A new consumer survey by PEFC, titled ‘Fashion from Sustainable Forests’, conducted in four key European markets (France, Italy, Spain and the UK), offers an in-depth exploration of consumer awareness, attitudes and expectations towards the use of forest fibres in fashion collections.

The survey revealed significant gaps between consumer expectations and perceived brand progress.

According to the survey, consumers believe it is important that forest-derived fibres are sourced from sustainably managed forests. They expect brands to ensure the use of responsibly sourced man-made cellulosic fibres (MMCF) in their collections.

Despite the well-publicised “urgent need” for the fashion industry to move away from virgin fossil-based synthetics such as polyester, the survey highlighted that polyester production continues to grow, currently reported to make up around 54% of produced fibre worldwide.

PEFC noted that in the search for potentially sustainable and scalable alternatives, MMCF, otherwise known as forest-derived fibres such as viscose and lyocell, is growing in popularity with the market predicted to grow from 6 billion to 10 billion tonnes over the next 15 years.

Key survey findings

  • Three-quarters of adults surveyed (76%) would be concerned if forest-derived fibres in their clothes had a negative environmental impact such as deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change.
  • Three-quarters (76%) of adults believe it is important that brands know the origin of forest-derived fibres used in their collections.
  • Over three-quarters (78%) believe that fashion brands need to increase their sustainability efforts and responsible sourcing of forest-derived fibres for their collections.
  • 68% of adults surveyed stated they would purchase from brands that provide information about their sustainable sourcing practices.
  • More than half (59%) of adults surveyed stated that they seek out sustainability labels (always or sometimes) whilst shopping for clothes.

How can brands address consumer expectations?

The PEFC suggests brands take the following steps to increase transparency and credible communication with consumers while strengthening their sustainability targets and progress:

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  • Review Sourcing Policies Brands should assess their current sourcing policies for man-made cellulosic fibers (MMCF), commit to sourcing only from sustainably managed forests, and set a roadmap to achieve this goal.
  • Communicate Requirements to the Supply Chain Brands need to convey their sourcing and sustainability requirements throughout the supply chain. Prioritising third-party verification, such as the PEFC chain of custody, ensures the origins of the fibres are credible and verifiable, enabling accurate progress tracking and transparent communication with consumers.
  • Provide Consumer Information – Brands should offer information about collections containing MMCF fibres. Depending on their progress, they should be transparent about their aspirational targets on MMCF sourcing, their current progress at the company level, and work towards providing substantiated claims on garment labels or online to demonstrate that the fibres originate from certified sustainably managed forests.

MMCF keyword usage dwindles in 2024

Data shared by GlobalData unveiled that usage of the term MMCF peaked in 2023 to 10 times. In 2024, its usage fell to 8 and shared the same spot as synthetics keyword.

The dwindling usage of the keyword also highlights that the fashion industry has not fully embraced fibres that are forest-derived.

Credit: GlobalData

Last year, PEFC published a whitepaper encouraging fashion brands to conduct responsible forest sourcing practices that will support sustainable forest management and preserve biodiversity.

The whitepaper emphasised the need for fashion brands to understand environmental and social risks linked to forests and offered insights into how PEFC’s holistic approach to sustainable forest management effectively mitigates them, ultimately promoting the well-being and preservation of forest ecosystems.