The Preferred Fiber and Materials Matrix
The Preferred Fiber and Materials Matrix (PFMM) is an interactive tool that gives the owners of sustainability standards systems a way to view their performance in a standardized way and toward a shared “direction of travel” for beneficial impact, while also helping brands to make informed material sourcing decisions.
Originally conceived by Gap Inc. to help designers and product teams understand the benefits and trade-offs of their fiber and raw material choices, Textile Exchange adopted the PFMM in 2020. Since that time, we’ve been working to update and refine the tool, drawing on expertise from across the sector. Our overarching vision for the PFMM is for it to support the industry in taking a holistic approach to decision-making related to fibers and raw materials.
What are preferred fibers and materials?
Textile Exchange defines “preferred” fibers and raw materials as those that deliver consistently reduced impacts and increased benefits for climate, nature, and people against conventional equivalents, through a holistic approach to transforming production systems.
The ultimate goal is for the PFMM to provide further clarity to the industry around what constitutes a “preferred” material.
Throughout 2024-2025, Textile Exchange will undertake further development of the PFMM methodology, enabling the inclusion of additional standards systems – as well as branded fibers and other sustainability programs – into the tool. The PFMM will be used as an underpinning framework across the tools and resources that Textile Exchange offers, providing a clear rubric for assessing performance of standard systems, branded fibers, and sustainability programs, to support our collective Climate+ goals.
What's new since the last version?
The public launch of the PFMM tool in September 2023 signifies having brought the methodology fully in-house. Textile Exchange has now completed a significant methodology refresh, including replacing the initiative integrity and human rights indicators – previously sourced from WWF’s Certification Assessment Tool – with a refreshed methodology. Textile Exchange engaged Ergon Associates to support the redevelopment of the human rights indicators, leveraging their expertise in human rights, labor standards and gender equity. The human rights categories and indicators are based on international human rights norms, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the International Bill of Human Rights (UDHR, ICESCR and ICCPR), and the ILO Core Conventions. The indicators often aggregate multiple human rights (e.g., wages and working conditions, livelihoods) or cut across multiple rights (e.g., grievance and remedy). On the whole, this framework represents all internationally recognized human rights considered to be:
- Potentially impacted by activities involved in the production of one or more fibers or raw materials used in textile/fabric production, and;
- Assessed as being within the capability of private, voluntary standards to influence.
Expert stakeholders were interviewed to inform the development of the criteria and an open consultation was held in March 2023. Textile Exchange engaged NewForesight to support the redevelopment of the initiative integrity indicators, which were previously sourced from the WWF Certification Assessment Tool (WWF CAT). To develop the new methodology, the existing CAT methodology and the ISEAL Code of Good Practice were analyzed. Stakeholders from Textile Exchange, WWF, and the World Benchmarking Alliance were interviewed to inform the criteria. The new human rights indicators have resulted in generally lower scores than in the previous version of the PFMM, due to the raised ambition and level of specificity. Initiative Integrity scores, developed with NewForesight, also resulted in changes standard systems’ scores. Finally, together with ZDHC, the chemical management indicators in the PFMM were reviewed and updated.
The updated PFMM tool interface displays indicator level scores and overall impact area scores, encouraging users to focus on understanding the trade-offs within each impact area. The total score per standard system seen in the previous version of the PFMM has been removed from the interface, given the variability of scoring within each impact area. The new interface also separates paired standard systems.
In late 2023, we will expand the standards systems assessed within the PFMM, including: Cotton Connect REEL Code of Conduct and REEL Regenerative Code (assessed separately), International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), regenagri, and US Cotton Trust Protocol.
Beyond this, in 2024-2025, Textile Exchange will undertake further development of the PFMM methodology, to enable the inclusion of additional standards systems – as well as branded fibers and other sustainability programs – into the tool.
About the Preferred Fiber Materials Matrix
The core impact areas assessed are: Climate, Water, Chemicals, Land, Resource Use and Waste, Biodiversity, Human Rights, and Animal Welfare. In addition, Initiative Integrity measures the robustness and governance of a given standard system. The PFMM currently includes 80 indicators.
Within the PFMM, fiber or raw material standard systems are grouped within material categories: cotton, synthetics, manmade cellulosic fibers (MMCFs), flax, and wool. Within each material category, fiber and raw material standard systems are assessed across environmental and social impact areas, on a scale of 0-4, with Level 0 representing “status quo” production systems in most cases and Level 4 representing “Transformational” performance. For more details on scoring, see the methodology document.
The impact area scores are determined by a weighting of 50% for the quantitative indicators and 50% for the qualitative indicators, where applicable.
When only qualitative indicators are present, each indicator is given equal weighting.
For combined standard systems (e.g., EU Organic Regulation + GOTS, for Wool), the combined impact area score is the aggregate of the overall impact area scores for each of the standard systems. The aggregation process differs where there is more than one standard system operating within the same tier of the supply chain, such as Fairtrade and EU Organic at the farm level. The highest score at farm level is identified and is aggregated with the score for the initial processing level. This is because having two certifications at the farm level allows producers to fill gaps that may be present in each standard and offer greater protections. Where the matrix shows a hyphen “-” for a given impact area or indicator, this indicates that no assessment has taken place because the criteria are deemed “not applicable.”
The PFMM includes both quantitative and qualitative data sources, providing a holistic framework for assessing the trade-offs associated with standards systems within raw material categories.
The quantitative indicators within the PFMM are based on normalized Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data from the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI). Normalized LCA data is useful as it ensures that information is comparable. Six of the 80 total indicators are quantitative and based on LCA data.
Going beyond LCA data, the PFMM also includes custom indicators that cover qualitative considerations. Standard systems can achieve points for having explicit program requirements or by demonstrating beneficial environmental outcomes. Qualitative indicators comprise 74 of the 80 total indicators.
Evaluating Standard Systems
To ensure equity and transparency in the assessment process, only publicly available sources are used to assess standard system performance. Secondary research, also publicly available, may also be used to determine scoring, including from academic and non-governmental organization (NGO) sources.
Assessments of the standards systems included in the PFMM were conducted in Q4 of 2022, with the exception of the Chemical Management, Human Rights, and Initiative Integrity indicators, which were assessed in Q1 and Q2 of 2023. All assessments were conducted using documentation available publicly at the time. A full list of the sources used to assess the standards systems found in the PFMM can be referenced in the methodology document.
Evaluating standard systems
To ensure equity and transparency in the assessment process, only publicly available sources are used to assess standard system performance. Secondary research, also publicly available, may be used in addition to standard system documentation to determine scoring, including from academic and non-governmental organization (NGO) sources.
Assessments of environmental standards systems were conducted in Q4 of 2022 with the exception of Chemical Management indicators, Human Rights and Initiative Integrity, which were conducted in Q1 and Q2 of 2023. All assessments were conducted using documentation available publicly at the time. A full list of the sources used to assess fibers and raw materials standards systems can be found in the methodology document.