The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. According to the World Bank, 20 percent of water pollution globally is caused by textile processing, making it the second biggest polluter of freshwater resources on the planet. A full quarter of the chemicals produced in the world are used in textiles and it is also highly resource-intensive. With clothing consumption predicted to soar by 60 percent by 2030 through the rise of ever-faster fashion, the industry clearly needs to change course. Our campaign is focused on the manufacturing of viscose, a man-made cellulose fibre derived from wood pulp, which could be sustainable, but is often not due to its prevalent production methods. The campaign highlights the environmental and social impact of ‘dirty’ viscose production and shines light on the global supply chains.
Dirty Fashion: Spotlight on China
This report shines a spotlight on a new sustainability initiative from ten of China’s leading viscose manufacturers – the Chinese Collaboration for Sustainable Development of Viscose (CV). Through analysis of the initiative and comparison of the accompanying ‘CV Roadmap’ to Changing Markets’ own Roadmap towards responsible viscose and modal fibre manufacturing, we take the view that Chinese producers need to adopt a more ambitious approach to match action being taken by other industry players. Since the publication of our first Dirty Fashion report in June 2017, eight brands and retailers have signed up to Changing Markets’ Roadmap and are calling on their viscose suppliers to move to ‘closed-loop’ production defined as a system that ensures emission controls and chemical recovery rates in line with EU Best Available Techniques (BAT). The two largest viscose producers in the world – Lenzing and Aditya Birla Group – have both begun working on plans to make all their sites compliant with the requirements of the Changing Markets’ Roadmap and are committing significant capital investment to this effort. However, as our report shows, the Chinese initiative, whose members account for 60% of the global viscose market, lacks ambition and will not drive the transformation of the sector in line with international standards. Our report provides clear recommendations on how the Chinese initiative can be improved and why the industry needs to set its sights higher.
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Dirty Fashion: on track for transformation
One year on from the launch of our Dirty Fashion campaign, Dirty Fashion: on track for transformation assesses the progress made to date by global apparel companies and viscose manufacturers in the transition towards responsibly-produced viscose. Through detailed scrutiny of clothing brands’ sourcing policies and transparency performance (presented as an annex), and manufacturers’ responsible production plans, this report examines progress to date and gaps in existing commitments and pledges. Since the publication of the first Dirty Fashion report in June 2017, seven retailers have signed up to Changing Markets’ Roadmap towards responsible viscose and modal fibre manufacturing and are calling on their viscose suppliers to move to ‘closed-loop’ production defined as a system that ensures emission controls and chemical recovery rates in line with EU Best Available Techniques (BAT). The two largest viscose producers in the world (Lenzing and Aditya Birla Group) have both committed to make concrete investments to clean up production and have begun working on plans to make all their sites compliant with the requirements of the Roadmap. While substantial process has been made in a relatively short time, much now depends on the implementation of these plans. Brands continue to play a key role in this process through engagement with their viscose producers, while civil society also has a role to play by maintaining pressure on the industry to be transparent and accountable across its entire supply chain.
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Roadmap towards responsible viscose & modal fibre manufacturing
This roadmap outlines key principles and guidelines for cleaning up the manufacturing of viscose and modal, and was developed to provide guidance to brands and retailers, following the publication of Dirty Fashion: how pollution in the global textile supply chain is making viscose toxic. The document outlines general prerequisites for responsible sourcing by brands, and calls for brands to leverage their purchasing power to move viscose manufacturers to closed-loop production system by 2023-25. A number of high street brands, including ASOS, Inditex, H&M, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Esprit and C&A, have publicly committed to include the key principles on responsible viscose production, as set out in section 4 of this Roadmap, in their responsible sourcing policies. Changing Markets Foundation, along with other NGOs, is calling on the other brands and retailers to follow their lead and move viscose industry in a sustainable direction.
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The false promise of certification: How certification is hindering sustainability in the textiles, palm oil and fisheries industries
Faced with the gravity of today’s environmental and social problems, consumers are increasingly seeking out sustainable products that minimise negative impacts on people and the planet. In the UK alone, the market for ethical products grew to more than £81.3 billion in 2017, with demand for sustainable fish growing by nearly 37% in 2016. Consumers often rely on labels to identify more responsibly made products. This trend has led to the proliferation in the number of different schemes and voluntary initiatives: The Ecolabel Index currently lists over 460 labels in 25 different sectors. But are they any good? This report investigated voluntary initiatives in three sectors where growing consumption and unsustainable sourcing have caused serious environmental problems: palm oil, fisheries and textiles. It shows that, rather than being an accelerator for positive change, the certification has lost its way and its contribution to creating a more sustainable world is minute. In order for voluntary initiatives to become part of the solution again, they need to undergo significant reforms, which should be based on transparency, independence, a holistic approach with high traceability, and a drive for continuous improvement.
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Dirty Fashion revisited: spotlight on a polluting viscose giant
Following on from the launch of Dirty Fashion in June 2017, this report presents an update on the environmental and human health impacts related to pollution at two factories owned by the world’s largest viscose producer, Aditya Birla Group. In late 2017, our investigators revisited two of Birla’s sites in Madhya Pradesh (India) and West Purwakarta (Indonesia) and gathered evidence pointing to illegal manufacturing discharges and serious health incidents as a result of industrial pollution at the sites. The Aditya Birla Group supplies viscose to a number of high street brands in Europe and the USA; Changing Markets’ engagement with some of these brands and retailers since the publication of Dirty Fashion has shown there is significant appetite to ditch dirty viscose and roll out clean production throughout fashion supply chains. The report calls on Aditya Birla group to commit to investing in improving its operations according to a concrete timeline in order to live up to its self-proclaimed commitment to be a sustainable producer.
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This report shines a spotlight on the environmental and human health impacts caused by the rapidly expanding viscose industry. It presents evidence from the top three viscose producing countries in Asia, showing how the environment, lives and livelihoods are being ruined by the dangerous chemicals and noxious gases its production generates. The report tracks the supply chain and establishes direct links between major European and North American brands and the polluting factories investigated. Brands can play a key role in this process by demanding that viscose companies clean up their act and by offering them support in transitioning towards more sustainable production processes. The good news is that new viscose production methods already exist, which do not rely on the abundant use of toxic chemicals and bring manufacturing into a ‘closed loop’ so that the chemicals which are used do not escape into the environment.
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