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Responsible Fibres and Materials Glossary

Responsible Fibres and Materials Glossary

Our Fibres and Materials Glossary shares the fibres, materials and processes most commonly used in our business, acknowledging the journey we are on. Similarly, we are converting to production processes that help to reduce energy, water, carbon and chemicals in their processing.

Our work extends to actively seeking new and innovative materials while we look to phase out the use of conventional materials. The fibres, materials and production methods listed below were used in our 2023 apparel or non-apparel ranges.


  • Recycled cotton
    Produced by turning discarded textiles into new cotton yarn, recycled cotton helps to divert waste from landfill. Generally, it comes from two main sources: pre-consumer waste and post-consumer waste.
  • Organic cotton
    Organic cotton is cotton that is produced and certified to organic agricultural standards. Its production sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people by using natural processes rather than artificial inputs. Organic cotton farming does not allow the use of toxic chemicals or GMOs.
  • Australian cotton
    Cotton grown and processed in Australia is one of the most water-efficient cotton-growing countries in the world, thanks to a range of innovations, including reducing evaporation and precision irrigation. We’re supporting our homegrown cotton industry.
  • Africa Cotton
    This sustainable cotton program launched in 2014 in Kwale County, Kenya in partnership with Business for Development and has since expanded to Mozambique.
  • Better Cotton
    Better Cotton is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to raising the sustainability standard of cotton production globally. Better Cotton is sourced via a system of mass balance and is not physically traceable to end products. Better Cotton is sourced via a chain of custody model called mass balance. This means that Better Cotton is not physically traceable to end products, however, Better Cotton Farmers benefit from the demand for Better Cotton in equivalent volumes to those Cotton On ‘sources.’

Synthetic fibres

  • Recycled polyester
    Recycled polyester is most commonly sourced from waste PET material. It helps to reduce plastic waste and prevent it from ending up in our oceans and landfills. It can also be sourced from used textiles such as clothing and upholstery.
  • Recycled polyamide
    Industrial waste makes up a large part of recycled polyamide production. This can include pre- and post-consumer waste such as discarded fishing nets, recycled PET and fabric waste. Sourcing recycled polyamide helps to repurpose waste and reduce the environmental impact of producing new polyamide fibres.
  • Recycled polyurethane
    Produced through mechanical or chemical recycling of discarded fabrics. Most commonly used to replicate leather.
  • REPREVE® polyester
    REPREVE® recycled performance fibre is produced through turning plastic bottles into yarn. The yarn can then be spun or woven into new products, diverting plastic bottles from landfill.

Plastic materials

  • Recycled polystyrene, recycled polyethylene, recycled polypropylene, recycled polyethylene vinyl acetate, recycled thermoplastic polyurethane, recycled PET
    There are several forms of plastic materials as listed on the left. These types of recycled plastics are most commonly produced through the collection of pre- and post-consumer plastic waste. They are mechanically or chemically processed into chips or flakes which are able to be repurposed into various plastic yarns or materials. Sourcing recycled plastic alternatives reduces reliance on virgin petroleum as a raw material and helps to diverts used plastic from landfills. They also produce less greenhouse gas emissions versus creating and processing virgin plastic and reduce water usage during production.
    Tritan is a BPA-free plastic. It is not manufactured with bisphenol A (BPA) or other bisphenol compounds, such as bisphenol S (BPS). Tritan is impact-resistant —products can be used without fear of shattering.
  • TRITAN™ RENEW plastic
    TRITAN™ RENEW plastic technology processes single-use waste into high performance, food-safe materials that are highly durable, dishwasher safe, and free of BPA, BPS and BPF chemicals.

Viscose fibres

  • LENZING™ TENCEL™ ModalWood pulp from responsibly managed forests is transformed into LENZING™ Modal fibres. Trees such as beech wood are harvested, chipped and chemically processed to form cellulose, which is then made into pulp sheets and spun into yarns. This process reduces energy and water consumption during production compared to traditional fibres, with land usage significantly reduced in comparison to traditional fibres as well.
  • LENZING™ ECOVERO™ viscoseLENZING™ viscose fibres are derived from certified renewable wood sources using up to 50% lower emissions and water impact than generic viscose production.
  • BIRLA CELLULOSE™ Liva RevivaThese viscose fibres are superior in terms of low water intensity, land-use efficiency, potential for circularity and versatility in applications. It is based on naturally occurring cellulose from wood, from sustainably managed forests and made using a closed-loop system which minimises the use of chemicals, water and energy.
  • Tangshan Sanyou viscose
    Viscose fibres that are sourced through supply chains that ensure raw materials come from responsibly managed forests.
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified viscose fibres
    FSC-Certified viscose fibres are made with wood pulp from responsibly managed plantations.


Other plant fibres

  • HempA fast-growing fibre that’s highly renewable and requires significantly less water to grow than cotton. Hemp plants are natural pest repellents, so there’s no need for pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilisers. It can be blended with other natural fibres to create fabrics that are durable for longer wear and stay super soft.
  • LinenLinen is derived from the flax plant. It is considered to have a lower negative environmental footprint as it is a resilient crop and can grow in poor soil conditions while using less water in its consumption than cotton.

Animal fibres

  • AlpacaCeres Life uses alpaca fibres across their knitwear ranges. Alpaca fibre can use less energy to produce than synthetics, are renewable and often more breathable and hypoallergenic for your skin.
  • Australian wool
    Refers to Australian sourced merino wool. Australia is the largest producer of Merino wool in the world. With a commitment to responsible practices and animal welfare, Australia is also the largest producer of non-mulesing wool in the world.
  • Recycled woolRecycled wool is wool that has been reprocessed from reclaimed wool fibres and fabrics. To make recycled wool, the wool fibres are shredded and re-spun into yarns. It reduces textile waste to landfill.

Paper and cardboard

  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified mix virgin and recycled paper
    Made from a mixture of materials from FSC-certified forests, recycled materials and/or FSC-controlled wood. While controlled wood doesn’t come from FSC-certified forests, it mitigates the risk of the material originating from unacceptable sources. FSC certification ensures that the wood is sourced from forests that are responsibly managed including, but not limited to, water and energy use, as well as the end product’s overall environmental rating.
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified virgin paper
    All materials used come from responsibly managed, FSC-certified forests.

Stock fabrics

  • Polyester, cotton, viscose, polyurethaneStock fabrics are those that are leftover, unwanted or overstocked. We reclaim these fabrics to reduce the environmental impact of producing something new.

Sustainable Viscose

  • Tangshan Sanyou Viscose is a member of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and Canopy which ensures the sourcing of viscose is from protected forests globally and adheres to strict forest management standards.


  • Recycled metalMetal pieces that are shredded into flakes and then melted down at high temperatures to produce blocks, ingots or sheets to be repurposed. It uses less energy, reduces carbon emissions and less water compared to raw materials.
  • Nickle-free metalNickel deposits are typically found in low-grade ores, making it a highly energy intensive process to extract and refine the metal. Nickel has high greenhouse gas emissions, habitat destruction, and contamination of air, water and soil.

Reduced water washing

  • Ozone washG2 Ozone technology that uses oxygen to generate ozone gas, which has natural bleaching capabilities. It substantially reduces the consumption of water, energy, chemicals, enzymes and stones.
  • LaserThis technology can achieve precise, repeatable bleaching and can replicate wear effects without water, chemicals or stones. It also helps to eliminate harmful processes that affect workers’ health, such as sandblasting, hand sanding and potassium permanganate sprays.
  • NanobubbleAlso known as e-Flow system, this technology transforms oxygen into nanobubbles of air that act as a carrier to apply various finishing effects with minimal amounts of water and chemicals.
  • Natural dryingRooftop drying systems help to reduce the need for machine drying, which uses a lot of energy. This is done by integrated hangers that move garments around to dry them.


  • UV plantingUV plating is a process which allows us to reduce the water usage in jewellery plating.

Terms and Phrases


Better Denim Case Study Data
We worked with RESET Carbon, a specialist supply chain and environmental consultancy, to measure and analyse the environmental impact of Cotton On denim against industry denim that uses conventional cotton washing methods. The results were calculated based on the standard weight of all denim garments in our July 2022 range, averaging 160g. We selected the Long Straight Jean and High Mom Short in the women’s denim range to best represent this average across denim jeans and denim shorts. Our estimation of carbon reduction is based on suppliers’ information about fuel mix, and analysis of EIM reports. Suppliers’ fuel mix information was gathered through interviews, while electricity and steam consumption were differentiated by comparing the EIM report with normal washing methods and an alternative version with all steps changed to 25°C.

Chain of custody
A system to document and guarantee the path taken by a raw material through all stages of transfer and production, to the final product. Transaction certificates (TCs) are issued each time the products are shipped and verified by the certification body to the producer and recipient. Working a bit like a domino system, a TC for a final product can only be issued and verified if all previous TCs along the production chain were in place.

A certificate supplied by the certification body, confirming that the traded product has been produced in accordance with a specific standard. Transaction certificates are issued when goods are changing ownership.

End of Day
The end of a trading day – the point when trading stops.

End-of-life solutions
We know that our products need to be designed to last long and with end-of-life considerations in mind, for example, what happens to our clothing after it’s no longer worn.

Man-made cellulosic fibres
Man-made cellulosic fibres are produced from dissolved wood pulp (“cellulose”) of trees. Viscose, lyocell, acetate and modal are all examples of manmade cellulosic fibres.

Non-apparel categories
Jewellery and hair
Bags and belts
Soft accessories (knitted hats / scarves)
Beach and swim accessories
Active accessories (yoga mats)
Travel accessories (sleeping bags)
Hardgoods (drink bottles)
Beauty and nails

Plastic materials
Styrene-acrylonitrile resin, ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), acrylic, polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polycarbonate, polyethylene, polyethylene vinyl acetate, polyurethane, thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), thermoplastic rubber.

Pre-consumer waste
Material captured from the waste stream during the manufacturing process. Examples of pre consumer materials that may be recycled: textile offcuts and material, industrial waste, plastics.

Post-consumer waste
Material captured from the waste stream after being used by a consumer. Examples of post-consumer materials that may be recycled are used t-shirts and plastic bottles.

Print volume
Print volume not paper volume. Two ‘prints’ could be either two single-sided pages or one page, double-sided.

Responsibly sourced materials
Responsible materials refer to fabric and components. Components refer to thread, zips, buttons, eyelets, hinges, aglets, etc.

Stock fabrics
Stock fabrics are those that are leftover, unwanted or overstocked. We reclaim these fabrics to reduce the environmental impact of producing something new.

Supply chain
The network of all individuals, organisations, resources, activities and technology involved in the creation and sale of a product. It encompasses everything from the delivery of source materials from a supplier to the manufacturing processes, through to the delivery to an end user.

Sustainable attribute
Sustainable attribute refers to when we include a fibre, material or production process that is considered to have reduced environmental impact.

Sustainably sourced cotton
Cotton that is produced in a way that minimises environmental impact and makes cotton production more sustainable. This includes cotton sourced through our own cotton growing program in Africa, recycled cotton, organic cotton, Australian cotton and by supporting responsible cotton production through partnership with Better Cotton.

Synthetic materials
Man-made fibres prepared from petrochemicals that are derived from fossil fuels, including polyester, polyamide, elastane, polyurethane, polychloroprene, polyethylene vinyl acetate and polyvinyl chloride.

Value chain
The full life cycle of a process or product, which includes the sourcing of materials, production, consumption and the disposal or recycling processes.

Visual merchandising
The planning and building of displays within our stores.

14 waste streams
Non-Confidential Paper
Confidential Paper
Hard Waste
Soft Plastics
Mixed Recycling
Green Waste
Liquid Waste
Textile Recycling