Eco-textiles - from the eco-niche into the trend market!

Optimum communication strategies and motives for the purchase of eco-textiles by specific target groups are investigated. The results are reviewed with respect to the transferability to other branches of sustainable production and marketing. Aim of the project is to foster the supply of eco-textile products and thereby promoting the Austrian eco-textile producers and retailers.

Short Description




Existing ecolabels and marketing of sustainable were investigated. Based on these results a consumer-analysis was carried out. Marketing experts and textile retailers developed successful marketing and communication strategies for sustainable textiles. Aim of the project was to foster the supply of eco-textile products and thereby promoting the Austrian eco-textile producers and retailers.

Globalisation and missing EU trading restrictions for textiles result in the flooding of the domestic market by Asian products. Deteriorating working conditions, huge ecological damage in the producing regions and health risks are most likely. Austria's high quality textile products are replaced by cheap imported goods.

Alternatively sustainable eco-textiles are produced on ethical working conditions, ecological criteria and are free of harmful substances. In Austria these textiles are still in an eco-niche. The aim of the project was to promote the supply of sustainable eco-textiles and thereby also strengthening the Austrian producers and retail sellers.

As a first step in the present project eco-textile-labels available in Austria and their respective criteria were investigated. Marketing strategies for eco-textiles (for example fashion boutiques, mail-order, whole food shops) were screened and documented. Successful examples of best practice marketing were presented to motivate Austrian retailers to merchandise eco-textiles.

In co-operation with the Austrian Gallup Institute a representative study with 1.000 consumers in Austria was carried out. Characteristics were developed to describe potential target groups interested in eco-textiles. Optimum communication strategies and motives for the purchase of eco-textiles by specific target groups were investigated.

The applicant's main focus was to inform and motivate all involved stakeholders to guarantee a permanent success. The results of the consumer study were presented in two different workshops. The participants of one workshop were vendors of eco-textiles, the other workshop was intended for retailers of conventional textiles. The aim of those workshops was to find suitable communication and marketing strategies for eco-textiles in Austria, based on the results of the consumer study and the examples of best practice from Switzerland and Germany. All relevant protagonists (for example producers, retailers and representatives of Chamber of Commerce) were involved in the developing processes. The results of the workshops were published in two manuals and provided to retailers and producers. The results were presented to representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Austrian Industry.

To facilitate the transfer of the results to other branches of business, experts from other economic sectors with ecological relevance (cosmetics, detergents, shoes, sustainable construction and living products) were interviewed. The relevant items for the marketing of ecological products were summed up in the "1x1 of eco-marketing".

The results

43 eco-textile-labels on the Austrian market were investigated. More than half of them guarantee ecological and social criteria and work without harmful substances. Retailers of conventional textiles sell textiles with the label "Öko-Tex Standard 100" which only limits the use of harmful substances. Eco-textiles that meet social, ecological and health criteria are only sold by vendors of eco-textiles and mail-order business. The lack of eco-textiles in conventional retail business was a major point of criticism. The consumer study proved a lack of information on eco-textiles and problems of textile production. 30 % of the participants showed an interest in eco-textiles. The main target group for eco-textiles are women from 30 to 50 years with higher income. Ecological benefits are only additional value to price, quality and perfect fit. Austrian consumers highly trust in quality labels. Eco-textile-labels therefore could be a prominent tool to increase the sales of eco-textiles. The most sensitive target-group for eco-textiles are parents with babies and little children. Healthy textiles are important for this group.

The flavourless "Eco-Image" of the 1980ies is still apparent even though the offer is meanwhile more fashionable and diversified. A marketing-guide for producers and vendors of eco-textiles was created to do low-budget-marketing. Communication and marketing strategies for conventional retail business were worked out and written in a marketing guide.

To sensitize consumers for the choice of eco-textiles and to change the image of eco-textiles an increased use of advertising and the sale in conventional retail business are essential.

Project Partners

Project management

Mag.a Michaela Knieli, "die umweltberatung" Wien, Kompetenz-Zentrum Lebensmittel & Konsum

Project partners:

  • Dr. Roswitha Hasslinger, Dr.Karmasin Marktforschung GmbH "Das Österreichische Gallup Institut"
  • Dr. Michael Arretz, Sustain Consulting GmbH
  • Rolf Heimann (Leiter Innovation & Ökologie Hess Naturtextilien GmbH & Co Kg) natur)
  • Anja Lütke-Wissing, Symbiosis², Partner für strategische Kreativität

Contact Address

Mag.a Michaela Knieli
"die umweltberatung" Wien, Kompetenz-Zentrum Lebensmittel & Konsum
Hollergasse 22, A-1150 Wien
Tel.: +43 (1) 688 77 68 - 15
Fax: +43 (1) 688 77 68 - 22