Shopping on the first day of reopening of the clothing stores after the lockdown due to the Coronavirus emergency in Milan, Italy, 18 May 2020. Several countries around the world have started to ease COVID-19 lock-down restrictions in an effort to restart their economies and help people in their daily routines after the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic.Coronavirus in Italy, Phase 2, Milan - 18 May 2020

Global nonprofit organization Textile Exchange released a new report that analyzes the textile industry’s progress in the adoption and use of sustainable materials and spells out a potential vision for post-COVID 19 materials strategies.

Its Material Change Insights Report draws on exclusive data provided through Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber & Materials Benchmark (CFMB) program, which is the largest peer-to-peer comparison initiative in the textiles sector with more than 170 voluntary brand participants, the organization said.

Its CFMB program “fills a necessary industry gap by rigorously analyzing self-reported company data to track the materials sourcing progress of individual companies as well as the industry at large,” they noted.

The data paints an industry that is shifting to “preferred materials” (or environmentally and socially preferred fibers and materials, such as organic cotton, biosynthetics or recycled polyester), as well as actively aligning with global efforts, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in addition to transitioning to a circular economy, Textile Exchange said.

Its research builds on the organization’s Material Change Index (MCI), a collection of indices that tracks individual company progress published earlier this year.

Liesl Truscott, Textile Exchange European and Materials strategy director, who leads the program, said that “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.”

Organic cotton designs by Varvaressos.

Organic cotton designs by Varvaressos.  Dominique Maitre/WWD

“It’s time to rethink the textiles 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,” Truscott said.

Key findings in the report are based on companies’ self-reported data from 2018, which include that reporting companies sourced nearly 40 percent of their materials from preferred sources in 2018 and they collectively converted 1.7 million metric tons of materials to preferred in 2018, resulting in a saving of 1 million metric tons greenhouse gases.

Sixty-six percent of companies said they have started aligning their business strategy with the SDGs; although, 71 percent are yet to set measurable targets within their goal alignment, the organization said.

An optimistic 86 percent of companies responding to its circularity module said they have a circularity strategy — “but coverage and investment are still very limited,” according to Textile Exchange. “For example, only 0.06 percent of reported recycled materials come from post-consumer textile waste,” they noted. And while the data does point to progress, the organization said that “a deeper rethinking of value chains is still lacking.”

Textile Exchange’s next survey will launch in June, and the organization invites brands, retailers, and, for the first time, manufacturers, to participate in its 2020 CFMB survey.

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