World’s Largest Rayon Producer Announces Game-Changing Forest Protection Policy

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** This post first appeared on Sustainable Brands here.

Fabric image credit: JoanneFaith.com
Fabric image credit: JoanneFaith.com

Today, global viscose giant Aditya Birla Group announced an industry-leading commitment to eliminate sourcing from the world’s ancient and endangered forests for all of its Viscose fibers, which are widely used in clothing and textiles.

Aditya Birla is India’s largest multinational conglomerate (with US$40B in revenue) and the world’s largest producer of Viscose, manufacturing 20 percent of the world’s supply of the material, which is made from wood pulp. The commitment applies to wood and pulp sourcing for all its mills, including those in Canada, Indonesia and China.

The textile giant worked with Canadian environmental group Canopy to craft this game-changing policy, which offers new hope for solutions in places such as Canada’s Boreal and Indonesia’s rainforests.

“We’re committed to avoiding any endangered forest fiber in our products and are excited to help drive innovation in the development of fabrics made from new fibers that reduce the pressure on the world’s natural forests,” said Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group. “We and many of our customers in the fashion industry are equally committed to developing sustainable business solutions that help conserve forests and species.”

Aditya Birla’s leadership on this issue positions them as a collaborative partner responding to more than 25 major fashion brands that have developed similar endangered forest commitments with Canopy in the past 18 months. Since 2013, global brands including H&M, Zara/Inditex, Levi Strauss & Co, Marks & Spencer and designers such as Stella McCartney have joined Canopy’s Fashion Loved by Forests campaign and adopted commitments to phase out endangered forest fiber in their product lines. Aditya Birla’s new policy now sets a high bar for all other producers to meet.

“Aditya Birla may not be as sexy as clothing brands in terms of cache but they’re definitely hot in terms of alleviating impacts on forests,” Nicole Rycroft, Canopy’s founder and executive director, said via email. “Given that the top 10 rayon and viscose producers control 80 percent of global production, we’re excited about how this sets the whole supply chain in transformation.”

Aditya Birla’s policy includes an immediate commitment not to source fiber from endangered forests or endangered species habitat, such as Indonesia’s tropical forest and Canada’s Boreal Forest, unless meaningful conservation plans are in place.

The company is committed to exploring research and development opportunities for alternative fiber sources and new technologies that reduce environmental impacts and will identify opportunities to support existing conservation solutions, agreements and further new initiatives to advance sustainable sourcing and forest protection.

Back on the brand side of the equation, Canopy is not the only NGO working to eliminate deforestation and associated human rights abuses from fashion: Last month, Rainforest Action Network launched its Out of Fashion campaign, urging the “Fashion 15” group of companies — Ralph Lauren, Prada, LVMH, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Vince, Guess, Velvet, L Brands, Forever 21, Under Armour, Footlocker, Abercrombie and Fitch, GAIAM and Beyond Yoga — to develop strong, time-bound commitments to protect forests and human rights.

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