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China Has a Plan to Clean Up Viscose Manufacturing

Ten of China’s largest viscose producers, which collectively account for nearly 50 percent of world’s supply of the cellulosic fiber, have banded together to release a three-year plan to improve sustainability in their sector.

The newly minted Collaboration for Sustainable Development of Viscose (CV), a “self-regulating” initiative created in partnership with two textile trade associations, offers viscose producers a platform to “achieve sustainable viscose and help their customers deliver on their sustainability commitments,” the organization wrote on its website.

Besides baked-in attributes such as transparency and time-bound implementation, the roadmap comprises a shortlist of 10 “credible, practical and widely accepted” sustainability standards and best practices, including Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals guidelines, the Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody Certification, Sustainable Textile Production (STeP) by Oeko-Tex and the Higg Index Facility Environmental Module (FEM) 3.0.

“These chosen ones reflected the direct feedback of a broad range of stakeholders, including brands, retailers and NGOs, through a series of surveys, interviews and consultations,” CV said.

The organization notes that its framework is a “living document,” one that incorporates continuous improvement as a feature. “The CV roadmap will be subject to periodic reviews and updated as conditions warrant,” it added.

Stakeholders include Shandong Yami Technology, Seidler, Zhejian Fulida and Shandong Yinying Chemical Fiber Co., along with the China Cotton Textile Industry Association and the China Chemical Fiber Industry Association.

The production of viscose, the third most commonly used textile fiber in the world, has become a hot-button environmental issue of late.

Last year, an investigation by Changing Markets Foundation, a social and environmental advocacy group based in the United States and the Netherlands, found that viscose factories in China, India and Indonesia were dumping untreated wastewater in lakes and rivers, “ruining lives and livelihoods” by destroying subsistence agriculture and exposing local populations to cancer-causing substances.

In the wake of the report, Asos, C&A, Esprit, H&M, Inditex, Marks & Spencer and Tesco threw their support behind Changing Markets’ roadmap toward responsible viscose and modal manufacturing.

Similarly, 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.