April 20, 2023 Report: Need “Systems Change” in Sustainable Sourcing
Textile Exchange’s Material Change Insights report highlights the need for systems change to support more sustainable materials sourcing.
Textile Exchange has released its annual Material Change Insights Report, looking at the progress made by the fashion, textile, and apparel industry towards more sustainable materials sourcing.
The report analyses data submitted by 424 companies – including brands, retailers, manufacturers and suppliers – through Textile Exchange’s Materials Benchmark for the year 2021. It provides insights on materials uptake, as well as alignment with climate and nature goals and the transition to a circular economy.
This year’s results highlight the following trends:
- The uptake of preferred materials continues to rise, now representing 56% of materials used by participating companies.
- Recycled materials grew to 14% of all materials used, with 4% of recycled content coming from post-consumer textile sources.
- Greenhouse gas emissions rose by 5% in Tier 4 following a dip during the pandemic, marking a return to normal levels of business.
- The area of land covered by sustainability standards sits at 18.3% of the total estimated land footprint for three key land-based materials (cotton, wool, and manmade cellulosic fibers).
- Transparency of sourcing regions is a necessity to understand place-based risk, and 47% of materials are currently traceable to the country of origin.
- Circular business models continue to develop, with 73% of companies trying this route and rental being the most popular solution.
The Materials Benchmark also tracks the progress of participants that have signed up to Textile Exchange’s 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge and 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge. Results show that 73% of all cotton sourced by 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge participants in 2021 came from programs and initiatives recognized by the challenge. Meanwhile, 27% of Recycled Polyester Challenge participants were already using over 45% recycled polyester in 2021.
Not on trajectory to meet climate target
The results offer promising evidence that companies are thinking, strategizing and building capacity around more sustainable sourcing. However, change is not happening fast enough, nor systemically enough, to achieve the reductions needed to reach Textile Exchange’s 2030 target of a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from materials production, while driving positive impacts on soil health, water, and biodiversity.
To move forward, more effort is required on three horizons: individually from companies in the industry, collectively from companies working together, and externally from governments, financial institutions and other enablers who define the context the industry operates in.
“Individual and incremental company change have been the hallmarks of progress in the early years of transition for the fashion, textile and apparel industry,” says Liesl Truscott, Director of Insights and Accountability at Textile Exchange.
“That must continue and increase in pace and impact, but it’s time to start looking to wider horizons to achieve the holistic change and just transition that we need.”
About Textile Exchange
Textile Exchange is a global nonprofit organization that works to promote sustainable practices in the textile industry. The organization observes that the textile industry has a significant impact on the environment and society, and seeks to reduce that impact through collaborative efforts with businesses, governments, and NGOs.
Textile Exchange’s initiatives include developing standards for sustainable materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, and responsible wool. The organization also provides tools and resources to help companies improve their sustainability practices, such as the Material Change Index, which measures the industry’s progress towards sustainability.