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Report: Textile Exchange Shows Preferred Fiber Uptake is Greater than Ever Before

Textile Exchange, the global non-profit that promotes the adoption of preferred fibers, integrity and standards and responsible supply networks, has released its largest Preferred Fibers & Materials Market Report ever in the number of participants and areas of coverage.

The 95 companies reporting, with about $1.2 trillion in combined sales, represents a 14 percent increase in participating companies over 2016’s report and a 76 percent increase over 2015.

Key findings in the report, which is based on the disclosure of actual consumption data through Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber Benchmark, include that among the participating companies organic and other preferred cotton represent 47 percent of total cotton usage, recycled polyester usage grew 58 percent and lyocell usage jumped 128 percent. In addition, preferred down, the majority of which is certified to TE’s Responsible Down Standard, increased by 54 percent.

The report said the early-adopters of organic cotton are broadening their horizons, setting and publicly disclosing ambitious targets for preferred cotton and recycled polyester, and committing to forest policies. They are also exploring new areas of innovation such as biosynthetic fibers.

The bio-economy encompasses the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value-added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy. For the textile industry, the shift from petrochemical-based synthetic fibers to bio-based is in its infancy, with bio-based polyester being the most well developed. Scaling production is underway with brands such as Adidas, The North Face and Tierra supporting pilots with suppliers such as Toray, Far Eastern New Century, Spiber, SM Silk and Bolt Threads, the report noted.

[Read more about preferred fibers: Preferred Fiber Growth Outpaces Conventional Textiles]

The report shows that more companies are managing a portfolio mix of fibers rather than focusing on an individual one and they are beginning to mobilize and gear up for circularity. About 24 percent of companies said they have already developed a circular textiles strategy and 57 percent said they have a circularity strategy under development.

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In the details

Textile Exchange has expanded its Preferred Fiber Market reporting categories to reflect the growth and expansion of company portfolios. PFM Leaderboards now cover all of the major preferred cottons, recycled polyester, preferred man made cellulosic and preferred down.

The report’s impact data also shows that adoption of preferred fibers and materials can advance many of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 12, which focuses on responsible consumption and production. This is consistent with the report’s findings that nearly 30 percent of the reporting companies said they were aligning corporate strategy to the SDGs. Early findings indicate that from the 76 brands surveyed, 29 percent said they were aligning their corporate strategy with the SDGs.

“Textiles tie directly to several of the SDGs and responsible practices by the textile industry can contribute significantly to achieving these goals,” Felipe Arango, a partner in BSD Consulting, said in the report. “Textile Exchange is in a perfect position to catalyze action under SDGs for the textile sector, drive global change and improve business conditions for the industry.”

Textile Exchange believes the adoption of preferred fibers and materials, under internationally recognized standards, offers measurable environmental, social and economic benefits.

In addition to a new Circular Textiles component in TE’s PFM Benchmark Program, the recycled polyester (rPET) Working Group is aiming to facilitate the transition toward circularity in the use of polyester.

“Textile Exchange’s Working Groups are focused on leading the industry toward a portfolio of preferred fibers,” said Karla Magruder, founder of Fabrikology and rPet Working Group lead said in the report. “This includes pulling waste out of the environment for recycled synthetics, using more sustainable growing methods for cotton, deriving feedstocks from bio-based materials and processing cellulosics in an environmentally safe way. This work combined with support for new technologies that enhance the ability to deliver these feedstocks and manufacturing systems effectively will drive the industry towards the circular economy and a future we can all enjoy.”

The Leaderboards

Looking at the Preferred Fibers Report Leaderboards, in the use of Recycled Polyester, Nike tops the list, followed by The North Face, Decathlon, H&M, Target, Patagonia, Williams-Sonoma, Timberland, M&S and Woolworths. The North Face has increased its usage the most, while Under the Canopy is top in closing the gap between the share of recycled and virgin polyester consumption.

The Preferred Cotton segment, which is made up of Organic, Fair Trade, Cotton made in Africa, Better Cotton Initiative, REEL, Cleaner Cotton and e3, makes up about 15 percent of total cotton fiber production, a significant increase from 9 percent of the cotton market share in 2015.

Topping the list in usage by volume in this segment is H&M, followed by Ikea, C&A, Nike, Adidas, Levi Strauss & Co., M&S, Tchibo, Jack Jones and Woolwoorths. Asos has registered the largest growth, while Green Fibers is tops in closing the gap between the share of preferred and conventional cotton.

C&A tops the board for the use of organic cotton, with H&M, Tchibo, Nike and Inditex rounding out the top five, while Boll & Branch has increased its usage the most and Green Fibers also tops the “Race to the Top” list for closing the gap between its usage of organic and conventional cotton.

In the Leaderboard for Preferred Man Made Cellulosics, C&A, Inditex, H&M, M&S and Tchibo are in gthe top five, followed by Aldi, Asos, Woolworths, Lindex and Eileen Fisher. The Race to the Top also has Eileen Fisher on top, followed by Stella McCartney and REI.

The Lyocell Leaderboard is led by Inditex, followed by H&M, M&S, C&A, Lindex, Eileen Fisher, Tchibo, Aldi, Armedangels and Toad & Co. C&A has shown the most growth in usage and Toad & Co. has increased its usage of lyocell versus conventional viscose or rayon.

The Certified Down Leaderboard is led by H&M, The North Face, Columbia Sportswear, Target and C&A, with Kathmandu, Patagonia, REI, Helly Hansen and Timberland rounding out the top 10.C&A has shown the most growth in its usage, while Columbia leads the “Race to the Top.”

Textile Exchange, founded in 2002, is a global nonprofit organization that works closely with all sectors of the textile supply chain to find the best ways to create positive impacts on water, soil, air, animals, and the human population created by the textile industry. Textile Exchange accomplishes this by providing the knowledge and tools the industry needs to make significant improvements in three core areas: Fiber and Materials, Integrity and Standards, and Supply Network.