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Why 50% of Fashion Execs Think Consumers Will Spend More on Sustainable Clothing

A new survey of sustainability decision-makers at 1,000 brands and retailers in the U.S. and U.K. from the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol found a sense of optimism for increased consumer spending and investment in environmentally friendly practices.

The survey, seeking to determine the impact the pandemic has had on the importance of and investment in sustainability initiatives, revealed 28 percent of brands and retailers were committed to setting new industry standards for sustainability.

A year after many countries went into lockdown from the global pandemic, the Trust Protocol’s research showed 69 percent of brands and retailers believe that the pandemic has emphasized the importance of environmentally friendly products to customers, with 61 percent of respondents saying there has been an increased demand for sustainable products.

The research also found that 63 percent of brands and retailers stated that the pandemic has had a positive impact on their company’s proactive investment in sustainability, with the main areas of focus being sourcing sustainably produced raw materials, manufacturing sustainability and reducing impacts of chemicals, water and energy, and safe working environments.

“It is undeniable that the pandemic has caused unforeseen challenges for brands, retailers and consumers alike, but this research reaffirms the commitment to a continued focus on sustainability,” Dr. Gary Adams, president of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, said. “We’re encouraged to learn that so many brands and retailers are looking to set new standards for the industry, instead of simply following what currently exists. As we work toward recovery in many sectors, systems like the Trust Protocol are available to provide the data needed to verify that sustainability targets are being met.”

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As the vaccine roll-out picks up pace across the world, consumers are beginning to think about the “new normal,” with 50 percent of brands and retailers expecting to see an increase in customer spending on sustainable apparel over the next 12 months. They attribute the most common drivers for this increased spending to a need for people to get back to normal–62 percent–and that some consumers will have saved money during the pandemic, at 67 percent.

As work continues toward delivering more sustainable options to meet growing consumer demand, findings showed that 65 percent of brands and retailers agreed that data is important to their future sustainability goals. The Trust Protocol will provide brands and retailers the critical assurances they need to show the cotton fiber element of their supply chain is more sustainably grown with lower environmental and social risk.

The Trust Protocol is a system for more responsibly grown cotton that has committed to six areas of sustainability in line with the U.N. Sustainability Development Goals. It underpins and verifies sustainability progress through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification, enabling members to better track the cotton entering their supply chain. Members also will have access to aggregate year-over-year data on water use, greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, soil carbon and land use efficiency.

The Trust Protocol is included on the Textile Exchange’s list of 36 preferred fibers and materials that more than 170 participating brands and retailers can select from as part of Textile Exchange’s Material Change Index program. The Trust Protocol also is working to align with existing standards in the cotton industry and is part of the Forum for the Future Cotton 2040 and the CottonUp guide.