More apparel brands moving to preferred materials - Just Style
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More apparel brands moving to preferred materials

By Hannah Abdulla 28 May 2020

The latest Material Change Insights Report from Textile Exchange shows nearly 40% of its brand participants sourced their materials from preferred sources – but investment into circularity remains limited.

More apparel brands moving to preferred materials

The latest Material Change Insights Report from Textile Exchange shows nearly 40% of its brand participants sourced their materials from preferred sources – but investment into circularity remains limited.

The report intends to provide an in-depth evaluation of the state of sustainable materials sourcing in the textile and clothing sector.

It draws on exclusive data provided through Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber & Materials Benchmark (CFMB) programme, thought to be the largest peer-to-peer comparison initiative in the textiles sector with more than 170 voluntary brand participants. The CFMB programme rigorously analyses self-reported company data to track the materials sourcing progress of individual companies as well as the industry at large.

The resulting Material Change Insights Report provides one of the most data-backed and comprehensive analyses of how the industry is progressing in its shift to preferred materials, as well as alignment with global efforts like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the transition to a circular economy. It builds on Textile Exchange’s Material Change Index (MCI) – a family of indices, published earlier in the year, that tracks individual company progress.

Participating companies in the report included C&A, Adidas, Asos, Decathlon, H&M Group, Inditex, Columbia Sportswear, Marks & Spencer, Puma, PVH Corp, Tesco, The North Face, Ugg, Woolworths, Levi Strauss & Co, Mud Jeans, Nike, Nudie Jeans and Patagonia among a number of others.

The 2019 Material Change Insights Report is based on companies’ self-reported data from 2018. Key findings include:

  • Reporting companies sourced nearly 40% of their materials from preferred sources in 2018.
  • Reporting companies collectively converted 1.7m metric tons of materials to preferred in 2018, resulting in a saving of 1m metric tons greenhouse gases.
  • Sweden is leading the race to the top, with 12 Swedish headquartered companies accounting for 40% of the preferred materials reported.
  • 66% of companies said they have started aligning their business strategy with the SDGs. However, 71% have not set measurable targets within their Goal alignment.
  • 86% of companies responding to the circularity module have a circularity strategy – but coverage and investment are still very limited. For example, only ~0.06% of reported recycled materials come from post-consumer textile waste.

Textile industry rethink

“Amidst tragedy and chaos, the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the deep interconnectedness that exists between people and planetary systems. It shows the turmoil that can result when one element of the system is out of balance – a situation that is certain to repeat itself many times over if we ignore long-term risks like climate change,” says Liesl Truscott, Textile Exchange European and materials strategy director, who leads the programme. “It’s time to rethink the textile industry to make it fit for the future. But first, we need to know where we stand, and this is where the Material Change Insights Report comes in.”

The report reveals textile-to-textile recycling fibre is still nascent. The replacement of virgin materials with post-consumer textiles must increase to close the loop said the report. Business model innovation, technology investment, and resource efficiency targets will be important levers.

When it comes to cotton, companies are more advanced than other materials. Key drivers include the widespread availability of preferred cotton programmes, but the report notes more regional transparency, direct intervention, and monitoring of impacts are needed at farm level.

Accelerating the sustainability of polyester lags behind cotton given how cost effective and readily available conventional polyester remains. Transition to recycled is slow and companies struggle to certify entire supply chains. Eventually, recycled needs to be from post-consumer textiles and not just plastic packaging. It is a similar story for nylon.

On wool, conventional wool dominates uptake. Recycled wool uptake was higher than volumes sourced from preferred virgin wool programmes such as the Responsible Wool Standard.

For down, the largest opportunity lies in achieving greater transparency back to source through supply chain mapping.


16 of the participating companies were recognised as leading companies in the Material Change report including C&A, Decathlon, Eileen Fisher, H&M Group, Levi Strauss & Co., Mud Jeans, Nike, Nudie Jeans, Patagonia and PrAna. 

The Leaderboard is based on a company’s management practices (including risk assessment, transparency, investment, target setting, and impact measurement) as well as the adoption rate of preferred fibres and materials. In this way it reflects both intention and action. Level 4 Leading indicates companies that are pioneering industry transformation and scored 76-100 of a possible 100 points.

H&M Group leads the ranking in the use of organic cotton and down certified by the Responsible Down Standard, whilst at the same time the continuing to be among the biggest users of recycled cotton, recycled wool, recycled nylon and lyocell.

“Being ranked as a leading company in sustainable materials sourcing is a great recognition to all the hard work we do every day to make our business more sustainable,” says Cecilia Brännsten, environmental sustainability manager H&M Group. “But that doesn’t mean we are done yet, there is still work to do to increase the use of recycled materials and push for innovative materials. We are fully committed to use our size and scale to lead the way towards a more sustainable fashion future.”

To access the full report, click here.