DIRTY FASHION: British High Street retailers Next, Asda and Tesco are among the companies that continue to source their viscose from dirty and dangerous factories, according to Changing Markets Foundation, a group that exposes irresponsible corporate practices.
Last June, the foundation issued a report called “Dirty Fashion revisited: Spotlight on a polluting viscose giant,” following an investigation into two factories owned by the Mumbai-based Aditya Birla Group.
The latest statement from Changing Markets, set to be issued late Tuesday, said air and water pollution from the factories is among the causes of ongoing health and environmental issues, and that Next, Asda and Tesco continue to work with them despite the claim.
“Our investigation suggests that Aditya Birla Group is failing to live up to its sustainability claims,” said Natasha Hurley, campaign manager at Changing Markets Foundation. “Brands buying from the company should understand what is really happening on the ground, where local residents’ and workers’ lives are blighted by pollution on a daily basis.”
Located in India and Indonesia, the factories produce 20 percent of the world’s viscose fabric. Viscose is made from plants and is biodegradable, but creating the fabric involves the use of hazardous chemicals, which can be harmful if not monitored correctly.
The foundation has said the group is responsible for illnesses, deaths and health issues within communities near the factories, including birth defects, cancer, reproductive problems, stomach disorders and tuberculosis. According to the foundation, Aditya Birla Group has rejected the findings of the 2017 report and has not created a plan to improve the situation.
A spokesman for Next confirmed that the high-street label was first in contact with Changing Markets Foundation more than nine months ago, regarding its investigation into the Aditya Birla Group. “The issues are both complex and very real — and therefore cannot be solved by any single party acting alone. Next is therefore seeking to join with others in the retail sector to work collaboratively on a long-term solution.”
A spokeswoman for Asda commented that the company is “aware of this report and are reviewing its findings and will take action where appropriate.”
Tesco was not available to comment immediately.
The Changing Markets Foundation has also created a roadmap illustrating how the industry can produce sustainably, with brands including Inditex/Zara, H&M, Asos and M&S promising to commit to these guidelines.
“This report again shows that the garment industry needs to take big steps towards a sustainable future,” said Paul Roeland from the Clean Clothes Campaign, a garment industry alliance of labor unions and nongovernmental organizations. “Only with full transparency along the supply chain, coupled with proper inspections, can this be moved forward. Due diligence on environmental and social protection is not an optional luxury but a fundamental duty of brands, suppliers, and investors, wherever production takes place.”