Fourteen major brands and retailers have made a public commitment to clean up their viscose supply chains, sending a strong signal to viscose manufacturers about shifting to responsible viscose production by 2023-25, according to a new investigative report released recently by the Changing Markets Foundation, the Fashion Revolution, the Clean Clothes Campaign, Ethical Consumer and WeMove.EU.
However, the bulk of the fashion brands are still dragging their feet: three-quarters of companies have made few or no commitments to stamp out dirty viscose, it said.
Viscose is a cellulose or wood-pulp-based fibre, derived from trees such as eucalyptus, beech and pine, as well as plants like bamboo. It is the third most used fibre after polyester and cotton.
The report, ‘Dirty Fashion: Crunch Time’, ranks 100 well-known fashion brands, including Nike, Costco, Walmart, TJ Maxx, ASOS and Levi’s, and luxury retailers like Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Versace on their responsible viscose production plans and commitments and progress on transparency.
It evaluated the global textile and fashion industry on its transition towards responsible viscose and modal fibre manufacturing.
Viscose manufacturers producing over half of the global market share have also committed to improve manufacturing and have started investing in closed-loop production processes in line with the Netherlands-based Changing Markets Foundation’s road map.
“With viscose manufacturers representing over half of the global production committing to clean up their act, there is no more excuse for fashion brands to be dragging their feet.” said Urska Trunk, campaign manager at the foundation.
“After years of engagement we are especially surprised by a complete lack of progress by some luxury brands that claim to sell higher quality and more exclusive clothing, while completely ignoring such a key sustainability issue. There is also a very clear divide running across the Atlantic ocean with European brands being much more progressive and committed to lead the change on this issue, while a vast majority of US brands are lingering in the red zone,” she said.
According to the foundation, US fashion brands and international luxury brands consistently underperform their counterparts in responsible viscose manufacturing.
The report categorizes companies in four groups—Frontrunners, Could Do Better, Trailing Behind and the Red Zone—on the basis of their responses to the questionnaire and their publicly available viscose policies. The 28 worst-performing brands assigned to the Red Zone category are those with no viscose-specific policy and transparency of any kind. Sixty four per cent of these brands are US-based.
There is a clear divide between US and European brands. Only two US companies—Reformation and Levi Strauss & Co—signed up to the Roadmap and are considered Frontrunners, while 90 per cent landed in the bottom two categories, showing a lack of engagement and action to stamp out dirty viscose.
Several brands have shown marked improvement when it comes to transparency. Almost all signatory brands disclose some information about their viscose suppliers. Among the most transparent are ASOS, C&A, Esprit, M&S, Reformation and Tesco, which have published extensive lists of their viscose manufacturers on their corporate websites, including the names and, in some cases, full addresses of factories.
In addition to companies—Lenzing, Aditya Birla and ENKA—that were already committed to clean up their production in line with the foundation’s road map, this year two Chinese producers—Sateri and Tangshan Sanyou—broke rank with the Chinese Collaboration for Sustainable Development of Viscose (CV), and joined others in committing to cleaner viscose production.