ustainability is important to 8 in 10 consumers when
purchasing clothing. While they continue to prioritize
traditional purchase drivers such as comfort and quality,
sustainability can be a differentiator to set a brand apart from
others. With rising awareness of key environmental issues
affecting the textile industry, such as microplastics waste,
sustainable clothing is more important than ever. Brands can
tap into consumer environmental concerns by using natural
ﬁbers such as cotton and by communicating their impact on
the issues consumers care about.
IMPORTANCE OF SUSTAINABILITY ON CLOTHING PURCHASES
Percent who say sustainability is an important purchase driver. (+ increase from 2017 research)
SUPPLY CHAIN INSIGHTS
Brands can market sustainability by
connecting its beneﬁts to primary purchase
drivers comfort, quality, and durability.
Brands have an opportunity to build on
emerging awareness of microplastic waste
in the world’s oceans to promote more
sustainable ﬁber options.
Cotton and other natural ﬁbers are
consistently understood to be more
sustainable than manmade ﬁbers.
WHY IS SUSTAINABILITY IMPORTANT?
CLOTHING PURCHASE DRIVERS
Percent who say sustainable clothing is:
are likely to look for clothing
made from natural ﬁbers
Comfort, Quality, & Fit
INDIA CHINA MEXICO ITALY GERMANY U.K. U.S.
For My Money
Durability, Price, Clothing
Material, Softness, & Style
Sustainability, Color, Performance
Features, & Laundering Instructions
icroplastic waste is an issue of critical importance to the textile industry. When clothing and
other textiles are washed, they shed microﬁbers that enter our waterways and, eventually, the
world’s oceans. When those textiles are made from manmade ﬁbers such as polyester and
nylon, they become microplastic waste that inﬁltrates our oceans. Consumers are taking note of this
concern, as awareness of the issue has nearly doubled since 2017. Following research ﬁndings on
biodegradability, consumers who are aware of microplastic waste are more likely to perceive cotton as
safe for the environment, while perceiving polyester as harmful.
Cotton degrades 95% more
than polyester in
wastewater and continues
to degrade over time,
unlike polyester whose
degradation plateaus after
the time tested.
COTTON AND MICROPLASTICS
Percent of ﬁbers biodegraded after 243 days in wastewater.
Learn more about
Sustainable Cotton Innovations at
AWARENESS OF MICROPLASTIC WASTE
AWARENESS AND PERCEPTION
OF FIBER SUSTAINABILITY
Percent of consumers who say ﬁber is safe for the environment.
IMPACT OF MICROPLASTIC WASTE
1.4 million trillion plastic ﬁbers currently
in the world’s oceans
1/2 million tons of plastic microﬁbers
from laundry yearly
By 2050, there will be more plastic than
ﬁsh in the oceans
Source: CCI & Cotton Incorporated’s 2017 & 2021 Global Sustainability Survey, a survey of 6,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K.,
Germany, Italy, Mexico, India, and China. Additional Sources:
Marine Pollution Bulletin. (2019). Microﬁbers Generated from the
Laundering of Cotton, Rayon and Polyester Based Fabrics and their Aquatic Biodegradation.
U.N. Environment Programme.
(2019). Fashion’s tiny hidden secret.
World Economic Forum, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and McKinsey & Company. (2016).
The new plastics economy: Rethinking the future of plastics.
©2021 Cotton Incorporated.