The research, which was commissioned by Cotton Council International and led by Harris Insights and Analytics, found that 86% of people globally are considering sustainability and the impact their decisions have on the environment across various parts of day-to-day life. This is a growing concern, as 57% of people also say that they have thought more about sustainability over the past year.
While COTTON USA's insights found that consumers are most concerned about sustainability in areas including food, appliances and vehicle purchases, 61% of those surveyed say that they are concerned about sustainability and environmental impacts when purchasing clothing. As part of this, nearly two-thirds of people also said they would put a lot of effort into finding clothing labelled as "environmentally-friendly".
The report found that, when asked the reasons why they are concerned about sustainability, 38% of consumers said that supporting brands and retailers that are making a conscious positive impact on the environment was paramount. This was followed by taking a stand against those that do not treat their employees fairly (35%) or do not demonstrate sustainability practices as part of their manufacturing process (33%).
An overwhelming majority of consumer around the world (83%) believed cotton is safe for the environment, with U.S. cotton considered as an environmentally-safe choice (69%). Moreover, 100% of consumers associate cotton fibres, including U.S. cotton, with sustainability, more so than other fabrics such as wool, silk, polyester, rayon or spandex.
When asked how they perceive U.S. cotton, consumers considered it to be more sustainable (39%), responsibly-produced (40%) and higher quality (43%) than cotton grown in other parts of the world. U.S. cotton is considered as a more environmentally friendly choice than that developed in other markets (69%). This includes cotton from Australia (65%), India (64%), Africa (60%), China (56%) or Uzbek (53%) cotton.
Stephanie Thiers-Ratcliffe, Director of European Brands at Retailers at COTTON USA, said: "It is imperative that global brands and retailers today establish and maintain a strong image of sustainability, and be transparent with consumers about the measures they are taking. One way for global brands and retailers to connect with consumers about sustainability may be to promote their use of natural fibres, such as U.S. cotton - which, from our research, is evidently considered worldwide as an environmentally friendly option. By establishing and demonstrating a stronger alliance with cotton, brands and retailers can better build an invaluable, trusting relationship with their customers, based on what is truly important to them today."