Photo courtesy of Textile Exchange.

Textile Exchange, a global nonprofit organization for the textile industry, released its 2017 Preferred Fiber and Materials Market Report at this year’s Textile Sustainability Conference. The event was held in Washington, D.C., last week and its theme was “United by Action: Catalyzing the Sustainable Development Goals in Textiles.”

The conference hosted more than 400 industry members and offered panels, activities and discussions around sustainability and the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, or SDGs. Textile Exchange said the organization seeks to “create action and develop a 2030 roadmap for the textile industry.”

The report ranked the usage of fiber and materials with “improved social or environmental impacts” for more than 95 textile and apparel companies that participated in the study, which included a number of brands and retailers. Collectively, the established turnover of all participants amounts to $1.2 trillion. Its data is based on the disclosure of actual consumption data through Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber and Materials Benchmark Survey, according to the organization. The firm said it noted a 14 percent increase in participating companies from 2016’s report year-over-year, and a 76 percent increase over the same report from 2015. There was an uptick of preferred fibers rising in all categories, the report stated.

The study found that organic and other preferred cottons represent 47 percent of total cotton usage, which includes Better Cotton, Cotton made in Africa, Fair Trade and recycled. Recycled polyester usage grew by 58 percent; lyocell grew by 128 percent and preferred down grew by 54 percent. It was also discovered that companies are “managing a portfolio mix of fibers” in lieu of focusing on a specific fiber type and becoming more aware of and participating in circularity. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they have a circularity strategy under development and 25 percent said they are aligning their corporate strategy with the SDGs, according to the report.

Textile Exchange’s managing director, La Rhea Pepper, said, “It is a combination of interventions that is transforming the industry: Company strategies are going beyond concept into full implementation, business models are evolving to support, and technologies are coming online to disrupt current modes of production. Some would say the industry is not moving fast enough, while others are optimistic about the progress being made. We need both the cynics to nudge us further and the optimists to believe it will happen.”

And Liesl Truscott, the European and materials strategy director for Textile Exchange, said, “Things are moving in a positive direction, with uptake of preferred fibers rising in all categories, and some showing very significant leaps in usage. While value needs to be shared more equitably, it’s clear that our economic system is changing, with a greater focus on circularity and nonfinancial capital. The language of the Sustainable Development Goals is influencing our industry and it’s good to see the industry get behind the Science Based Targets.”

Oregon-based Columbia Sportswear placed third in total usage for responsible down, according to the report. Matthew Hoeferlin, director of materials research for Columbia, said “At Columbia, we value ethical, sustainable manufacturing practices and are committed to assuring our partners share and practice these values. By joining the Responsible Down Standard, we are committed to sourcing 100 percent responsible down for our entire global product line. By verifying and validating our entire natural down supply chain through RDS, we can ensure that, from farm to final destination, our product meets the industry’s animal welfare guidelines. In just three short seasons, we have sourced [more than] 3.3 million units filled with responsible down. We will continue to work closely with our vendors and manufacturers to promote the importance of animal welfare and adhere to the standard.”

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