Certification, such as eco-labels, plays a major role in giving credible assurance to retailers and end consumers that products comply with standards based on social, ecological & environmental standards. Of the 309 eco-labels identified world wide, 41 cover textiles (Ecolabelling, 2008) and some 9000 textile & clothing manufacturing companies have been certified. Organic Exchange Fibre Report (2008/09) estimated a 54% increase in cultivation of organic cotton from the previous year, but production of organic cotton only 0.959% of conventional cotton, i.e. the growth in eco-labelled textiles is not reflected in consumer demand, raising questions about the impact eco-labelled or 'sustainable' textiles. A number of issues may impede the spread of eco-labelled textiles through the supply chain: costs and time required to achieve, use and renew the eco-label, recession and potential loss of competitive advantages. This paper will present the findings from in depth interviews examining the decision making around buying and sourcing of eco-labelled fibre, fabrics or textile products. The seven companies located both in India and the UK, spanned the supply chain, from fibre to product: textile manufacturers, eco-parameter testing labs, Certification Company and retailer. The aim of the research was to understand and investigate the marketing strategies for sustainable textile products. Our goal was to understand how designers, manufacturers and retailers may collaborate to deliver eco-labelled textiles attractive to the end consumer and we conclude by reflecting on potential implications for the supply chain integration.

1. Introduction

1.1 What are Eco-Labels:

Eco-labelling is becoming a differentiating factor on a worldwide scale in retail markets for textile and apparel purchase. Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the adverse impacts of industrial pollution on the environment and their health, resulting mounting pressure on textile, fashion industry to adopt more eco-friendly, chemicals and manufacturing processes. Environmental concerns raised by production systems have been recognised since the late 1960's and attempts to move towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly approaches have been through a range of regulatory measures from green taxes to strict bans. One approach acquiring increasing importance is that of 'environmental labelling' or 'eco-labelling', which, according to Piotrowski and Kratz (2005) differ in that environmental labelling is broad and covers a range of labels and declarations of environmental performance and focus on consumption rather than the production of a given product; e.g. recyclable material while eco-labels are a sub-group of environmental labelling and convey environmental information about a product to the consumer and communicate that the environmental impacts are reduced over the entire life cycle of a product without specifying the production practices.

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Pammi Sinha is associated with Art, Design and Architecture department in The University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK and Rohit Shah is associated with The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


The article was presented at  Textile Institute World Conference on 3-4th November 2010