Creating sustainable textile supply chains

Project description

Title: Sectoral project sustainability in textile supply chains
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Overall term: 2016 to 2022


The textile and clothing industry has become a key sector of the economy in many developing countries, with some 60 to 75 million people employed across the supply chain, 80 per cent of whom are women. However, alongside the positive impacts on economic growth and jobs, precarious working conditions are common in the sector. International human rights, social and environmental standards are often secondary considerations. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that, alongside official manufacturers, informal subcontractors are also involved in production.

The textile sector is predominantly characterised by large, major enterprises and retailers. In Germany, the Federal Government’s ‘National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights’ requires that these companies must implement their human-rights and environmental due diligence requirements in order to improve the production conditions in the supply chains. Companies should analyse the risks to human rights and the environment in their supply chains and implement measures to avoid or mitigate them.

In 2014, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) set up the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles with the aim of continuously improving the social and environmental production conditions across the entire supply chain together with stakeholders from business, government, civil society, standards organisations and trade unions. The basis for this is a commitment to implementing due diligence in the textile industry.


European companies take greater responsibility for implementing due diligence in the textile industry.


The project operates the Secretariat of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles and supports and coordinates the activities with the Partnership members to pursue the social and environmental partnership goals. The goals are aligned to the international agreements and guidelines of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles is based on three pillars:

  • Individual responsibility: Member companies implement human-rights and environmental due diligence in the supply chain and report on their activities.
  • Joint commitment: Companies and other stakeholders conduct joint initiatives in production countries to address specific challenges.
  • Mutual support: All stakeholders exchange information and experiences and enter into dialogue about solution approaches.

The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles cooperates with other European and international initiatives that are committed to creating a sustainable and future-focused textile industry on the basis of applying due diligence.
The project also works towards positioning German development cooperation more strongly in national and international textile supply chains when it comes to the topic of sustainability, providing content-related and strategic advice and support to BMZ for this purpose.


  • In 2019, all members of the Partnership reported publicly for the first time on what they had achieved in 2018 in terms of enforcing decent working conditions, environmental protection and fair wages in textile supply chains. According to these reports, the Partnership members implemented 1,100 measures in 2018.
  • Around 10 per cent of the entire quantity of cotton that the Partnership for Sustainable Textile’s members processed in 2019 was organically grown and 22 per cent came from other sustainable sources. This means that the Partnership’s goal to jointly use at least 35 per cent sustainable and organically produced cotton by 2020 has almost been achieved.

Additional information