Almost two-thirds of brands and retailers in the US and UK believe the Covid-19 pandemic has had a positive impact on their company’s proactive investment in sustainability, new research shows.

The survey, which was conducted by the US Cotton Trust Protocol among sustainability decision-makers at 1,000 brands and retailers, found 63% think the crisis has been a driving force for such investment, with the main areas of focus including sourcing sustainably produced raw materials (42%); manufacturing sustainability and reducing impacts of chemicals, water and energy (42%); and safe working environments (40%).

“It is undeniable that the pandemic has caused unforeseen challenges for brands, retailers and consumers alike – but this research reaffirms the commitment to a continued focus on sustainability,” says Dr Gary Adams, president of the US Cotton Trust Protocol. “We’re encouraged to learn that so many brands and retailers are looking to set new standards for the industry, instead of simply following what currently exists. As we work towards recovery in many sectors, systems like the Trust Protocol are available to provide the data needed to verify that sustainability targets are being met.” 

The study also found a sense of optimism for increased consumer spending and investment in environmentally friendly practices – with 28% of brands and retailers committed to setting new industry standards for sustainability.  

The pledges come as 61% of brands and retailers say their customer demand has increased for environmentally sustainable business practices and goods/services, and half of respondents foresee an increase in consumer spending on sustainable apparel over the next 12 months. They attribute the most common drivers for this increased spending to a need for people to get back to normal (62%) and that some consumers will have saved money during the pandemic (67%).  

As work continues towards delivering more sustainable options to meet growing consumer demand, findings show two-thirds (65%) of brands and retailers agree that data is important to their future sustainability goals. The Trust Protocol says it will provide brands and retailers the critical assurances they need to show the cotton fiber element of their supply chain is more sustainably grown with lower environmental and social risk.  

The Trust Protocol is a system for more responsibly grown cotton that has committed to six areas of sustainability in line with the UN Sustainability Development Goals. It underpins and verifies sustainability progress through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification, enabling members to better track the cotton entering their supply chain. Members also will have access to aggregate year-over-year data on water use, greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, soil carbon and land use efficiency.  

just-style spoke with Dr Gary Adams last year about how the initiative is ramping up to help brands and retailers better track the environmental impact of the cotton entering their supply chains: Setting a standard for more sustainably grown cotton.