Sustainability | People

The Impact Of Sustainable Sourcing Practices On The Textile Industry

Feb 24, 2024 | Purbasha Giri

Sustainable sourcing practices refer to the strategic and ethical procurement of goods and services that prioritise environmental, social, and economic responsibility throughout the supply chain. These practices are designed to minimise negative impacts on the environment, support fair labour practices, and contribute to the overall well-being of communities and stakeholders. Sustainable sourcing encompasses various aspects, including raw material procurement, production processes, transportation, and distribution.

Let's explore the key elements of sustainable sourcing in detail:

1. Responsible Raw Material Procurement:

 Ethical Harvesting Practices:Sustainable sourcing involves choosing raw materials that are harvested or extracted using ethical and environmentally responsible methods. This may include selecting suppliers who adhere to certified sustainable forestry practices, organic farming, or responsible mining techniques.

Biodiversity Conservation: Sustainable sourcing aims to protect and enhance biodiversity. Suppliers are encouraged to implement practices that minimize the impact on ecosystems, such as avoiding deforestation, protecting endangered species, and preserving natural habitats.

2.Eco-friendly Production Processes:

Energy Efficiency: Sustainable sourcing promotes the use of energy-efficient manufacturing processes. This may involve the adoption of renewable energy sources, implementation of energy-saving technologies, and continuous improvement initiatives to reduce overall energy consumption.

Water Conservation:The efficient use of water resources is a crucial aspect of sustainable sourcing. Manufacturers are encouraged to implement water-saving technologies, recycle and treat water responsibly, and minimize the overall water footprint of their production processes.

3.Fair Labor Practices:

  Safe and Healthy Working Conditions:Sustainable sourcing prioritizes the well-being of workers. This includes ensuring safe working conditions, proper ventilation, and compliance with occupational health and safety standards.

Fair Wages and Benefits:Suppliers are expected to provide fair wages and benefits to their workers, promoting social equity and economic well-being. Sustainable sourcing discourages the exploitation of cheap labor and encourages suppliers to comply with international labor standards.

4.Transparency and Traceability:

Supply Chain Transparency:Sustainable sourcing practices emphasize transparency throughout the supply chain. This involves providing stakeholders, including consumers, with information about the origin of raw materials, the manufacturing process, and the overall environmental and social impact of the product.

Traceability:The ability to trace the origin of raw materials is crucial for ensuring that products meet sustainability standards. Sustainable sourcing involves implementing traceability systems that track the journey of raw materials from their source to the final product, allowing for accountability and verification.

5. Certifications and Standards:

Adherence to Standards:Sustainable sourcing often involves adherence to recognized certifications and standards. For example, products may be certified organic, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified for responsible forestry, or labeled with other industry-specific certifications that validate their sustainable and ethical production.

6.Community and Social Responsibility:

Community Engagement:Sustainable sourcing practices consider the impact on local communities. Suppliers are encouraged to engage with and contribute positively to the communities in which they operate. This may involve supporting local education, healthcare, or infrastructure projects.

Cultural Sensitivity:Sustainable sourcing respects and takes into account the cultural and social context of the communities involved. Suppliers are expected to operate in a manner that is culturally sensitive and respects the rights and traditions of local populations.

7.Continuous Improvement and Innovation:

Research and Development:Sustainable sourcing is a dynamic practice that encourages ongoing research and development. Companies are encouraged to invest in innovative technologies and processes that can further reduce environmental impact, enhance efficiency, and improve overall sustainability.

Life Cycle Assessment:Companies engaging in sustainable sourcing often conduct lifecycle assessments of their products. This involves analyzing the environmental and social impact of a product throughout its entire lifecycle, from raw material extraction to disposal, to identify areas for improvement.

Supply chain transparency flow chart

  • Raw Material Extraction:

    • Represents the initial stage of the supply chain where raw materials are sourced.

    • This may include minerals, fibers, or agricultural products.

  • Responsible Raw Material Sourcing:

    • Ensures ethical and environmentally responsible procurement of raw materials.

    • Incorporates sustainable harvesting practices, biodiversity conservation, and adherence to certification standards.

  • Manufacturing Processes:

    • Involves the transformation of raw materials into intermediate products or components.

    • Emphasizes sustainable and ethical manufacturing practices.

  • Sustainable Energy Practices:

    • Highlights the use of renewable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies in manufacturing processes.

  • Final Product Distribution:

    • Represents the distribution channels for the final products, ensuring eco-friendly and responsible practices.

  • Eco-friendly Distribution Channels:

    • Includes considerations for reducing the environmental impact of transportation and distribution.

    • May involve green logistics, sustainable packaging, and efficient supply chain management.

  • Environmental Impact Reduction:

    • Demonstrates the commitment to minimizing the overall environmental impact throughout the supply chain.

    • This may include reduced carbon emissions, water usage, and waste generation

Common certifications related to responsible sourcing and sustainable harvesting practices:

Certifications play a crucial role in ensuring responsible and sustainable raw material procurement. Depending on the type of raw material and industry, various certifications may be applicable. 

1.Forest Stewardship Council (FSC):

Applicable to:Timber and wood-based products.

Focus:Ensures responsible forestry practices, including sustainable harvesting, biodiversity conservation, and respect for indigenous rights.

2. Rainforest Alliance Certification:

 Applicable to:Agriculture, forestry, and tourism.

Focus:Promotes environmentally and socially responsible practices, including sustainable farming and forestry, wildlife conservation, and community engagement.

3.Organic Certification (e.g., USDA Organic, EU Organic):

Applicable to:Agricultural products, textiles.

Focus:Ensures that products are grown or produced without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

4.Fair Trade Certification:

Applicable to:Various commodities, including coffee, cocoa, tea, and textiles.

Focus:Ensures fair wages, safe working conditions, and community development for producers in developing countries.

5.Marine Stewardship Council (MSC):

Applicable to: Fisheries and seafood products.

Focus:Ensures sustainable fishing practices, preventing overfishing and promoting responsible management of marine resources.

6. Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO):

   Applicable to:Palm oil.

  Focus:Promotes the sustainable production of palm oil, including environmental conservation and fair labor practices.

7.Better Cotton Initiative (BCI):

  Applicable to: Cotton.

Focus: Promotes sustainable and ethical practices in cotton farming, including reduced use of pesticides and responsible water management.

8. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS):

Applicable to:Textiles and apparel.

Focus:Ensures the organic status of textiles, from harvesting of raw materials to environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing.

9. Responsible Wool Standard (RWS):

 Applicable to:Wool.

  Focus:Promotes ethical and sustainable practices in the production of wool, including animal welfare and land management.

10. Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS):

 Applicable to: Soy production.

  Focus: Promotes responsible soy production, including deforestation-free practices and respect for human rights.


Sustainable sourcing offers several advantages over traditional or normal sourcing practices, encompassing environmental, social, and economic dimensions. Here are key reasons why sustainable sourcing is considered better than conventional sourcing:

1.Environmental Conservation:   - 

Normal Sourcing: Traditional sourcing practices often contribute to environmental degradation through deforestation, pollution, and over-extraction of natural resources.

Sustainable Sourcing: Prioritises eco-friendly practices, reducing the carbon footprint, minimising waste, and preserving biodiversity. Sustainable sourcing aims to protect ecosystems and promote long-term environmental conservation.

2. Resource Efficiency:   - 

Normal Sourcing: Conventional methods may involve inefficient use of resources, leading to depletion and waste generation.

Sustainable Sourcing:Emphasises resource efficiency by adopting technologies that minimize waste, optimise production processes, and prioritise the responsible use of natural resources, contributing to overall sustainability.

3. Reduced Carbon Footprint:

Normal Sourcing: Often involves extensive transportation and energy-intensive processes, contributing to a higher carbon footprint.

Sustainable Sourcing: Focuses on minimizing transportation distances, utilizing renewable energy sources, and adopting energy-efficient technologies to significantly reduce the carbon footprint associated with sourcing and manufacturing.

4. Social Responsibility:

 Normal Sourcing: May be associated with exploitative labor practices, poor working conditions, and disregard for human rights.

Sustainable Sourcing: Prioritises fair labour practices, ensuring safe working conditions, fair wages, and respect for human rights. Social responsibility is a core aspect of sustainable sourcing, promoting the well-being of workers and local communities.

5. Enhanced Brand Reputation:

 Normal Sourcing:Conventional practices may lead to negative public perceptions and damage to a brand's reputation due to environmental or ethical concerns.

Sustainable Sourcing:Builds a positive brand image by demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship, ethical practices, and social responsibility. Consumers increasingly prefer brands that align with their values.

6.Long-Term Economic Viability:

Normal Sourcing: Short-term cost savings may be prioritized without considering the long-term economic impact of resource depletion, environmental damage, and social unrest.

Sustainable Sourcing:Recognizes the importance of long-term economic viability by investing in sustainable practices that promote resilience, supply chain stability, and adaptation to changing market dynamics.

7. Compliance with Regulations and Standards:

  Normal Sourcing: May not fully comply with evolving environmental and ethical regulations, leading to potential legal and reputational risks.

  Sustainable Sourcing:Adheres to recognized certifications and standards, ensuring compliance with local and international regulations. This proactive approach minimizes legal risks and promotes accountability.

8. Supply Chain Resilience:

 Normal Sourcing: Traditional supply chains may be vulnerable to disruptions, impacting product availability and business continuity.

Sustainable Sourcing:Builds resilient supply chains by diversifying sources, incorporating transparency, and adopting sustainable practices. This enhances the ability to navigate challenges and uncertainties in the global marketplace.

9. Positive Impact on Local Communities:

Normal Sourcing: May neglect the social and economic development of communities where sourcing activities take place.

Sustainable Sourcing: Prioritises positive impacts on local communities, including job creation, education, and healthcare initiatives. This fosters positive relationships and contributes to community well-being.

I Understand

By continuing to use this site you consent to the use of cookies.

Know More.