Leading firms have committed to source the garment fibre from sustainable forests, but are paying less attention to widespread environmental damage from toxic chemicals used in its production. We look at greener alternatives
On paper, so to speak, viscose looks like it should be a sustainable fabric. It’s produced from trees, uses far less water in production than cotton; and no pesticides. What could possibly be the problem?
The trouble with viscose extends throughout the supply chain and starts with the forests that fibre producers rely on.
Viscose is marketed as a natural fibre because it is produced from cellulose, the main constituent of the cell walls of plants. But since just 40%-50% of a tree is cellulose, a huge volume of forest goes to waste. Typical fibre yields are just 25%-40%, explains Nicole Rycroft, the founder of Canadian NGO Canopy.
Canopy is working hard to raise awareness of the devastating impact of the growing demand for viscose on ancient and endangered forest, where some 120 million trees are logged each year.
It has persuaded some of the world’s leading businesses, including H&M, Zara and Marks and Spencer to commit to stop sourcing dissolvable pulp from endangered ecosystems.
Beginning with its spring collection this year, Stella McCartney can now say her ready-to-wear viscose comes from sustainably managed and certified forests in Sweden.
Rycroft is encouraged that...