A greater focus on environmental, social and governance standards, or ESG, at European companies is leading to increased demand for sustainable garments from decorators, according to a new study.

Commissioned by print equipment specialist Roland DG, the poll of 200 garment printers across Europe found that nearly two-thirds (64%) had seen an increase in customers ordering sustainable clothing. Just over half (51%) reported a sharp increase of 30% or more.

Nearly half (48%) described sustainability as a “major commercial opportunity” for their business. A third said they believed customers were willing to pay more money for sustainable garments, and a quarter said these products generated bigger margins.

The report also found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of those polled reported an increase in enquiries about the eco-friendliness of their business practices.

The survey’s findings were supported by Rosie Lees, founder and managing director of garment decorator The Embroidery Barn, based in Dorchester in Dorset, where the set-up features a Roland VersaStudio BT-12 direct-to-garment printer.

She said: “When I relaunched the business in 2018, I decided to focus on the sustainability of our garments and printing practices and expected that within five to seven years it would pay off.

“In reality, I haven’t had to wait that long. During the last 18 months, it’s been our major growth driver and 95% of our customers mention sustainability when they enquire.”

The report also highlighted that garment printers were responding to demand by investing in environmentally friendly inks and equipment. Despite the economic downturn caused by Covid-19, it found that nearly half (47%) of garment printers had taken steps to increase the sustainability of their printing practices.

Encarna Luque, textile lead at Roland DG, said: “ESG is firmly in the spotlight and, as a result, we’ve observed a major shift in customer priorities away from price and towards sustainability.

“Garment printers are some of the most entrepreneurial business owners in our sector, and it’s no surprise to see them investing in this emerging opportunity despite the challenging macroeconomic environment.”