“Synthetics Anonymous 2.0”, a report released by Changing Markets Foundation, an activist foundation that collaborates with NGOs to accelerate and scale up solutions to sustainability challenges, reveals that, despite a plethora of “green” claims, fashion brands often show no signs of cutting their reliance on fossil fuel-based fibers or showing credible action on climate.

Synthetic Anonymous 2.0
Photo: Synthetic Anonymous 2.0
Synthetic Anonymous 2.0
The report reveals a near-complete lack of progress by the fashion industry in kicking its addiction to synthetic materials. The report analysed 55 fashion brands on their policies in terms of synthetic materials, recycling, climate targets and their position on the key elements of the EU Textile Strategy. Of the 55 brands, just one, Reformation, is committed to phasing out virgin synthetics by 2030 and reducing all synthetics (virgin and recycled) to less than 1% of total sourcing by 2025. 







From the 33 companies that revealed their synthetics volume and percentage, ultra-fast-fashion brand Boohoo came out on top with the heaviest reliance on synthetics as a percentage of its total annual fiber used (64%) and was also the brand found to have the percentage of polyester in its textile products (54%). Nike and Inditex reported the highest volumes of synthetics and polyester used in their products, disclosing volumes of 166,343 tons and 131,548 tons, respectively.





One year on from "Synthetics Anonymous: fashion brands’ addiction to fossil fuels", the first survey issued by Changing Markets Foundation in 2021, brands continue to mask their addiction to synthetic fibers under the guise of commitments to increase the proportion of “sustainable” materials, including recycled synthetics, mostly polyester and some nylon. However, green claims on polyester made from recycled PET bottles have been facing increasing scrutiny over the past year from regulators and consumers concerned about misleading environmental claims. It has become increasingly evident that fashion brands’ reliance on PET bottles as their main sustainability strategy for polyester is undermining closed-loop recycling and mandatory recycled content targets for the beverage industry. While 45 of the 55 brands (81%) have set targets to increase their recycled synthetic content, only a handful of brands is investing in real solutions, such as fiber-to-fiber recycling technology.

Synthetic Anonymous 2.0
Photo: Synthetic Anonymous 2.0
Synthetic Anonymous 2.0
The majority of the industry is dragging its feet and failing to recognize that synthetics are a significant issue and a key culprit behind growing microfiber pollution. Out of 55 companies, 22 of them (40%) landed in the Red Zone category, with little to no transparency about their strategy on synthetic fiber use, while ​​25 (45%) had no evident microfiber policies.




On a positive note, the report reveals that fashion brands show significant levels of support for several of the policies that were proposed in the EU Textile Strategy, with 81% in favor of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), 87% in favor of matters related to eco-design, and 94% supportive of legislation to reduce the risk of false green claims. In addition, 83% were in favor of a mandatory increase in supply chain transparency - something that was not proposed in the EU’s strategy. The latter indicates a significant intention-versus-action gap, given that only four companies shared their synthetic supplier lists in response to the questionnaire. However, even brands are signalling that it’s time to go beyond voluntary measures and the sector needs regulation. 




Changing Markets Foundation is calling for sustained regulatory pressure to rehabilitate fashion’s synthetic fiber addiction and put the fashion industry on the right track. 






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