Biodiversity Landscape Analysis: What the Outdoor community needs to know

Suston reaches out to the authors of Textile Exchange’s recent Biodiversity Landscape Analysis to find out how the outdoor community can get started reversing biodiversity loss.

What is the main takeaway from the Biodiversity Landscape Analysis that outdoor brands and suppliers need to know?

The intent of this report is to consolidate all of the existing information and frameworks related to biodiversity into one easily accessible reference point for the industry – to help brands more easily “cut through the swirl” and understand how to take action. That said, a few key points of note:

  • Climate and nature are “two sides of the same coin.”
  • A shift in thinking about biodiversity is needed, from a focus on species to a broader focus on ecosystem function that is inclusive of species.
  • Biodiversity intactness and ecosystem integrity are two key indicators of biodiversity.
  • Action on biodiversity should encompass more than risk mitigation – it should also include restoration and regeneration.
  • Collaboration is key for taking biodiversity action. Both within supply chains but also across landscapes as we consider ecosystem function and landscape level action.
  • Biodiversity is an issue that is uniquely relevant to the apparel, fashion, and textile sector’s sourcing activities and “tier 4” impacts.

 

Where is the greatest biodiversity decline taking place as a result of apparel raw fiber production? Is there a specific method, crop, or region that is especially at risk?

This is impossible to state generally due to the varied types of production, the level of biodiversity intactness and ecosystem integrity of the countries they occur in and the production activities taking place in these local contexts. There are numerous risk filter tools that the report refers to that provide an idea of the different risks to biodiversity in different geographies. It is important to also note that as science and data availability evolves as will the degree of granularity at which we can understand biodiversity risk.

The way that materials are produced will influence the impact that the production has on biodiversity. Whilst raw materials produced in cropping, grazing and forestry systems have the potential to have negative impacts on biodiversity they also have the potential to support the management, restoration and/or regeneration of ecosystems.

 

Beyond taking responsibility for its externalities, what are the opportunities for brands of pursuing regenerative sourcing? In other words, “what’s in it for them?”

Biodiversity is an intrinsic component of nature. Biodiversity loss threatens the Earth’s capacity to maintain the healthy ecosystems we need in order to produce the raw materials we use in the industry.

Fashion, textile, and apparel companies are thus intrinsically responsible for protecting this biodiversity, with over a third of the materials they use coming from land-based ecosystems. Taking action to protect, manage, restore, and regenerate the lands and ecosystems that are impacted by industry sourcing will not only deliver benefits in the shape of stronger supply chain relationships and positive outcomes for nature but will also future proof raw material sourcing.

That said, the report outlines that the risks to businesses are numerous and significant:

  • Physical risk (e.g., reduced productivity, resource scarcity, operational and supply chain disruptions)
  • Market risk (e.g., consumer preferences, buyer requirements)
  • Reputational risk (e.g., association with damaging activities, maintaining ‘social license to operate’)
  • Regulatory/legal risk (e.g., restricted access, litigation, market rules)

 

This analysis was meant to help align companies on their biodiversity journey, partly as a complement to the launch of Science Based Targets Network’s own biodiversity targets. What other tools and methods are already available?

The Science-Based Targets for Nature draft Freshwater and Land Methods have been released and are available for testing – these will continue to evolve. Brands can get started now on engaging with the SBTN five-step approach for action to lay the foundation for setting SBTs for Nature.

The Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) “LEAP” approach “Locate, Evaluate, Assess, Prepare” is another useful framework, focused on helping brands prepare to disclose their nature-related risks and opportunities.

The report contains details of other resources such as the SBTN Fashion Sector Primer which provides industry-specific guidance for fashion and textile companies to set science-based targets for nature.

 

Can you provide some first steps companies just getting started can take right now?

It is likely that companies may already be engaging in some biodiversity-related actions – for example, a sourcing policy related to deforestation. Review the Biodiversity Landscape Analysis report and consider what might already be happening.

Join the Textile Exchange Biodiversity Community of Practice – launching at the Textile Exchange Conference in late October 2023.

As outlined in the report, “step one” is for companies to assess and understand their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity. There are a number of risk assessment tools linked for reference in the report which can be helpful in doing this, including Textile Exchange’s Materials Impact Explorer, which will also be launched at the Textile Exchange Conference later this month.

 

What do consumers need to know, and what can they do to help?

The topics of biodiversity and nature are more nascent than climate, both for industry and consumers. Consumers should be aware that climate and nature are equally important and interdependent upon one another and should reward companies who are setting strategies, taking action and supporting the measurement of nature related impacts in addition to climate.

About Textile Exchange

Textile Exchange is a global nonprofit that creates leaders in the sustainable fiber and materials industry. The organization develops, manages, and promotes a suite of leading industry standards as well as collects and publishes vital industry data and insights that enable brands and retailers to measure, manage, and track their use of preferred fiber and materials.

TextileExchange.org

This interview was based on responses from:

  • Beth Jensen, Director of Climate+ Impact
  • Hanna Denes, Climate+ Impact, Senior Manager
  • Bronwyn Botha, Land Management Specialist

 

The original report can be viewed here.

 

Lead Photo: Sofia Terçarolli

Jonathan Eidse
jonathan.eidse@norragency.com


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