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Waking up to the dangers of viscose

Luxury houses, retailers and brands don’t seem to be bothered about viscose’s impact on the environment. Viscose is currently the third most commonly used textile fiber in the world. Like all cellulosic fibers, it starts off life as wood, which can hail from ancient and endangered forests. With demand for dissolving pulp projected to increase by 122 per cent in the next 40 years, the viscose industry is a growing threat to vulnerable habitats around the world.

The production of viscose employs chemicals to break down the cellulose. Factories supplying viscose to the international market have been found to be dumping untreated wastewater in lakes and rivers, ruining lives and livelihoods by destroying subsistence agriculture and exposing local populations to cancer-causing substances.

After many years of complacency from fashion brands and producers with regard to environmental impacts of viscose manufacturing, the tide is finally beginning to turn towards more responsible production methods. Lenzing and Aditya Birla, two of the world’s largest viscose producers, have committed all their sites to meeting EU Ecolabel requirements for viscose production by 2022.

Even so, more needs to be done. Manufacturers need to translate initial commitments into detailed implementation plans, concrete investments and the transparent reporting of their performance, including of complaints and grievances.

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