Sustainability for Soft Goods: What Retailers and Brands Need to Know

Consumer sentiment impacts purchase decisions in a variety of ways, and among them includes why they buy one garment versus another. For many customers, cost will be a deciding factor on what they purchase. For others, how they feel in what they choose to buy will persuade their purchase decision. And yet for others, they aim to purchase garments that deliver value in durability. But what does this mean exactly?

SGS, the world’s leading testing, inspection and certification company, explains that “from the perspective of the consumer, durability has two meanings – physical and emotional. Physical durability means strong and well-made products that are built to last. A garment with emotional durability will continue to be worn by the consumer because it has a strong and positive association. Therefore, poorly made clothes that are designed in a way that will make them go out of fashion very quickly can be considered nondurable.”

Keeping this in mind, why should retailers, brands and consumers alike support greater sustainability within the textile and clothing industries? Among the reasons, as shared by SGS based on extensive, ongoing research, include that customers who constantly replace products that do not satisfy them are not supporting durably made purchases. Even more importantly, the excess purchasing and production of these products impact our environment with wasted resources and chemicals leaching into the environment. From the perspective of manufacturers and retailers, if their products don’t last or offer poor value to customers, they increase their chance of losing consumers based on dissatisfaction of product purchases. This leads to profit loss, as well, but more so it’s impacting the wellness of our environment. And as SGS stresses, “the scale of the problem is enormous.”

“Globally, it is estimated the average consumer will discard 31.75 kg of clothing every year. This equates to 13 million tons of textile waste, of which around 95% could be reused or recycled,” explains SGS.

As you look to strengthen your customer sentiment, also consider what impacts this sentiment. And with over a third of customers reported to value ethical practices in the products and services they buy, now more so than ever it’s critical to keep sustainable efforts in mind when making your own purchase decisions for your business.

What Retailers and Manufacturers Can Do to Support Sustainability

Being proactive is the number one way companies large and small alike can help make a difference in supporting sustainability. This begins with recognizing the value and purpose of sustainable efforts, then follows with actionable intent to work with companies with like-minded goals. But remember. Intent alone does not translate to action. You must follow through proactively in order to achieve the change you’re looking for.

To begin introducing sustainable actions into your business, start with a focused effort in identifying sustainable solutions with a core focus on durability and preferred materials. To help, SGS has created a comprehensive durability assessment service to support manufacturers who want to develop garments and textiles with a longer lifespan. For retailers, these are the companies to turn to when considering what vendors to introduce to their stores. When reviewing potential vendors for your store, ask them what their sustainable efforts are. Then compare these to SGS standards.

Additionally, manufacturers and retailers should note that the SGS durability assessment service can be tailored to the individual requirements of the business, and can include testing protocols covering base materials, performance and longevity. As SGS describes, this is a “proactive, augments best practice, and helps manufacturers to deliver value-added products to markets all over the world. After all, it’s only trusted because it’s tested.”

Beyond Durability: Action Steps to Support Sustainable Efforts

While durability is a key factor in driving sustainable actions and reducing fiber fragments of textile products during the laundering process is also important. 

Pollution from fiber fragments released during the laundering process causes harm to our environment and thus, heighten both the concern and need for stronger sustainable efforts. As SGS explains, “we have led the way and developed innovative protocols to help businesses understand the problem and manage their risks” with fiber fragments being released, with services they offer helping to reduce this harm. 

As businesses leverage SGS to support them, they can also look forward to gaining trust from their customers that reinforces their sustainable efforts. One way to do this is to participate in the SGS Independently Checked Mark (IC Mark) program. 

The SGS IC Mark helps brands build trust with consumers because it identifies that products have been reviewed and verified as passing independent, third-party tests supporting sustainability. Whether a retailer or manufacturer, the IC Mark provides seven testing criteria to test their products, including:

  1. Quality
  2. Performance
  3. Durability
  4. Functionality
  5. Usability
  6. Workmanship
  7. Preferred Materials

Through these 7 initiatives, consumers gain clarity on the safety and overall value of sustainable efforts in the products they seek to buy.  Held in an online database, customers can also cross reference products thanks to the IC Mark testing to ensure they are investing in sustainable products that are right for them. 

Why Sustainability Matters to Retailers and Manufacturers

With resources available to support sustainable efforts, there are truly no excuses to not using them. Even with cost always a consideration in business, lower costs is among the advantages of sustainable efforts.

Collectively, here are some of the benefits for soft goods production when using sustainable best practices, as explained by SGS.

Reduction in environmental impact through:

  •       Less need for clothing replacements
  •       Reduced waste levels
  •       Reductions in resources for manufacturing
  •       Enhance reusability, upgradability and reparability

Regulatory compliance for durability that includes:

  •       Higher prices – consumers will pay more for high quality products with longer lifespans
  •       Lower costs – proactive engagement means potential problems are identified and rectified at an earlier stage 
  •       Brand loyalty – durable products are less lightly to fail, thereby securing psychological loyalty from consumers. Additionally, in a connected world, if a consumer likes a brand, they are likely to talk about it on review sites and social media

With reduction of waste levels, reducing of production, enhancing of reusability and even lowering costs as a direct result of sustainable efforts, it is fair to say that this is an important consideration to prioritize for your unique business. Factor in the one third of customers who this directly supports and the more positive impact it has on our Earth, and it’s easy to see the many advantages of soft goods sustainability.

To learn more about how SGS can better support your unique businesses and of course, our Planet Earth, visit where you will find an abundance of information, including contact details to get in touch with SGS.

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