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NORTH CAROLINA – Cotton and wool are perceived by consumers as the most sustainable fibres according to a new environmental survey, while perceptions about polyester and nylon are the least positive, with just ten per cent of consumers believing polyester to be “sustainably produced.”

The 2017 Global Environment Survey by Cotton Council International (CCI) and Cotton Incorporated gathered views from thousands of consumers across the US, UK, India, Mexico, China and Italy.

The top environmental concerns were found to be climate change, air pollution and water scarcity – a major issue for apparel brands given the water-intensive nature of textile processing.

The survey found concerns about the environment have sky-rocketed in the past year – 45 per cent of US respondents said their concern about the environment has increased, while 41 per cent of UK and German respondents also expressed growing concerns. This finding may well be a direct result of the US having a climate-change sceptic as President, as well as ongoing periods of extreme weather across the globe.

The survey includes a series of videos which share sentiments about sustainable practices and the motivation behind them, sustainable fibres and clothing, and the consumer preference for natural clothing in a world where the environment is changing.

It found that sustainability influences over three-quarters of consumers when they shop for food and household appliances, and 61 per cent say it influenced their clothing purchases. Says the survey: “While traditional purchase drivers such as quality and comfort are most important, sustainability can be a differentiator to set a brand apart from others. [Brands can achieve] this by tapping into consumer environmental concerns and signalling product quality and durability.”

The research claims cotton and natural fibres are “clear cut winners” in consumer perceptions of sustainability.

Adds the survey: “Brands have an opportunity to build awareness of environmental concerns over synthetic fibres such as micro fibre waste to promote more sustainable fibre options.

“Consumers consider fabric a determinate of sustainability, and they look for clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton. While only 25 per cent of global consumers are aware of environmental issues surrounding synthetic fibre production and use, an increasing amount of media attention is bringing these to light. Consumers do have significant opinions on which fibres are safe for the environment, as fewer than 10 per cent believe man-made fibres such as rayon, nylon, and polyester are sustainably produced.”

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