Towards Sustainability in the Textile Sector?

Demand for food, feed, fuel and fibre is set to continue rising for the foreseeable future. Not only because of a rising world population, but because more and more people are joining the middle classes, increasing their consumption and adopting different diets containing more meat and processed foods; at the same time, consumption of products like textiles is rising as their cost falls relative to incomes. Many products which we depend on for our daily lives are (partly) produced on agricultural land (which itself is under pressure from developments for housing, leisure, commerce and industry).

How can we meet this growing demand for food, feed, fuel and fibre in a sustainable way? Competition over resources is bound to increase while the availability of these resources are finite (fossil fuels) and also vulnerable to degradation and depletion (land, water and nutrients). Indeed, most of the available arable land is already developed, and any further land cleared may not be very good, while much existing land is already depleted by poor management (some 24% of the 11.5 billion hectares of vegetated land worldwide is degraded by human activity, and 12% of crop land has been lost for farming).

How does the textile sector respond to these challenges? And is there a link with the wider context of food, farming and business cooperation? Which sourcing strategies for textile raw materials are future proof?

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