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In a development that will make tough, but important reading for many brands, a new report has indicated that organisations in the fashion sector are still not yet doing enough to scale up secure supply chains for more sustainable fabrics.
This slow movement towards greater environmental friendliness means that, even by the end of this decade, only around 19% of the materials the industry sells are likely to be from preferred sources.
The report, which was compiled with support from Boston Consulting Group and Quantis, uses the term “preferred materials” in reference to organic cotton, recycled textiles, and other sustainable materials.
What progress is being made in the fashion industry towards sustainable practices?
The Textile Exchange report did say that fashion firms were paying closer attention to the carbon footprint of the materials they used, as evidenced by the increasingly widespread adoption of science-based targets.
According to the document, approximately 400 fashion houses had either had such targets verified, or were aiming to achieve this within the coming two years.
There has also been a tendency in recent times for brands to outline more in-depth visions in relation to land impacts, water stewardship, worker wellbeing, and animal welfare. In some cases, brands did this voluntarily, while in other cases, they were compelled to do so by legislation and regulation.
Will brands struggle to make the headway they need to do by 2030?
The report noted that “preferred materials” already accounted for roughly 19% of global fashion production in 2021, or about 23 million tonnes.
It was also observed in the publication, however, that demand for these materials is expected to escalate to 163 million tonnes by the end of this decade. The problem lies in the report’s forecast that only around 30 million tonnes will actually be available on the market by that point, which means preferred materials will probably still make up about 19% of global fashion production.
Textile Exchange said that such a large gap between supply and demand – presuming it materialises as predicted – will be attributable to “the lack of a united front within the industry to achieve scaled financial investment and clear demand.”
It was also noted in the report that major hubs for fashion production, such as India and Pakistan, were already being adversely impacted by the climate crisis, with the availability of materials production – whether “preferred” or less sustainable – being hindered as a consequence.
Textile Exchange therefore emphasised the importance of fashion brands putting together a robust strategy for ensuring the secure supply of materials as climate risks continue to heighten.
In the words of Beth Jensen, director of climate and impact at Textile Exchange: “Brands must act boldly now to invest in the supply-chain relationships that will enable achievement of their climate goals by 2030 – a key milestone year that is rapidly approaching.”
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