New York – Changing Markets Foundation’s recent report confirms China’s viscose producers’ failure to meet global expectations for sustainable production of the textile material. ‘Dirty Fashion: Spotlight on China, by the Changing Markets Foundation’ unveils that the largest Chinese producers of the most common fabric won’t be able to meet the 3-year roadmap they committed to earlier this year.
In 2018 the Collaboration for Sustainable Development of Viscose (CV) launched a three-year roadmap with a view to help Chinese viscose producers achieve sustainable supply chains.
Ten major Chinese viscose producers - which together make up an estimated 50 percent of the world’s supply – joined forces last summer with two Chinese textile trade associations to design and abide by this 3-year roadmap. This plan required its members to adopt a new framework to help clean up the sector through the adoption of industry best practice and alignment with international manufacturing standards.
The new roadmap stipulates that all viscose cellulosic raw materials should be certified to either FSC or PEFC traceability standards as well as the local environmental standard BG/T 14463 for viscose staple fibre production.
The initiative gained strong endorsement from fashion brands such as Inditex, ASOS, H&M, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Esprit, C&A and Next.
Despite the initiative’s noble goals, many in the industry have raised their suspicions regarding the lack of transparency and therefore, the viability of it.
V Roadmap’s critics blame the initiative failure on a fundamental lack of transparency
One of the most critic voices on this matter is Changing Markets Foundation, which has been investigating and campaigning on sustainable viscose production since early 2017. The non-profit has found in recent research that CV Roadmap allows members to pick and choose between different standards, and lacks ambition and transparency.
Their report reveals that:
The CV Roadmap ”lacks ambition, by not obliging its members to achieve the highest level of the Chinese Clean Production Standard for viscose (which the Chinese government itself recommends for companies selling to the international market) or a standard that would align with the most ambitious current guidelines for cleaner viscose manufacturing: EU Best Available Techniques (BAT).” In this regard, the report’s author recalls that the world’s two largest viscose manufacturers — Lenzing and Aditya Birla Group — have already committed to achieving EU BAT, which is the standard supported by several leading fashion brands and retailers through their commitment to the Changing Markets Roadmap.
This framework “allows members to pick and choose from a selection of certification standards and industry self-assessment tools, which have been criticised by NGOs for their lack of ambition (for example the PEFC standard for wood sourcing) or for failing to take a holistic approach (e.g. by only certifying a small part of the supply chain or simply the quality of the end product without addressing environmental impacts from manufacturing).”
”Lacks clarity and transparency, by failing to provide publicly available information about how the Roadmap will be enforced, monitored, verified and whether it will sanction non-complying members.’
Chinese viscose producers fail to embrace the industry’s efforts to achieve sustainability
“At a time when major fashion brands such as Next and Inditex are sending a clear message to their suppliers to commit to responsible production of viscose, it is hugely disappointing to see such shortcomings in the CV Roadmap,” said in a corporate release from late November Urska Trunk, Campaign Adviser at Changing Markets.
Furthermore, pointed out Trunk, “It is a weak attempt to clean up the Chinese viscose industry and much more needs to be done to ensure that Chinese producers are aiming for the same level of ambition as other industry players. In its current format, brands and retailers should not consider membership of the CV initiative and commitment to the CV Roadmap as proof of good environmental performance.”
China is third largest viscose producer worldwide
Viscose is the fashion industry’s third most commonly used fabric. Also known as rayon, its a manufactured fibre made from regenerated cellulose, or wood pulp, which is considered to be a major cause of global deforestation.
The rapid development of China’s textile industry has become one of the biggest threats to its environment. China is the largest textile producer in the world and has a 63 percent share of the global viscose market. The new report also highlights that Chinese viscose factories — including sites operated by the members of the CV initiative — continue to violate government regulations.
As a biodegradable fiber, viscose has the potential to be a sustainable alternative to oil-derived synthetics and water-hungry cotton. However, many viscose manufacturers have yet to adopt responsible production methods and sustainable wood sourcing practices.
Image: Spotlight on China report - Changing Markets