More and more brands are prioritizing using sustainable materials for their products, and so they're buying recycled polyester, better cotton, and responsible leather; however, according to a new report from Textile Exchange, more radical action is needed to really transform supply chains. 

Published earlier this week, the Material Change Index Insights report assessed the uptake of preferred raw materials — the ones certified under a sustainability standard or initiative — and responsible sourcing practices across 292 various brands and retailers representing around $680 billion in turnover.

The report's findings pointed to a few positive changes, such as preferred materials accounted for half of all fibers used by brands in 2020 for the first time, up from 44% in 2019 and 36% in 2018. Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions associated with material production decreased by over 5% to 11.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020, after essentially flatlining for the last two years at 11.8 million tonnes.

According to this report, the progress is partially due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. Textile Exchange director of corporate benchmarking Liesl Truscott says that companies' responses to the pandemic were extremely polarising, half choosing to double down on sourcing better materials and the other half cutting back. 

"It will take a few years to see if it actually continues to be a trend. We need to be thinking about not just transitioning to preferred materials but really looking at consumption. That means the industry must tackle the tricky challenge of degrowth. Fashion needs to move to a model of decoupling profit, prosperity and success from continued growth of the use of particularly virgin materials," said Liesl Truscott.