Textile Exchange Report 2021 – glimmers of hope and need for action

Textile Exchange

A radical switch to sustainable materials is imperative to meet climate targets 

Source & Copyright by Textile Exchange 

Author: Sydney

  • 50% of the textiles come from sustainable sources
  • Greenhouse emissions from the textile industry have nevertheless increased
  • Need for action for new and circular business models

Textile to textile recycling, degrowth and circular business models are nothing new. Good News: This year's Textile Exchange Report has shown that more and more brands are implementing more sustainable options in their business models. The change in awareness among buyers and the resulting increase in demand for climate-positive alternatives have also encouraged brands in their actions.

Textile Exchange is a non-profit organization that helps businesses transform more responsible materials supports. The basis for the report is the Material Change Index, which is the largest peer-to-peer comparison initiative in the textile industry. It includes the clothing, shoe and home textile industries. The published figures show that 50% of the materials used in production by the 292 participating companies are now organic, recycled or come from other lower-impact materials.

It is time to act - resources are at risk

The current report is a record year in terms of MCI participants with better results and a significant increase in the uptake of better textiles. While in 2018 and 2019, greenhouse gas emissions from material production remained stable at 11,8 million tons, in 2020 they had decreased by 5% (11,2 million tons).

According to the director of the Textile Exchange, Liesl Truscott, these changes are due to the pandemic and it is difficult to assess how developments have actually changed in recent years. After all, slow growth has dampened emissions, so the transition may just be a blip. Participating brands include Adidas, Gap, Kering, Levis, H&M and PVH Group.

Innovation and circular business models as drivers

Companies that have included materials with a lower environmental and/or social impact in their production has increased from 36% in 2019 to 44% in 2020 and now 50% in 2021. A 2020 analysis found that 35 companies have invested $25 million in innovation, circular technology capacity expansion, recycling, resale and repair.

Thus, the number of resales of used items increased, with companies reporting 600.000 more items in resale than in 2019. The year 2021 shows that 68% of the companies involved record one or more circular business-related activities. There have also been advances in recycling. Recycled materials make up around 29% of synthetic fibers this year and 12% of all materials. The Index also suggests that knowledge of the country of origin of fibers accounts for around 48% of materials procured.

Nevertheless, it is questionable how transparent the companies present their data, because only 30% of the participants were able to provide quantitative data. The Textile Exchange will review its benchmarks over the next 18 months to better align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

What is required?

The fashion industry needs a business model decoupled from profit, success and prosperity. Truscott says it's not just about incorporating more sustainable fiber options here and there, it's about phasing out the polluting fibers quickly. She welcomes the improvement but says the next step is to move towards dematerialization - reducing the amount of material required to support the industry's economic functioning.

In addition, you have to think big in order to be able to implement changes on a large scale. Innovation needs to be scaled, digital solutions like 3D printing need to be widely deployed, and all of that needs regulation and incentives.

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