'Fashion From Sustainable Forests' Survey Reveals That Almost Half Of Consumers Aren't Aware That Fibres Derived From Trees Are Being Used In Their Clothing, This Is Why It Matters

Bianca Foley

We are constantly told that sustainability is at the forefront of consumer consciousness, however a new report by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) sheds light on a significant gap in awareness. The survey titled ‘Fashion from Sustainable Forests’ reveals that nearly half of consumers are unaware that the fibres derived from trees are used in their clothing. This lack of awareness has broader implications for the fashion industry’s sustainability efforts and highlights the urgent need for education and transparency.

Credits: © Andalucía Andaluía / Unsplash
So, Who Are The PEFC?

The PEFC is the world’s leading forest certification organisation, dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management. Their robust framework and rigorous standards ensure that forests are managed in ways that preserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change, and support forest communities. PEFC certification provides assurance that forest-based products, including fibres used in textiles, originate from sustainably managed sources.

What Did The Survey Find?
Consumer Awareness and Environmental Concerns

The PEFC survey reveals a striking information gap: 48% of consumers are not aware that forest fibres are used in their clothing. However, once informed, 76% of those surveyed expressed concern about the potential negative environmental impacts if these fibres were not sourced sustainably. This highlights a significant opportunity for the fashion industry to educate consumers about the materials in their clothing and their environmental impacts.

Demand for Improved Sustainability Efforts

Consumers are increasingly demanding more from fashion brands in terms of sustainability. The survey found that 78% of consumers believe that brands need to improve their sustainability efforts, particularly in responsibly sourcing forest fibres. Additionally, 71% of consumers want to see certifications that confirm these fibres come from sustainably managed forests.

Importance of Forest-Positive Materials

The majority of consumers (74%) believe it is important that clothing made from forest fibres comes from sustainably managed forests. This preference underscores the potential for ‘forest-positive’ fashion—where materials are sourced from well-managed forests that benefit the ecosystem and mitigate climate change.

Why This Matters

The fashion industry faces growing scrutiny for its environmental impact, especially its reliance on virgin fossil-based synthetics like polyester, which makes up around 54% of produced fibre worldwide. Man-made cellulosic fibres (MMCF), such as viscose and lyocell, offer a more sustainable alternative if sourced responsibly. However, the current lack of transparency, with 25-40% of forest-based fibres in textiles coming from unknown sources, poses significant risks to deforestation, biodiversity, and climate change.

What Consumers Can Do

To ensure that their clothing choices are sustainable, consumers should look for certifications like PEFC, which indicate that the materials originate from sustainably managed forests. Labels and certifications provide traceability and assurance that sustainable practices were implemented at every stage of production. 

The PEFC’s survey highlights the urgent need for greater consumer education and transparency in the fashion industry. As consumers become more aware of the materials in their clothing and their environmental impacts, they can make more informed choices, driving demand for sustainably sourced fibres. For brands, this is a call to action to improve their sustainability efforts and communicate these efforts effectively to their customers. 

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