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Lenzing Leads in Sustainability Ranking for Viscose Producers

Environmental non-profit Canopy knows which viscose producers are taking strides to conserve forests.

Canopy’s new report, “Hot Button Issue,” was released Friday, ranking the performance of the world’s largest rayon-viscose producers. It’s the first-ever tool that enables brands to measure producers’ impact on the environment and their progress on eliminating endangered forests from their supply.

Producers’ progress was measured with the CanopyStyleGuide and the CanopyStyle Verification Audit. Canopy’s producer progress assessment guidelines included: the completion of CanopyStyle third-party verification audits, contribution to conservation legacies, innovation via new alternative fibers, the adoption of robust forest sourcing policy, traceability & transparency, and leadership in sustainable sourcing. Each producer received a “shirt ranking” of buttons, with 20 to 25 buttons being the most sustainable and 0 to 4 buttons being the least sustainable.

Lenzing, a cellulose fiber producer based in Austria, received the top score out of all producers for its ongoing efforts with forest preservation and pre-consumer recycled cotton, ranking first with 17 buttons, followed by Aditya Birla with 16.

Canopy highlighted Lenzing’s recently announced collaboration with Inditex/Zara to market new products made from pre-consumer recycled cotton as a standout in the movement to conserves. In addition to establishing this environmentally-friendly partnership, Lenzing also promotes sustainable sourcing alongside Canopy and partner brands at various conferences.

Similarly, Aditya Birla, one of the world’s largest viscose staple fiber producers, partnered with conservation organizations to protect the endangered Boreal forest near its mill in Ontario, Canada. The company also encourages other industry members to take a more conservative path, by obtaining First Nations’ consent in their sustainable decision making.

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Additional producers featured included Tangshan Sanyou, Fulida, Shandong Yamei, CHTC/ Shangdong Helon, Xinxiang Bailu, Nanjing NCFC, Sateri, Jiangsu Xiangsheng and Aoyang Technology.

All were assessed across 19 criteria to ensure that their materials were not sourced from endangered greenery, that their leadership fostered the innovation of recycled fabrics and that they advanced the commercial production of environmentally-friendly fibers.

“Some are showing encouraging improvements; others have a lot of work to do to translate their policies into action,” said Nicole Rycroft, Canopy’s founder and executive director. “Those that forge ahead stand to gain market share with brands and designers hungry for endangered forest free fabrics.”

Canopy and its brand partners co-hosted two summits (2015 and 2016) to support producers with sustainable cellulosic fiber manufacturing, after which nine of the top 10 viscose producers (representing about 70 percent of the world’s viscose and rayon production) publicly agreed to stop sourcing from ancient forests. Another viscose producer not included in the top 10, Nanjing Chemical Fiber Company (NCFC), also publicly committed to CanopyStyle. In addition, eight out of 10 producers shared their sourcing data with Canopy to improve their supply chains.

Jiangsu Xiangsheng, a viscose fiber stock provider based in China’s Jiangsu province, and Aoyang Technology, headquartered in Xinjiang region and producing 120,000 tons of rayon a year, received the lowest rankings in the Canopy report. Jiangsu Xiangsheng was ranked negative one buttons and Aoyang Technology was ranked negative five buttons.

With below average scores, both companies have much work to do in order to commit to more sustainable manufacturing. In order for Jiangsu Xiangsheng to improve, the viscose producer will need to share sourcing data with Canopy as soon as possible and complete the Chain of Custody survey. The report also noted that Aoyang Technology will need to implement new strategies moving forward, since it is the only producer in the top 10 to not develop a policy commitment to CanopyStyle.

CanopyStyle will provide industry members updates about producers’ progress throughout 2017.