Viscose Fabric: A Call to Action for the Fashion Industry

Clothing companies need to prioritize sustainable viscose fabric production to avoid deforestation and educate consumers about clothing composition.

In the world of fashion, it’s not just about what you wear but also about the materials that compose your clothing. Many people can readily identify cotton as a fabric derived from cotton plants and wool as a product of sheep, but do you know that linen originates from the blue-flowered flax plant? Cashmere and mohair hail from different breeds of goats, while angora derives from a specific type of rabbit. Surprisingly, polyester and polyamide are made from oil. However, there are profound implications for climate and biodiversity. These lie in the production of fabrics like viscose, lyocell, and modal, all of which were once trees.

The Need for Sustainable Viscose Fabric

These materials, collectively known as man-made cellulosic fibers (MMCFs), are manufactured from dissolved wood pulp and constitute just over 6% of our clothing. While production is on the rise as brands seek more sustainable materials, these forest-derived fibers have the potential to be more eco-friendly, using less water and energy than other fabrics and being biodegradable, depending on the chemicals used during processing. Furthermore, they come from a renewable resource. This sounds promising, but there’s a caveat.

Clothing companies must take greater responsibility to ensure the sustainability of the viscose they use and to avoid contributing to deforestation and the loss of crucial carbon sinks worldwide. Moreover, they should educate their consumers about the composition of their clothes.

The Key to Sustainability is Traceable Supply Chains

To truly guarantee that a viscose skirt isn’t linked to land-grabbing or deforestation, the fashion industry needs a traceable supply chain. Non-governmental organizations like the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) play a vital role in setting standards for the sustainable management and sourcing of forests and forest-derived products.

These standards can vary depending on the specific needs of each country. In general, forestry companies must demonstrate that they are safeguarding ancient or veteran trees. These promote biodiversity and protect species, limit pesticide use, and refrain from transforming established woodland into monoculture plantations. PEFC, a third-party auditor inspects a forest to determine whether it meets the specific national standard for sustainable forest management. Its certification is typically granted for five years. The forest undergoes annual audits to ensure continued compliance with sustainability criteria.

The industry has a critical role to play in ensuring that viscose and other MMCFs used in manufacturing is sustainable. They must come from sustainable sources that don’t contribute to the loss of valuable forests. Transparency and traceability in the supply chain are essential to this effort. Non-governmental organizations like PEFC and FSC provide valuable standards for sustainable forest management. It’s incumbent upon clothing companies to prioritize sustainability. Consumers also have a role in demanding and supporting eco-friendly choices in the products they purchase. By working together, we can make a significant impact on safeguarding our environment and preserving our planet’s precious resources.

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