Fashion brands failing to clean up viscose production

What do luxury brands such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Dior have in common with low-cost retailers Walmart, Matalan and Boohoo?

Answer: They are all failing to tackle pollution in their viscose supply chains – causing huge harm to ecosystems and local communities at production sites in India, China, and Indonesia.

Viscose is the third most commonly used fibre in the world, popular for its ability to replicate the properties of silk and cotton.

Being made from trees and plants means viscose has huge potential to be a sustainable alternative to oil-derived synthetics such as polyester and water-hungry natural fibres such as cotton. However, viscose has become synonymous with deforestation, the dumping of untreated wastewater and the use of toxic chemicals that pollute water, air and soil around factories and cause severe health impacts for workers and local communities.

And new analysis carried out by the Dirty Fashion campaign from Changing Markets Foundation has shown that the majority of retailers are failing to act to clean up their viscose supply chains.

Urska Trunk, Campaigns Adviser at Changing Markets Foundation said:$

“Our findings show that many brands and retailers are still paying lip service and making lofty promises, rather than actually delivering transformative change.

Trunk added: “With increasing awareness of the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry, people expect clothing companies to take responsibility for their supply chains. Brands and retailers can no longer turn a blind eye to this. They need to rise to the challenge and open their supply chains up to external scrutiny to put the industry on a more sustainable footing.”

Leaders of the pack?

91 major clothing companies and producers’ progress on achieving responsible viscose production was scrutinised.

Ten ‘frontrunner’ brands and retailers – Inditex, ASOS, H&M, Tesco, Marks & Spencer (M&S), Esprit, C&A, Next, New Look and Morrisons – have now pledged to meet the requirements set out in Changing Markets ‘Roadmap towards responsible viscose and modal fibre manufacturing’.

The remaining companies have been given rankings ranging from ‘could do better’ to ‘red alert’ for brands such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Walmart, Matalan and Boohoo who have no viscose-specific policy of any kind.

EU poised for action on textiles

Yesterday, new research from the European Environment Agency revealed that the EU’s consumption of clothing, footwear, and household textiles uses a mammoth 675 million tonnes of raw materials every year – an average of 1.3 tonnes per EU citizen.

The textile industry is set to be a major focus of incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s flagship European Green Deal policy and in October EU environment ministers called on the European Commission to put forward a proposal for an EU Textile Strategy to move the sector away from unsustainable production and consumption patterns.

It was also reported this week that Amazon has now publicly disclosed the names, addresses, and other details of more than 1000 facilities that produce Amazon-branded products, including apparel. However, human rights groups, labour rights organisations, and global unions said that the list is “not easily accessible, sortable, or sufficiently specific to learn the type of products made in each of the listed facilities, limiting its value for consumers, workers, and labour advocates”.