Big news has been rolling out of the Textile Exchange 2017 Textile Sustainability Conference near Washington, D.C. this week, providing evidence of the major paradigm shift taking place in the apparel and textile industry. Centered around the theme, “United by Action: Catalyzing the Sustainable Development Goals in Textiles,” this year’s conference sees more than 500 textile and apparel leaders come together to discuss the most important sustainability issues facing the industry and developing a roadmap to 2030.
In addition to announcing its newly approved associate membership to ISEAL, the global membership association for sustainability standards, Textile Exchange (TE), a global nonprofit focused on reducing the environmental and social impacts of the textile industry, released its largest preferred fibers report ever, with 95 companies reporting. This marks a 14 percent increase in participating companies over 2016’s report and a 76 percent increase since 2015.
The report’s findings, which are based on the disclosure of actual consumption data through Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber Benchmark, highlighted a shift towards preferred fibers across participating companies. In particular, the findings recognize growth in the usage of recycled polyester (58 percent), lyocell (128 percent) and Preferred down (54 percent), the majority of which is certified to TE’s Responsible Down Standard. Organic and other preferred cottons now represent 47 percent of total cotton usage. The report also noted a shift towards more diverse portfolio mixes of fibers and a ramping up of efforts to mobilize and gear up for circularity.
Another major announcement from the conference: Even more top brands have signed on to the sustainable cotton cause. Twenty-three of the world’s biggest clothing and companies, including Burberry, adidas, Kathmandu and Timberland pledged to use 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025 during the Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference.
Thirty-six major brands and retailers, which also include ASOS, Eileen Fisher, H&M, IKEA, Kering, Levi’s, M&S and Nike have now signed up to the 100% by 2025 pledge. Dubbed the Sustainable Cotton Communiqué, the pledge demonstrates that there is a demand for more sustainable cotton and the commitment made by companies will help to drive sustainable practices across the sector. In turn, this will help alleviate the environmental and social costs that are often associated with conventional cotton production, including heavy pesticide usage, the release of greenhouse gases, the depletion of local water resources and rising costs of production.
There have been substantial gains over the past few years in scaling the production of more sustainable forms of cotton, which is now higher than ever at over three million tons in 2016. However, companies are actively sourcing less than a fifth of this available sustainable cotton. In order for sustainable cotton to become standard business practice, the amount of sustainable cotton grown and bought must increase significantly. This pledge sends a signal to producers that there is a real demand for a more sustainable approach to cotton production.
For more information, please refer to www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/walking_talk/sustainable_brands/apparel_retail_textile_heavy_hitters_unite_around_sdg