The good news: Textile Exchange's Material Change Index (MCI) has reached a 50% preferred materials use, which it described as a "tipping point." The bad news: the growth in the uptake of recycled inputs is dominated by plastic packaging waste. The ugly news: post-consumer textile waste is now at a paltry 1.49% of recycled inputs, and 0.18% of textile use overall.
Textile Exchange's data shows that there has been only a slight increase in the textile-to-textile share.
The results: In all, 292 companies participated in the MCI study, and 78% of the returning companies improved their scores this year. There were 101 new companies.
Some of the highlights:
- Preferred cotton now represents 65% of overall cotton used by participating brands, and recycled polyester jumped to 32% of polyester use, compared to 21% the year before.
- Progress has been made in the uptake of recycled inputs, which now represent 29% of synthetic fibres, and 12% of materials overall. This growth in recycled is predominantly dominated by plastic packaging waste.
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell by 5% last year, which reflects a saving of 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions when compared to a conventional materials portfolio. GHG results are modelled using the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Material Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) and its available data sources.
- The MCI now represents over five million hectares of cropland, grazing, and forestry under improved practices, such as sustainability programmes and certification. Over one million more hectares than last year, but still only 17% of the total land area from which land-based materials were sourced by Index participants in 2020.
- The Index results suggest that knowledge of country-of-origin hovers around 48% of materials sourced. Textile raw materials are being traced back to 49 companies, dominated by India, China, Turkey, the US, and Pakistan.
The loophole: The entire index is made up from what companies say or report, and not on what brands and retailers actually do.
The reliance on Higg Index: The report, according to the acknowledgments section, has been produced in collaboration with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and Higg. Both SAC and Higg have been in the dock for allegedly helping brands greenwash themselves with the Higg MSI tool. The SAC, earlier this week, decided to put the Higg MSI on the backburner, and announced that it would seek a third party assessment of the tool.
The impact monitoring: Most of the impact monitoring used "industry tools (such as the Higg MSI." It is not clear from the report if brands and retailers have been using other tools since all through the report it was insinuated that companies were using industry tools "such as" the Higg MSI. The usage of Higg MSI was the highest in case of cotton (68%) and lowest for down (45%).
Very few companies seemed to rely on suppliers for impact monitoring—be it qualitative evidence, quantitative evidence or anecdotal feedback.