Ten of China’s largest viscose fibre producers – who between them represent over 50% of the world’s viscose staple fibre production – have released details of a three-year roadmap to improve the sustainability of the viscose industry from sourcing to production.

The plan comes from the Collaboration for Sustainable Development of Viscose (CV), an initiative launched earlier this year in partnership with two Chinese textile trade associations. And it has been compiled in response to rising scrutiny over the sustainability of sourcing and production of viscose, a regenerated fibre made from cellulose.

The new CV Roadmap aims to help members improve and benchmark their sourcing and manufacturing practices against a set of credible, practical and widely accepted international sustainability standards.

More specifically, companies have until June 2019 to ensure that they source pulp certified by forest product chain of custody certifications such as the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and that manufacturing facilities pass the FSC or PEFC Chain of Custody (CoC) audit.

Wastewater discharges must meet parameters set out in the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Wastewater Guidelines; companies must obtain the Sustainable Textile Standard Production (STeP) by Oeko-Tex certification scoring at Level 1 or above; and complete a Higg Facility Environmental Module (Higg FEM) 3.0 self assessment.

Beyond this, advanced requirements will be the focus from July 2019 to December 2020, and include taking proactive management measures to reduce the risk of using wood products from High Conservation Value (HCV) or High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests.

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There is also a stipulation to achieve the domestic advanced or international advanced level of the Cleaner Production Assessment Standard For Man-made Cellulose (Viscose) Manufacturing.

And STeP by Oeko-Tex certification scoring is elevated to Level 2 or above; or alternatively, develop improvement goals based on the Higg FEM 3.0 self assessment and pass the third-party verification audit.

Over the past decade, the global production of viscose has increased from 2.3m tonnes in 2008 to 5.6m tonnes in 2017, with China contributing to about 63% of the viscose global output.

However, there are concerns about the environmental impact of its manufacturing process, including the use of wood pulp from potentially endangered or ancient forests, and the harsh chemicals needed to treat the cellulose. The Chinese government has also shut down some viscose enterprises for non-compliance with increasingly stringent environmental regulations.

The 12 founding members of CV are: China Chemical Fibre Association, China Cotton Textile Association, Funing Aoyang, Hengtian Helon, Jilin Chemical Fibre, Sateri, Shandong Yamei, Shandong Yinying, Tangshan Sanyou, Xinxiang Bailu Chemical Fibre, Yibin Grace, Zhejiang Fulida.

Last month a Changing Markets report ‘Dirty Fashion: on track for transformation’ identified fashion brands and retailers who have committed to sourcing viscose sustainably – and those who are lagging behind: Mixed progress on cleaning up viscose production.