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Tomorrow's textiles: Why the fashion industry must invest in regenerative agriculture

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Nature via Pexels
A landmark report from global non-profit Textile Exchange has highlighted that a transition to regenerative agriculture is fundamental to the long-term health of the fashion and textile industry.

As brands face an increasing risk from disruptions to fiber production from climate impacts and biodiversity loss, regenerative agricultural approaches can play a key role in helping farmers develop more resilient systems, bringing immense social and environmental benefits to the industry and beyond.

Textile Exchange, who’s sponsors include Kering, J.Crew Group and CottonConnect, has developed the Regenerative Agriculture Landscape Analysis to providing the fashion and textile industry with a framework and toolkit to credibly understand, implement and describe the benefits of work in this space.

Key takeaways of the report:

  • A transition to regenerative agriculture is fundamental for the fashion and textile industry. The long-term health of the sector will depend on how it is able to work with farmers to develop more resilient systems, and regenerative practices offer immense social and environmental benefits too.
  • Regenerative agriculture can’t be defined in a single statement or set of practices. It is contextual and nuanced, and instead calls for a fundamentally holistic systems approach that puts humans and ecosystems at its core.
  • Programs should be rooted in justice, equity, and livelihoods. Indigenous advocates call for an acknowledgement of the Indigenous roots of regenerative agriculture and of past and current racial injustice to underpin future work.
  • Regenerative agriculture is about much more than increasing soil carbon levels. While evolving soil science is calling into question exactly how long-term soil carbon sequestration works, holistic regenerative systems have documented interdependent co-benefits related to biodiversity, water availability and quality, climate resilience, and livelihoods too.
In mapping out the important considerations for the industry, Textile Exchange hopes to enable companies to understand how to approach and engage in regenerative agriculture projects and partnerships. The report also addresses an important gap seen in the discussion to date: the need to acknowledge the Indigenous and Native roots of this concept and to include racial and social justice as critical components of any system termed “regenerative.” It highlights the importance for brands to clearly articulate their vision and intentions as they invest in regenerative agriculture, and to ensure that social justice and livelihoods are embedded in their approaches.

These interlocking themes lead to its top-line conclusion: For fashion, regenerative agriculture is an opportunity for investment in a fundamentally different system that moves beyond the current extractive one.

Going forward, Textile Exchange calls on brands to invest in inclusive and credible regenerative agriculture projects that can boost the resilience of the industry within our planetary boundaries. Brands should also ensure that those who are the direct stewards of the land, including Indigenous people, communities of color, and farmers, or their chosen representatives, have an active decision-making role in any regenerative project from the start.

Beth Jensen, Climate+ Strategy Director, Textile Exchange said: “Regenerative agriculture is about growing raw materials in alignment with natural systems and Indigenous practices. It’s a complete contrast to the extractive approach that has become the norm in recent years, but it doesn’t fit neatly into a single definition or set of practices. While this can be a challenge for companies, it’s also an opportunity to lift up farmers and growers as the essential leaders in this movement.”

Article source: Textile Exchange Regenerative Agriculture Landscape Analysis

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