Fashion has a dirty secret and its name is viscose, according to a new report by Changing Markets Foundation, an organization that campaigns for better corporate practice in the clothing industry.
In its latest report, issued this week, the group outlined viscose’s damage to the eco-system, and the fashion industry’s failure to address the problem.
According to the report, the global viscose market is worth $12 billion dollars and is set to reach $15.9 billion by 2021.
Following investigations into viscose’s supply chain, Changing Markets Foundation found that factories, with the majority located in China, were dumping untreated wastewater into nearby bodies of water, while toxic runoff destroyed local agriculture.
As a result of the investigations, Changing Markets has released Roadmap, a set of guidelines for brands to clean up viscose’s damage. Seven retailers have endorsed the Roadmap, including Inditex, Asos, Marks & Spencer, H&M, Tesco, Esprit and C&A.
Campaign director Nusa Urbancic said while major high-street retailers who command a large share of the market are working toward sourcing responsible viscose, the industry still needs to address this key issue.
“It’s time for luxury brands, high-street retailers and online stores to wake up and ingrain responsible sourcing into their policies. It’s a shame that most brands have so far failed to engage with our campaign and lack substance when it comes to responsible sourcing commitments and transparency,” Urbancic said.
Sustainability is becoming an ever-hotter topic because of a seismic shift in consumer attitudes: A YouGov survey reported that 58 percent of shoppers would stop buying from fashion brands that use materials that are damaging to the environment.
The seven retailers who have signed on to the Roadmap have publicly released their viscose policy and disclosed their list of factories and suppliers. Earlier this year, H&M Group announced at Copenhagen Fashion Summit that it has set out to achieve a 100 percent circular and renewable business model.
In March 2018, China — which is home to nine out of 10 of the world’s top viscose suppliers by sales and volume — launched an initiative called Collaboration for the Sustainable Development of Viscose. It requires its members to adhere to industry best practices, although those standards remain ambiguous, according to Changing Markets Foundation.
Another major supplier is Lenzing, which has factories in China and Austria. Lenzing, a main supplier of Asos, Inditex, H&M, Tesco, Esprit, C&A and Next, has been adhering to EU’s best available techniques and to the Changing Markets Roadmap’s emissions parameters.
“Committing to collaborate on the Roadmap toward responsible viscose is crucial. By working together in this way we are able to align our expectations of viscose manufacturers and build the critical mass necessary to accelerate positive change,” said Felix Poza, director of sustainability at Inditex.