A survey of national and independent retailers in the UK has found that two-thirds believe it will take three years or more for their businesses to achieve true sustainability.

The study also found that while 73% said they had made changes to their operations to become more sustainable, they were realistic that total sustainability was still out of reach.

UK retailers also say they hope to increase the percentage of their products that are sustainable by 33% on average by the end of next year. For fashion retailers, this goes up to 40%, a 7% increase on the wider retail industry.

Julie Driscoll, UK regional director for ITE Group, organiser of the Pure London trade show and Spring & Autumn Fair, says: "Our study confirms that the UK retail industry is passionate about taking action on sustainability. However, there are significant barriers to overcome. To achieve true sustainability takes significant resource, time and investment; arguably, it's a continuous process for improvement, rather than a destination. Retailers aren't shying away from that responsibility, but they are being realistic when it comes to how quickly the change can happen."

In the study, respondents estimate that to make their products sustainable they would have to increase retail prices by 19% on average. In contrast, they believe consumers would only be willing to pay 9% more for those sustainable products. 20% believed the failure of suppliers to act sustainably or transparently was the biggest challenge.

"We need to change the overall mindset of how we produce and consume," says Patrick Grant, owner of Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons. "Our British factories help sustain the local economies, we know what is made, by who and when. We have super simple stable supply chains."

Commenting on the UK government's rejection of all recommendations made by the Environmental Audit Committee report into fast fashion, Grant adds there need to be stringent regulations to clean up the industry including stricter labelling.

"I don't think the audit committee went nearly far enough; I think that everything we buy that's made of plastic should be labelled plastic. Because consumers don't know what polyester or acrylic or nylon are. Virgin plastics should be labelled. You have a picture of a diseased lung on the back of a cigarette packet. This stuff is as toxic as nicotine. Bad fashion is literally killing stuff. If at the point of purchase, you were presented with something that showed you it, some people just might think twice."