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Sustainability Sound Off: What Consumers Really Think of Eco-Friendly Fashion

Lenzing Group, a specialist in sustainably produced wood-based fibers, announced findings from its global consumer perception survey on “Sustainable Raw Materials in Fashion and Home Textiles” that found a need for closer collaboration between the clothing and home textile industries.

This relationship would provide more transparent information about the products consumers purchase to enhance trust and maximize business potential, Lenzing said. The survey, conducted in earlier this year, assessed the perceptions and behaviors of “conscious consumers” toward sustainable clothing and home textile products, as well as their views on sustainable raw materials and product features. To understand consumer interest in and knowledge of sustainable materials, 9,000 respondents across nine countries aged between 18 and 64 were surveyed using online questionnaires.

The key findings of the survey provided a glimpse into consumer habits toward pursuing a sustainable lifestyle, their knowledge of the raw materials used in clothing and home textile products, their perception toward brands and preferred product descriptions.

Among the three top takeaways were that conscious consumers actively engage in pursuing a sustainable lifestyle and are regularly educating themselves about raw materials. Almost all (86 percent) respondents believed purchasing clothes made from sustainable raw materials was a key component of living a more sustainable lifestyle and they frequently purchase products from brands that are committed to using sustainable raw materials or recycled materials in their products.

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The survey also revealed that a majority of respondents actively learn about sustainability through researching a product’s production process before purchasing–76 percent in clothing and 74 percent in bedding and home textiles. They also tend to read label hangtags, 88 percent in clothing and 86 percent in bedding and home textiles, and most respondents are willing to pay an average of 40 percent more for clothing or home textile products with descriptions that reflect sustainability.

When shopping for clothing and home textile products, respondents consider the material type to be their most important consideration–ranked in the top three factors for consideration by 44 percent of respondents–above price, design, brand reputation and function.

In addition, products described as “eco-friendly” or “natural,” with a “biodegradable” or “recyclable” afterlife appeal to consumers. When asked about the definition of sustainable clothing, respondents considered products being processed or manufactured using humane, eco-responsible production processes and products made from natural, organic or botanic materials as top considerations.

More than 80 percent of respondents said were “extremely interested” or “very interested” in sustainable fashion and purchasing clothing made from sustainable raw materials. When asked about their preference for clothing and home textile products, half of the respondents said they would be more likely to purchase a product described as “eco-friendly” or “natural,” whereas over 60 percent were more likely to purchase products with a “recyclable” or “biodegradable” afterlife.

Lenzing said given the popularity of such terms, there are opportunities for brands to provide more descriptions and greater clarity to the materials, production processes and product afterlife information to their products as consumer education.

Lastly, the survey showed that brands with greater transparency on raw materials and ingredients can gain consumer trust. Most respondents considered brands that are transparent with their ingredients and the origin of their raw materials as trustworthy. At the same time, respondents also consider brands that are transparent about their production processes, sustainable practices and where their raw materials are made as trusted brands.

“The findings of this survey prove the value of Lenzing’s ongoing efforts in driving the sustainability dialogue across the textile supply chain, from yarn makers to consumer brands,” Florian Heubrandner, vice president of global business management for textiles at Lenzing, said. “Based on the survey, we gained a more comprehensive understanding of consumer perceptions globally. The rating of material type being the top consideration factor when shopping for clothing and home textile products has also echoed our belief that consumers value and actively look out for sustainable products.”

Heubrander said the survey provided Lenzing and its partners brands with insights to curate more targeted strategies and programs to foster sustainability, not only on raw materials, but also product afterlife.

“In the long run, we hope to bring optimal value for the clothing and home textiles industry supply chain and help brands achieve new heights, drive sustainability and safeguard our planet,” he added.

To drive change, Lenzing has been taking a three-pillar approach to increase industry collaboration and shift toward sustainability by ensuring a higher degree of transparency and enabling verification of raw material origin from production process to final garment. The approach covers special fiber identification technology, a blockchain-based tracking system, and proactive supply chain collaboration and planning.

This is complemented by Lenzing’s e-branding platform for manufacturers and brands that provides support for fabric certification, including fabric testing, identification numbers and hangtags to offer reassurance that sustainability is in every step of the supply chain.

“We are thrilled to see more consumers embrace a sustainable fashion lifestyle by making informed purchases based on research and reading product labels,” Harold Weghorst, vice president of global brand management at Lenzing, said. “With rising consumer expectations towards sustainability, over the past few years we have been transforming and upgrading the Tencel brand experience through proactive engagement programs on sustainable cellulosic fibers.”