Chinese viscose sustainability roadmap "short on ambition" - Just Style
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Chinese viscose sustainability roadmap “short on ambition”

28 Nov 2018

A three-year roadmap set out by ten of China's largest viscose fibre producers to improve sustainability from sourcing to production, has been described as short on ambition and will not meet NGO requirements.

Chinese viscose sustainability roadmap “short on ambition”

A three-year roadmap set out by ten of China’s largest viscose fibre producers to improve sustainability from sourcing to production, has been described as short on ambition and will not meet NGO requirements.

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

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

However, a  report by the Changing Markets Foundation, ‘Dirty Fashion: Spotlight on China’, claims the new initiative allows members to pick and choose between different standards and lacks ambition and transparency.

More specifically, it says the CV Roadmap “lacks ambition” by not obliging its members to achieve the highest level of the Chinese Clean Production Standard for viscose, or a standard that would align with EU Best Available Techniques (BAT).

The report also says there is also a lack 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.

“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,” says Urska Trunk, campaign adviser at Changing Markets.

“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.”

Rapid development

The rapid development of China’s textile industry has become one of the biggest threats to its environment, the Foundation says. China is the largest textile producer in the world and has a 63% share of the global viscose market. The new report also claims Chinese viscose factories – including sites operated by the members of the CV initiative – continue to violate government regulations.

Viscose is the third most commonly-used fibre in the world, with 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.

Changing Markets says eight brands and retailers – Inditex, Asos, H&M, Tesco, Marks & Spencer (M&S), Esprit, C&A and Next – have pledged to integrate its own ‘Roadmap towards responsible viscose and modal fibre manufacturing’ into their sustainability policies. The Changing Markets Roadmap “sets the viscose industry on a pathway to closed-loop manufacturing in line with what are currently the most ambitious guidelines for cleaner viscose manufacturing: EU Best Available Techniques (BAT).”

“We are engaged in working on the Changing Markets Roadmap towards more responsible viscose and modal fiber production,” says Sara Bermúdez Couto, head of product safety and environmental sustainability at Esprit. “Achieving this ambitious roadmap is only possible by a joint approach of all stakeholders in the different areas of the viscose industry. We are looking forward to be part of this work and move the viscose manufacturing forward towards a more sustainable industry.”

A spokesperson for Asos, meanwhile, said: “Asos is committed to more responsible viscose production so welcomes initiatives to improve the viscose industry. Only by aligning with a higher level of ambition can viscose producers minimise the impact on the environment, workers and local communities.”