From Forests to Fabrics: The fashion industry's global impact on Ancient and Endangered Forests

The stats are scary: there's a 1 in 3 chance that if you are wearing Rayon, Viscose, Lyocell or Modal, your clothing came from the Amazon or another of the world's endangered forests. According to Canopy's 2019 Hot Button Report, 7 of the top 15 producers of Viscose and other fabrics derived from cellulose pulp (from Beechwood and other tree species) are considered to be at high risk of sourcing from Ancient and/or Endangered forests (mostly from Brazil, Indonesia and Canada).

Most fashion consumers don't realize that these fabrics even come from trees, and they especially don't have a choice of which suppliers the brands they shop from choose. So it's imperative that apparel brands and manufacturers choose responsible fabric suppliers on behalf of their customers.

Below is the chart representing the 2019 Hot Button Report published by Canopy which rates each of the globe's major Viscose suppliers. We have sorted this chart by Top producers by volume to give brands a snapshot of how their fabrics are produced and create more transparency in the fiber supply chain.

Here are examples of the proactive steps that the Top 3 Responsible Suppliers (totaling 39% global supply) of Viscose and other cellulose-based products from tree pulp (forests) are taking:

  • Lenzing: Utilizing recycled textiles, with a goal of 50% recycled from post consumer waste by 2024. Advancing forest conservation programs in Canada, Indonesia and Albania, and coordinating with several sustainability initiatives. Publicly discloses suppliers lists and enables fiber tracking/tracing technology.

  • Aditya Birla: Utilizing recycled textiles. Upper-management recognition of problems with set commitments. Utilizes Forest Mapper to ensure new projects do not take place in Ancient or Endangered forests. Joined ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme as a contributor.

  • Tangshan Sanyou: Untilizing recycled textiles. Engaging with suppliers to gather sourcing info and influencing peers to support vision to protect Ancient and Endgangered Forests. Collaborating with ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme on wastewater guidelines.

On the other end of the spectrum, here is what the Canopy 2019 Hot Button Report has to say about the efforts Viscose producers who have earned Red Shirts (considered to be at high risk of sourcing from Ancient and Endangered Forests) are taking:

  • Sateri (RGE Group) 15.4% global supply: "Sateri is actively engaged in dialogue with Canopy and customer brands about reducing the risk currently associated with its production. While it has taken some first steps to respond to an initial action plan, the company has yet to embark on ambitious, transformational action or the implementation of significant change."

  • Shandong Yamei, 4.3% global supply: "Despite continued dialogue with Canopy, the company is not moving forward and has not progressed in fulfilling its policy. The company attended CanopyStyle’s 2019 Shanghai Summit with brands, innovators and producers."

  • Aoyang Technology, 3.7% global supply,: "No significant leadership shown to date. The company attended CanopyStyle’s 2019 Shanghai Summit with brands, innovators and producers."

We encourage every brand who sources Rayon, Viscose, Lyocell, Modal and other cellulose-based fabrics that come from forests to read Canopy's 2019 Hot Button Report for eye-opening actions (both good and bad) taking place in the industry today.

- Karri Ann Frerichs

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