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Retailers take a stance on 'dirty viscose'

Retailers and brands including Matalan, Boohoo, Versace and Prada, have been called out in a new report for allegedly “failing to deliver on responsible sourcing” in their viscose supply chains.

The Dirty Fashion Disrupted: Leaders and Laggards Revealed report from US campaigning organisation Changing Markets judges the transparency and sustainability of 91 fashion businesses’ viscose supply chains.

Among the best, Changing Markets listed Inditex, Asos, H&M Group, Marks & Spencer, Esprit, C&A, Next and New Look, as well as supermarkets Morrisons and Tesco.

It said these 10 businesses have “committed to take action on responsible viscose supply” and pledged to “permanently ditch dirty viscose production methods by 2023-25”.

Monsoon and Gucci meanwhile, were recognised for their “meaningful efforts” to making their viscose supply chains more responsible.

However, Changing Markets warned: “While many retailers are making progress to source viscose responsibly … for the vast majority of brands, this is yet to translate into concrete and impactful action.”

Among the lowest-ranked companies in the “red zone” category, Changing Markets listed luxury brands Versace, Prada, Dior, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana, as well as high street and etail names Boohoo, Matalan, Forever 21, TK Maxx and Walmart.

A Prada Group spokesperson told Drapers: “Viscose represents a very residual part in our finished products, and it is subject to the Restricted Substances List (RSL) adopted by [Prada] and issued by the Italian Chamber of Fashion.

“All of our suppliers, including those providing viscose, are subject to our ’group’s qualified vendor list’ aimed at ensuring compliance with the law on remuneration, social security, taxation, health and safety, the environment, privacy and the governance model.”

Boohoo told Drapers “responsible sourcing and improved supply chain transparency are important parts of [its] on-going business strategy”.

A spokesperson added: “We are aware that there is always more to do, and are committed to continuous improvement.”

A spokesperson for Matalan commented: “At Matalan, we take ethical sourcing extremely seriously and we have a robust direct ethical sourcing policy in place to ensure our supply chain is transparent and closely monitored. We recognise our responsibility to minimise the potential of causing harm to the environment and we strive to sustain and improve the environment through the careful consideration of design, selection of materials and operational procedures.

“As part of our broader sustainability strategy, we are currently in the process of converting our viscose products into sustainably sourced viscose. The first of this range will be launching in Spring/ Summer 2020 and the remaining viscose will be converted into sustainable viscose by the end of 2020.”

Armani and Walmart did not provide comment when contacted but pointed to information on their websites detailing their ethical sourcing and environmental policies. Versace declined to comment.

Urska Trunk, Changing Markets Foundation campaigns adviser, said: “Sustainability is not just a buzzword, but must lead to a fundamental shift in the way companies operate.

“Our findings show that many brands and retailers are still paying lip service and making lofty promises, rather than actually delivering transformative change.

“With increasing awareness of the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry, people expect clothing companies to take responsibility for their supply chains.

“Brands and retailers can no longer turn a blind eye to this. They need to rise to the challenge and open their supply chains up to external scrutiny to put the industry on a more sustainable footing.”

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