapping, incorporating biodiversity risk assessment and the important role of stakeholder engagement.
  • Implementation measures to mitigate biodiversity risks within supply networks draw on the AR3T Action Framework as outlined by the Science Based Targets Network.
  • The next step is monitoring the effectiveness of mitigation actions, which is crucial to evaluation of progress towards expected outcomes and targets.
  • The survey concludes with corporate reporting, steering companies towards publicly disclosing their biodiversity risks and opportunities, activities underway, and progress on efforts to mitigate those risks. 

The Biodiversity Benchmark Framework

How to get involved

The Biodiversity Benchmark will go through an initial beta phase to track the level of engagement and effort that companies are starting to put into biodiversity. The beta phase will act as a baseline–it will help us formulate where we should be heading and to appreciate what “best practice” looks like today.

We welcome all companies to join us on this important learning journey: from suppliers to retailers, large and small, experienced or just beginning. Together, let’s navigate the landscape ahead. All participants receive a confidential feedback report and opportunity to exchange ideas, innovations, and emerging best practices.

To find out more please read our Biodiversity Benchmark Frequently Asked Questionsregister for the beta phase of the Biodiversity Benchmark or contact CFMB@TextileExchange.org.

The fashion and textile industry now has an opportunity to establish a leadership position in how it tackles biodiversity and nature loss. Nature is in the spotlight more than ever before and understanding where and how companies impact on nature – and what they can do about it – has become increasingly important. Both in terms of operational decisions, and in the pursuit of the systemic, transformational shifts we need to drive nature-positive change.

- Dr. Helen Temple, CEO, The Biodiversity Consultancy

Download the guides

The Biodiversity Benchmark Survey Guide provides pragmatic guidance to help companies complete the survey. It includes practical knowledge and insights on biodiversity risks, relevance to the apparel and textile industry, and how these risks can best be managed. 

This Biodiversity Benchmark Companion Guide is designed to catalyze companies to think about their fiber and material choices in relation to their dependencies, risks, opportunities, and impacts through a biodiversity lens.

We have no time to lose

In 2019, the scientific community released its latest report (IPBES Global Assessment) on the status of species and ecosystems. The report found that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many becoming threatened within decades, more than ever before in human history. These dramatic results highlight what the Stockholm Resilience Center has also shown in relation to planetary boundaries: we are beyond the safe operating space for humanity when it comes to the degradation of our biosphere. The World Economic Forum (WEF) positions nature loss as one of the greatest systemic risks to the global economy and the health of people and the planet.

Five key threats

Habitat loss and degradation

This is the largest single source of pressure on biodiversity worldwide. Habitat loss is the direct conversion of natural habitats for human uses; degradation is the direct alteration or fragmentation of natural habitats for human uses. Habitat loss is largely reflected in the conversion of natural habitats to agriculture and unsustainable forest management. For inland aquatic ecosystems, habitat loss and degradation are largely accounted for by unsustainable water use and drainage for conversion to other land uses, such as agriculture and settlements. The encroachment of human activity into natural areas can lead to human-wildlife conflict (e.g., crop raiding, predation of livestock). In many cases this is addressed through lethal wildlife management. Encroachment also enables the emergence of zoonotic diseases.

Overexploitation of biological resources

The unsustainable harvesting of wild populations of animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms for human use. For terrestrial ecosystems, overexploitation is largely reflected in unsustainable harvest of wildlife (including for industry, recreation, bush meat, and by poaching).

Climate change

This is a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity and alters the composition of the global atmosphere in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods. Climate change is already having an impact on biodiversity under current levels of temperature change (globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend show a warming of 0.85°Celcius over the period 1880 to 2012), which is projected to become progressively more significant in the coming decades (IPCC).

Pollution

This is the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects. Pollution from excessive nutrients (e.g., nitrogen and phosphorous) and other chemicals pose a direct threat to biodiversity in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Sources of pollution include modern industrial processes, with major ones being chemically intensive agricultural practices (nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizers in particular) and the burning of fossil fuels.

Invasive alien species

Defined as plants, animals, pathogens, and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and which may cause economic or environmental harm and/or adversely affect human health. In particular, the impact of invasive species upon biodiversity adversely by, inter alia, causing the decline or extirpation (local extinction) of native species and disrupting local ecosystem integrity and function.

These five threats do not occur in isolation but are interconnected and act synergistically. For example, the release of pollution into the natural environment, such as through excessive pesticide use, can lead to the loss of some species, which in turn can degrade the functioning of terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems. Or, as another example, species subject to the effects of climate warming may also be threatened by the presence of invasive alien species and/or overexploitation.

Our approach

Textile Exchange’s Climate+ strategy recognizes that climate change and biodiversity loss are inextricably linked and are best considered within an integrated strategy. Our strategic intent over the next 10 years is to be a driving force for urgent climate action in textile fiber and materials production, specifically through:

  • Enabling and guiding the textile industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 in the pre-spinning phase of textile fiber and materials production.
  • Amplifying positive impacts in soil health, water, and biodiversity.

Prioritizing nature in fiber and materials management and sourcing decisions will bring long-term business benefits, more resilient livelihoods, health and wellbeing for communities, and safer interfaces between wild and managed lands and species. For this to happen, it will require a heightened focus on designing and implementing biodiversity-sensitive raw materials strategies that drive positive action, outcomes, and impacts that can ultimately be tracked and measured.

The first of our series of Climate+ videos explains how we need both decarbonization of the fibers and materials we use as well as healthy ecosystems that sequester carbon, restore, and regenerate nature to achieve a stable and healthy planet.

We are not starting from scratch

Through the Textile Exchange Corporate Fiber & Materials Benchmark (CFMB) program and its annual published Material Change Index (MCI), participating companies are already making significant headway in identifying their portfolio of materials, the sustainability programs they are investing in, and targets for improvement, as well as calculating their volumetric uptake of preferred fibers and materials in use. Participants are also reporting the extent to which suppliers are mapped across their portfolio of materials and back to the country of origin. This work forms the bedrock for understanding risks to biodiversity and building a strategy that aims to limit impacts from the company’s supply base.

The Biodiversity Benchmark builds on the reporting themes and elements of the MCI and participants will see the connection through the “pre-fill” of several questions in their Biodiversity Benchmark survey. There is also the option for companies to take part in the Biodiversity Benchmark independent of the MCI.

The decisions we make now – as companies, individuals and as a society – will determine how we survive and if we thrive. It is the sourcing of raw materials that is the direct interface between business and nature. Textile Exchange with this new biodiversity benchmark continues to catalyze and guide the sector towards the outcomes we all need Through sustainable sourcing and reconfiguring supply chains, we can help drive change in agriculture, mining, and forestry, and promote regenerative, wildlife-friendly approaches to production.

- Dr. Helen Crowley, Conservation International’s Senior Advisor on Resilient Supply Chains

Setting the direction

According to the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA), benchmarking drives a “race to the top” and is one of the ways Textile Exchange (an ally of the WBA) mobilizes the industry to accelerate the uptake of preferred materials. The newest benchmark of the Textile Exchange Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark (CFMB) Program is designed to help the fashion and textile industry take urgent action on biodiversity. Developed in partnership with The Biodiversity Consultancy and Conservation International, supported by Sappi, and engaging with a robust multi-stakeholder Advisory Group, the Biodiversity Benchmark will enable companies to understand their impacts and dependencies on nature in their materials sourcing strategies, chart a pathway to delivering positive biodiversity outcomes, and benchmark their progress. Outcomes and learnings can then be channeled back into the community to support further improvements.

Working together

Textile Exchange recognizes that partnership will be essential for success. Our role is to inspire and equip our members and the wider industry to accelerate their adoption of preferred materials and create a positive impact as a result. We know the production and sourcing of materials is a huge opportunity to do good work. We also know we cannot, nor should we want to, do this alone. It will require the expertise, co-creation, passion, and determination of us all. We, at Textile Exchange, are “inspired and equipped” by our partners and other key initiatives in this space.

This newest benchmark of the Textile Exchange Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark (CFMB) Program has been developed in partnership with The Biodiversity Consultancy and Conservation International, and supported by Sappi. The Biodiversity Benchmark is also underpinned by a 35+ member Biodiversity Advisory Group comprised of biodiversity experts, suppliers, manufacturers, brands, retailers, non-profits, and other stakeholders. This interdisciplinary team is working together to help the fashion and textile industry take urgent action on biodiversity.

We collaborate closely with the Fashion Pact – a global CEO-led coalition across the fashion and textile industry (ready-to-wear, sport, lifestyle, and luxury) leveraging collective power to drive actions beyond existing initiatives and accelerate positive impact in three areas: stopping global warming, restoring biodiversity, and protecting the oceans. We are also a proud pioneer member of the Science Based Targets Network Corporate Engagement Program.

Our goal is to be a trusted, transparent, and innovative partner. Our reliance on sustainably sourced wood fiber underpins our commitment to biodiversity. By promoting sustainable and innovative approaches to forest management, we ensure that all the benefits of healthy forests are maintained for people and the planet. Biodiversity conservation is a central pillar of our land management with a third of the land, we own and lease in South Africa set aside for this purpose. We have further joined the Business for Nature’s Call to Action, partnered with WWF-SA on a Water Stewardship project, and engage with Textile Exchange as a member of the Advisory Group and Corporate partner to their Biodiversity Benchmark to further amplify our commitment to protect and enhance nature.

Krelyne Andrew, Head of Sustainability at Sappi Verve

Frequently asked questions

The Biodiversity Benchmark is designed to help companies consider their materials production and sourcing practices through a biodiversity lens and take important action.

Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge humanity faces. The climate crisis and the nature crisis are inextricably linked. We are living beyond our planetary boundaries and we all must do everything we can to change practices that are harmful to our ecosystems. The way we cultivate raw materials and extract natural resources for the production of apparel and textiles plays a vital role in the conservation, restoration, regeneration, and “cooling” of our planet.

The Biodiversity Benchmark will enable companies to understand their impacts and dependencies on nature in their materials sourcing strategies, chart a pathway to delivering positive biodiversity outcomes, and benchmark their progress. Alongside benchmarking, “bench-learning” will be an integral part of the program and we will be supporting peer-to-peer themed learning and other opportunities to exchange knowledge. Outcomes and insights will be channeled back into the community to support further improvements. The success of the benchmark will be in the collaboration and scale of impact it helps enable.

The benchmark is currently customized for the apparel and textile industry, i.e., fashion, sports, luxury, and home textiles brands, retailers, manufacturers, suppliers.

During this beta phase, we invite companies as well as other organizations with an interest in biodiversity to take part in the Biodiversity Benchmark. We are looking for feedback on the survey as well as baseline data entry to support the textile and apparel industry in continuous improvement.

Any company or organization sourcing raw materials is eligible to take part. You might already be benchmarking with us through the Corporate Fiber & Materials Benchmark (CFMB) Program (170+ companies in 2019, see Insights Report page 108), or you might be taking part in the Biodiversity Benchmark independently – it’s up to you. For companies, participating in the Biodiversity Benchmark will help you to set a baseline of your biodiversity performance, measure progress annually, and provide access to a learning community.

We also encourage other organizations (non-profits and NGOs, academics, researchers, consultants, etc.) with an interest in biodiversity to register and help us shape and improve the program by “road testing” the survey and sharing feedback and suggestions during this initial beta phase.

All participants are invited to provide feedback in the last section of the benchmark survey

In short, companies benefit from participating in the Biodiversity Benchmark by gaining new insights into their biodiversity-related performance, constructively engaging with peers, and driving change for the industry as a whole. All corporate participants receive a standard scorecard free of charge.

There are five core business benefits of participating in the Biodiversity Benchmark:

  1. Use of a robust framework for aligning and implementing biodiversity into your business operations.
  2. A standardized system for tracking progress both year-on-year and against other companies.
  3. An annual scorecard for internal (and external) communications, e.g., c-suite, supply partners, investors.
  4. An opportunity to contribute to data pooling, industry insights, and knowledge exchange.
  5. Recognition as an industry leader, setting the bar for industry in biodiversity action.

These benefits are key to creating industry-wide change for biodiversity, and benchmarking is the tried-and-tested tool to deliver these services. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, as each company will see their own unique benefits from participation.

Alongside the benchmark survey itself, we have developed a Survey Guide and a Companion Guide (which provides additional background on select material types) to support participants’ learning journey. Benchmark participants have access to a world-class secure benchmarking platform developed by 73bit (powered by “Probench”) and used by Textile Exchange for almost 10 years. Companies can use their digital “portal” to safely house annually archived surveys, confidential scorecards (see “How much does it cost to take part?” for more information), and other important and/or sensitive documentation. Participants benefit from a survey submission review and response validation process, peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and all participants are encouraged to shape the program through Textile Exchange’s commitment to facilitating business-led benchmarks and annual consultation.

The Biodiversity Benchmark – just like the Materia Change Index (MCI) – is part of the Corporate Fiber & Materials Benchmark (CFMB) program. The Biodiversity Benchmark aligns with the goals of the CFMB program to help companies measure, manage, and integrate a preferred materials strategy into mainstream business operations. It also fits with Textile Exchange’s 2030 Climate+ Strategy since biodiversity is a key focus.

Biodiversity is integral to a preferred materials strategy and companies do not have to start from scratch when it comes to developing a biodiversity strategy. Until now, the CFMB has focused on a company’s materials portfolio mix and sourcing practices – without a strong emphasis on geographical context. The Biodiversity Benchmark takes this good work in building a preferred portfolio and places it in a geographical context. This “place-based” context is key to exposing on-the-ground biodiversity risk including impacts and dependencies.

Pragmatically speaking, companies are able to complete the Biodiversity Benchmark survey in addition to their MCI survey or, alternatively, elect to engage with the Biodiversity Benchmark only.

This Biodiversity Benchmark was not created in a vacuum nor will it exist in isolation. Textile Exchange worked with The Biodiversity Consultancy and Conservation International to co-create the benchmark. Over fifty biodiversity experts and industry stakeholders including the SBTN and the Fashion Pact have contributed to its development.

The Biodiversity Benchmark is currently in “beta version” for a reason: we want to make sure the benchmark serves its purpose, adds value, and is meaningful to all companies large and small. The first version (beta) was developed with support from an interim Biodiversity Advisory Group and the benchmark will continue to be informed and shaped by experts in the field including The Biodiversity Consultancy, Conservation International, the Science-based Targets Network (SBTN), and the Fashion Pact. The benchmark will continue to be influenced through multi-stakeholder engagement, an annual open consultation, and through direct feedback from the companies taking part in the benchmark.

Textile Exchange is a member of the new SBTN Corporate Engagement Program, and we will work closely with the SBTN on consistency in language, frameworks, and measurements to support benchmarking participants on their biodiversity journey. Our benchmarking methodology and targets will adapt to align with the SBTN as they develop over the next two years.

Textile Exchange treats company data and any information shared with us very carefully. We believe that confidentiality is key to building trust – and we recognize the role we play in being entrusted to handle data responsibly.

For companies to get valuable learnings out of benchmarking (including gap analysis, progress tracking, and industry positioning), discrete data reporting is necessary. Participants receive confidential feedback through their secure benchmarking portal. Results are aggregated for trend analysis, best practice sharing, and reporting industry-level insights. We only show-case companies publicly when we have explicit permission and in full collaboration with the companies featured. Individual company results in the Biodiversity Benchmark will NOT be publicized or shared with other companies or organizations.

Note, Textile Exchange is GDPR compliant and we have developed a terms of use and a data use policy for the Corporate Fiber & Materials Benchmark (CFMB) program. If participants feel more comfortable with an additional level of data sharing agreement they can either sign the CFMB Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) or ask us to comply with their corporate NDA.

There is no fee to participate and all participants receive a “standard scorecard” for their efforts. The scorecard provides a gap analysis and highlights where a company should focus next. The CFMB team can also provide additional support and feedback for any company interested in a deeper analysis.

Our priority is to encourage as many companies as possible to get involved, to start the journey, to keep improving their own practices, and to improve the benchmark program through participation and feedback. To achieve these goals, we have made the Biodiversity Benchmark free of change and accessible for all stakeholders including biodiversity experts as well as corporations. All corporate participants receive a confidential scorecard free of charge, and additional support can be arranged. Please contact us at CFMB@TextileExchange.org to find out more about your options. As the program grows, we will be looking for supporting partners and other ways to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the program. Financial support will allow us to invest further and ensure we have the resources required to deliver a high-quality benchmarking product.

Benchmarking is a cycle starting with survey development, followed by an open submission window, review, analysis of results, and delivery of company feedback and insights. This is followed by survey improvement and then the cycle begins again. Each year’s benchmark builds on the one before, allowing for trend analysis and improvement tracking.

The Biodiversity Benchmark “beta” survey is now live. We launched on December 2nd, 2020 and our aim is for all company submissions to be made by February 20th, 2021. We then close the submission period and enter the submission review phase. Following reviews, we will make any final adjustments based on the outcomes of the review and analyze the results. For this cycle, we aim to provide confidential company feedback and industry level insights by May 2021. Since this cycle will create the baseline, we expect feedback and learnings to flow both ways between participants and program developers.

Please register your interest in the Biodiversity Benchmark through our online form and we will come back to you directly with access to the tech platform and more details on how to take part.

As mentioned earlier, we also welcome biodiversity enthusiasts to register, “take a tour” of the benchmark, and provide feedback so we can use this beta cycle to not only get a sense of the industry’s starting place in biodiversity but also to refine and take the program from beta to pilot phase. Other ways to get involved include joining our virtual community. We created a Biodiversity Advisory Group in 2020 and will be exploring next steps for a growing group of those hoping to create a better world for biodiversity. We are also exploring ways to support biodiversity through our CFMB Community Hub. To find out more please contact us at CFMB@TextileExchange.org.

Special thanks

Development partners

Corporate partner