Researchers Find Consumers Willing to Buy Sustainable U.S. Cotton

As the interest in environmentally responsible business practices grows globally, researchers are interested in how that interest translates into consumer sales. Researchers from the University of Missouri (MU) have found that United States consumers are more willing to buy clothing made from sustainably grown U.S. cotton than apparel produced using conventional practices in an unknown location. Jung Ha-Brookshire, an assistant professor in the textile and apparel management department in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at MU, says transparency is the key.

"It is important for the apparel industry to remain transparent about its products, especially if they are produced in a sustainable manner," Ha-Brookshire said. "We have shown that consumers want to know where their clothes come from and would rather buy sustainably produced clothes. Many apparel companies use sustainable practices; however, they don't promote them very well."
 
Ha-Brookshire and fellow researcher Pamela Norum, an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the textile and apparel management department at MU, define sustainable cotton-growing practices as using fewer pesticides and less water, land, and energy compared to traditional practices, which result in a decreased environmental impact.
 
For their research, Ha-Brookshire and Norum surveyed 500 respondents nationwide. They found that not only were consumers more willing to buy sustainably produced cotton apparel grown in the U.S. over nonspecific cotton apparel, but consumers were willing to pay up to five dollars (16.7 percent) more for a $30 cotton shirt produced sustainably in the U.S.
 
Norum believes these results show how important it is for U.S. cotton growers and apparel companies to promote themselves.
 
"The apparel industry and specifically U.S. cotton farmers are missing a big opportunity to promote their brand," Norum said. "Consumers want to buy sustainably produced cotton and they want to buy U.S. cotton. Many U.S. cotton farmers are using these sustainable practices but aren't communicating that fact well enough to the public. If they would increase transparency about cotton production consumers would be more likely to buy their products."
 
The studies by Ha-Brookshire and Norum were published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing and Clothing and Textiles Research Journal.

Download Center

  • Your Guide to Environmental Metrics that Drive Performance

    Translating sustainability into action starts with implementing the right metrics to assess your environmental risk and performance. Learn how to design metrics that improve your decision-making process and drive enterprise performance.

  • Unpacking ESG: 6 Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask

    Environmental and Sustainability experts from Arcadis and Cority answer 6 of the most pressing questions EHS professionals have about getting started with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting.

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

  • Streamline Your Air Emissions Management

    See how consolidating all your emissions management functions into one centralized system can help you streamline your operations, more easily maintain compliance, and achieve greater time and cost savings.

  • A Crash Course in Creating the Right Environmental Scoring System

    Learn how to develop the right environmental scoring system so you can easily benchmark performance across all your facilities and gain a holistic view of your environmental programs.

  • Industry Safe