Rainforest Action Network

Ralph Lauren Corp. has developed a policy on the use of wood-based fabrics, such as viscose and rayon, and has committed to trace the source for those fabrics to eliminate sources connected to the destruction of the rainforest and the violation of human rights.

This will apply to the company’s extensive operations and comes as it continues to work on its framework for tracking, assessing and developing purchasing guidelines for the raw materials used in its products.

“In 2017, Ralph Lauren intends to publish and implement our new sourcing guidelines on wood-based fabrics as part of a broader initiative to establish a trace-ability, risk assessment and verification framework for the raw materials that we use,” said Halide Alagöz, Ralph Lauren’s senior vice president of global manufacturing and sourcing. “We’ve already communicated our commitment to our vendors. We believe this initiative demonstrates Ralph Lauren’s commitment to the environment with responsible and traceable sourcing, which we believe will create a positive impact on ecosystems and global communities.”

Ralph Lauren’s policy and actions on wood-based fabrics were developed in cooperation with Rainforest Action Network and its “Out of Fashion” campaign, which has been bringing attention to the risks that wood-based fabrics pose to endangered forests and human rights in Indonesia and elsewhere.

“Rainforests are more valuable left standing than being converted to pulp plantations for fabric,” said Brihannala Morgan, senior forest campaigner with Rainforest Action Network, who worked with Ralph Lauren on the creation of its policy. “Indigenous communities in North Sumatra and elsewhere have been suffering the direct impacts of land-grabbing and other human rights abuses from the production of forest fabrics and have been fighting back against expansion onto their traditional lands for over 20 years. It’s heartening to see brands beginning to take responsibility for their supply chains. Ralph Lauren’s commitments and actions, along with those of more than 60 other brands who have developed policies, can have a real positive impact for forests and the people that depend on them.”

Ralph Lauren joins brands such as H&M, Zara, Stella McCartney, ASOS, Levis Strauss & Co. and others that have already adopted forest products purchasing policies and moved to source more responsibly in order to slow the rate at which the world’s remaining endangered and ancient forests are being pulped for fabrics like rayon, Modal and viscose.

Over the course of its Out of Fashion campaign, RAN encouraged its membership and consumers to write to Ralph Lauren and other “Fashion 15” brands to call attention to the environmental and social impacts of forest-based fabrics and to ask the companies to take immediate action. RAN’s Out of Fashion campaign is calling on other brands to develop robust purchasing policies, research their supply chains, identify and eliminate controversial sources and implement time-bound plans to ensure that loss of forests and violations of human rights are not in their supply chains.

Lenzing, a major cellulosic fiber producer, with products such as Tencel, Modal and viscose, was ranked number-one globally by the Canadian environmental organization Canopy Planet Society regarding procurement of wood, the key raw material in its fiber production.

This was the conclusion of the latest global ranking compiled by Canopy, which cooperates with 68 leading retail brands in the textile industry worldwide and is a key source in evaluating sustainable sourcing processes.

In its report, Canopy assessed the performance on forest conservation and wood-sourcing practices of the major players of the cellulose fiber industry. It also commended Lenzing for its new Tencel fiber that uses cotton fabric waste as an alternative source of raw material.

Tricia Carey, director of business development at Lenzing, said the company has had discussions with Ralph Lauren on the topic.

Of the RAN-Ralph Lauren development, Carey added, “This type of press is actually good to raise awareness on how Lenzing is set apart from other man-made cellulosic fibers.”