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Fashion and Textile Leaders for Forest Conservation Begin Shift to Forest-Free Viscose

L-R: Canada's Boreal forest (Image credit: Greenpeace); a viscose gown by Stella McCartney (Image credit: Stella McCartney)

The newest trend in social responsibility in the apparel sector emerged in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam on Monday as several of the world’s most influential clothing brands gathered to develop a roadmap to creating a more sustainable supply chain and conserve endangered forests.

Brought together under the banner of environmental nonprofit Canopy’s Fashion Loved by Forest initiative, the Fashion and Textile Leaders for Forest Conservation working group — featuring brands including Stella McCartney, H&M, EILEEN FISHER, Patagonia and Inditex/Zara — will set about beginning to implement the brands’ endangered forest policy commitments. Together, the group says it will advance the following priorities:

  • Creating a shared “knowledge map” of the viscose supply chain to further understanding of raw fiber flow into fabric, enabling brands to eliminate endangered forest fiber from their clothing within the next three years;
  • Supporting long-term conservation solutions in high-priority forest regions such as Indonesia’s rainforests and Canada’s rainforests and Boreal forest; and
  • Supporting the development of sustainable alternatives, including recycled fabrics and those made from recycled materials and agricultural by-products such as straw.
Click for full infographic.

Canopy says 70 to 100 million trees are cut down every year to feed the world’s appetite for textiles, and research shows at least one-third of those are from the planet’s ancient and endangered forests. Forests are cut, chipped and transformed into fiber filaments through the chemically intensive dissolving pulp process and then used to make viscose, for use in t-shirts, dresses, jacket liners, etc.

“With demand for viscose slated to aggressively increase over the next decade, we have a unique window to curb its harmful impacts on the world’s endangered forests and species,” said Canopy’s executive director, Nicole Rycroft. “We’re excited that this collective effort will maximize brands’ purchasing influence to help protect forests and engage viscose suppliers with a clear set of requirements that will place the fashion industry on a new path towards sustainability.”

The working group kick-off meeting in Vietnam is the first of a series of sessions over the next three years that will identify information gaps and improve traceability by tracking fiber flow from the forest floor to the dissolving pulp mills and through to the viscose manufacturing facilities.

In addition to Canopy and the clothing brands, the world’s leading viscose suppliers will have a rotating presence as a collective understanding of the supply chain is developed to enable them to effectively address and end the use of endangered forests in fabric. Canopy says the apparel industry leaders also hope to stimulate the development and production of fabrics made from recycled materials and straw as well as to create conservation legacies by influencing global decision-makers to establish permanent and effective protection for high priority and threatened forest regions.

Jennifer Elks is Managing Editor at Sustainable Brands. She is a writer, editor and foodie who is passionate about improving food systems, closing loops and creating more livable cities. She loves cooking, wine, cooking with wine, correcting spelling errors in… [Read more about Jennifer Elks]

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