Fashion companies are placing a strong emphasis on sustainability, even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol and the Economist Intelligence Unit. The study surveyed 150 executives from the fashion, retail, and textile industries in Europe and the U.S. and found that 60% of participants considered implementing sustainability as a key strategic objective.

Although improving customer experience ranked as the top objective for 64% of executives, sustainable practices were not far behind. The survey also delved into the practical applications of sustainability strategies. Sourcing sustainably produced raw materials was identified as a top objective by 65% of participants, while 51% mentioned reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adopting a circular economy approach.

Executives repeatedly mentioned the collection of business and supply chain data as a crucial aspect of sustainability efforts. However, the survey revealed that data collection practices were inconsistent. A significant portion of companies did not collect data on greenhouse gas emissions (45%), water and energy usage in raw material production (41%), and worker rights in supply chains (38%).

Despite these challenges, 70% of participants expressed optimism about achieving fast, affordable, and sustainable fashion. The main driving force behind fashion companies’ investment in sustainability is consumers, followed by fashion and textile brands and retailers, as well as environmental activists.

Jonathan Birdwell, the regional head of public policy and thought leadership at the Economist Intelligence Unit, highlighted the industry’s commitment to driving progress in sustainability performance. He noted that sustainability is considered a pre-competitive issue, with brands sharing resources and lessons learned behind the scenes.

However, the current financial crisis stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic poses a challenge to sustainability efforts. While there is a strong desire to prioritize sustainability in the fashion and textile industry, 54% of respondents believe that the economic impact of the pandemic will shift the focus away from sustainability. As the health crisis continues to unfold, the path to achieving sustainability may encounter additional obstacles.

Useful links:
1. “How Much Do Fashion Companies Really Care About Sustainability?”
2. “How Brands Accelerated Their Sustainability Efforts Amid Covid-19”