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Briefing note on sustainable textile value chains in the garment and footwear domain for SDG12

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Garment and footwear (GF) are one of the industries with the highest footprint in terms of social, environmental and health impacts, mainly happening in raw material production and manufacturing in developing countries. Its value chains are both global and complex, with numerous stakeholders involved, driven by big retailers and traders, however constituted by an enormous amount of small and scattered production facilities all around the world (OECD 2017). Small brands making around half of the industry, are lacking the knowledge and resources to significantly improve their footprint.

Important ingredients to mitigate sustainability risks and impacts in the sector, include: 1) Improving working conditions of employees in the raw material production and manufacturing stages, especially in the upstream segments of the value chain; 2) Improving the environmental footprint of products and production processes throughout the entire value chain, including aspects such as use, reuse and recycling, in line with a circular economy approach; 3) Moving consumers attitudes towards more intelligent and ethical consumption; 4) Ensuring that final consumers receive accurate and relevant information about the social, environmental and health risks of what they buy (EC 2017).

This paper explores how traceability and transparency of value chains can help advance the sustainability of the garment and footwear sector. It highlights that transparency and traceability must be a collaborative effort and investigate requirements for and components of robust scheme and provides a series of recommendations on possible measures for public authorities. Such efforts will support achieving relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets of the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly under SDG 12 on responsible consumption and production, with targets 12.6 inviting Member States to encourage companies to adopt and report on sustainability practices, and target 12.8 about ensuring that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles.