Thesis Details

Thesis Title: Benchmarking a Sustainable Textile Footprint
Thesis Author: Jennifer Woodson
Abstract: There is currently a great deal of pressure being exerted by consumers, branded apparel companies, and government for apparel and textile manufacturers and retailers to implement environmentally sustainable initiatives. These pressures are not likely to subside in time, as the impact of current industry practices on the earth has become more apparent in recent years. Being able to enter the sustainable market, and remain globally competitive is a prime concern for companies in the textile industry. There is currently a lack of definitive guidelines for sustainable initiatives in the textile industry. Therefore, there is an undeniable need for a comprehensive tool that will provide information on sustainable practices and allow a company to benchmark itself. There is also a need for a sustainability metric that a company can utilize to assess and benchmark itself in a valid manner. The objective of this research was to provide companies in the textile industry with a method to both assess and benchmark themselves in regard to their environmental sustainable initiatives. After gathering and analyzing information from primary and secondary resources, a metric was developed which allows companies to assess and benchmark themselves in regard to their environmental sustainability practices. The metric was developed from the American Apparel and Footwear Associations Restricted Substance List and the Institution of Chemical Engineers Sustainable Development Process Metrics. The Delphi method was utilized to complete this research. This method allowed the researcher to identify industry experts who were then asked to voluntarily participate in the study. These experts evaluated the metric and provided valuable feedback via e-mail and survey response. Following the general evaluation, three companies were selected to participate as case study companies based on the representatives knowledge of sustainability, and on the sustainable initiatives implemented at the company. The headquarters for each case study company was visited as part of the research. During the visit there was a discussion and review of the proposed sustainability metric, a site tour, a review of the sustainable initiatives already in place at the company, and those sustainable initiatives to be implemented in the near future. After reviewing all of the data, the proposed metric was refined, and can now be implemented in the textile and apparel industry. The final metric is in Microsoft® Excel format, and contains eleven worksheets which a company should complete annually. The metric utilizes value added, termed Sustainable Textile Value Added for this study, to normalize the data input by companies. Normalizing the data allows for companies to be compared within, and across, industries regardless of size or other factors that could potentially skew the data. Although there is currently resistance in regard to completing such verification worksheets, such assessments are necessary in order to move toward the achievement of sustainability. It was unanimous amongst all participants that the metric would be a viable way in which to evaluate the sustainability of suppliers and retailers in the textile and apparel supply chain. Specifically, the objectives of this research were: 1. The development of a comprehensive sustainability metric. 2. The assemblage of resources to be utilized in a database that would allow textile and apparel companies to access specific information relating to: a. Definitions associated with sustainability b. Case Studies of companies implementing sustainable initiatives c. Sustainability Metrics i. Metrics currently available ii. Metric proposed by the researcher d. Related Scholarly Articles 3. To provide case study examples of successful sustainable practices within the textile supply chain.