A Sneak Peek into the State of Material Sourcing
25 August 2021
Tackling textile waste in the fashion industry isn’t easy, but one solution for consumers and producers may be as simple as choosing the right materials. In the Material Change Index (MCI) Insights Report 2020 conducted by our partners at Textile Exchange, people and companies get a glimpse into why material sourcing and fiber choices are important.
Fashion accounts for an astounding 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, 10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater.
However, in recent years, the interconnected crisis between business targets and moral imperatives has encouraged companies on a mission to improve the environmental and social impact of their material sourcing. To help companies accomplish their mission, Textile Exchange enables participating companies to measure, manage and integrate preferred materials instead of conventionally produced materials with questionable sourcing. In the Material Change Index (MCI) Insights Report 2020, Textile Exchange shares one of the most insight-rich, data-backed analyses of how the textile industry is progressing toward preferred materials – and we’re here to give you a sneak peek.
What are preferred materials?
The process of finding and vetting materials and their suppliers is an important business decision for companies, but it is also a decision that carries meaning to eco-conscious consumers. Companies must weigh the benefits and risks of each material financially, operationally, environmentally and socially – the latter two of which can be remedied by choosing preferred materials.
Textile Exchange defines preferred materials as materials with improved environmental and social sustainability outcomes compared to conventionally produced materials. Some of the industry’s most commonly used materials, like polyester and manmade cellulosics, have risks that preferred fibers help to mitigate.
Common materials, their risks and areas to improve
Polyester – Let’s start with the most commonly used material in the textile industry, polyester. Estimations say that by 2030, polyester use will account for about 63% of total fiber production. This doesn’t bode well for the environment because polyester is a non-biodegradable fiber generally produced from PET derived of crude oil and natural gas; which makes the textile sector the largest user of plastic after packaging and construction and accounts for around 15% of all plastic use. Therefore, the greatest risks from using conventionally produced polyester are chemical-related risks, non-renewable resource use and climate change.
Even though the financial benefits of polyester are why the material will remain a staple in the industry, with more focus on recycled polyester, responsible textile collection programs and supply chain transparency, preferred polyester materials can become a viable replacement for conventionally produced polyester.
Manmade Cellulosics – Including viscose, modal and lyocell, manmade cellulosic materials are made from the dissolved wood pulp of trees and can be a solution to sustainable sourcing when done right. The main risks with sourcing manmade cellulosics are deforestation, logging forests with conservation value, biodiversity loss and land use change – simply put, taking wood resources from forests without monitoring or regulation.
The key to improvement, outlined by Textile Exchange, is through investment and stakeholder collaboration to establish a few leading suppliers with improved transparency to ensure sources are replenished according to how much wood is taken. Many companies improve sourcing by choosing fiber and material brand partners that provide sustainable solutions, such as Lenzing’s TENCEL™ brand, which offers preferred and innovative cellulosic fibers made with raw materials derived from sustainably managed forests. Additionally, Lenzing has committed to reducing greenhouse gas and wastewater emissions and ensuring the sustainability of its partners with supply chain transparency.
What can be done?
By identifying the risks and areas for improvement in material sourcing, consumers can make informed decisions and know what to look for in product labels. If you are considering polyester, look for recycled polyester. If you are considering manmade cellulosics, make sure the material is certified to be sourced from sustainably managed forests. These small decisions play a significant role in shifting material sourcing toward the use of preferred materials and a less harmful environmental impact.