Will FSC be Fashionable?

What do a fashion brand, an ENGO, a retailer, and two viscose producers have in common? Well, they were all panellists in Wednesday’s session on FSC and fashion and are working together to ensure responsibly sourced forest-based fabrics.

By Morten Brodde, FSC Denmark

Will FSC be fashionable? Listening to the panellists in today’s session under the title ‘Fashion and FSC: From Forest to Consumer’, FSC is on the agenda in the fashion industry. And why is that? Forest-based fabrics such as rayon, viscose, modal, and lyocell are increasingly being used to manufacture textiles, and are generally more environmentally friendly than synthetic textiles or cotton, if the cellulose comes from well-managed forests or plantations.

Policies are changing the supply chains

The first presenter was Amanda Carr, Campaign Director at non-profit Canopy, who is collaborating with companies to make their supply chains more sustainable. Four years ago, they put out a call to the fashion sector to collaborate to conserve ancient and endangered forests: 105 fashion brands, retailers, and designer partner are now a part of a coalition.

“Now, over 70 per cent of the global production of these fibre types have CanopyStyle policies in place. Policies that mirror what the brands are looking for. And we have begun to audit them to support them in understanding how their policies are being implemented and what progress has been made,” said Carr.

The policies require, among other things, that companies do not source from the world’s ancient and endangered forests or other controversial sources. There is also a strong and consistent preference for FSC certification in all the policies.

FSC catwalk

Cecilia Brannsten, Sustainability Business Expert at H&M group, was the next to present. She was a living example of textiles made of responsibly sourced wood, wearing clothes made of FSC-certified eucalyptus fibres – a dress that was applauded by all the attendees.

H&M promotes the use of fabrics that come from FSC-certified plantations or forestry, and Brannsten presented a new sourcing goal at H&M:

“We will have 100 per cent recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030, and there of course cellulose fibres and FSC play an important role.” 

The story must go to the consumer

Halfway into the session, the attendees got an insight into viscose producers’ work with responsible sourcing and FSC. FSC-certified ENKA Group uses wood fibre pulp as its main raw material and only buys from FSC-certified partners.

“We were FSC certified in 2016. We started to roll out this story last year and the same year the first customer in our supply chain became FSC certified. We are planning further roll out until the year 2020 to bring this down to garment makers and end users,” explained Till Boldt, Managing Director at ENKA Group, who then presented a challenge: “In the fashion industry, most of the consumers are just looking for prices. It’s a difficult matter to offer sustainable products and to bring the story to the consumer. There are big players in the fashion industry thinking on how to do this and I can only complement them, this is the right way.”

Consumers are looking for more than prices

Fiona Wheatley, Marks & Spencer (M&S), who presented the food, fashion, and home retailers’ commitments from Plan A towards responsible sourcing of wood products, had a different perception of consumers’ focus on prices: 

“I disagree that prices are the only thing people are looking for. I think they are looking for the right products in the right environment at the right price, and your brand values add to that offer.” 

Ending the session on FSC and Fashion, Manohar Samuel, of Birla Cellulose, underlined the value of collaboration to ensure sustainable forest-based textiles:

“Just see this table. I’ve got two of my esteemed brands here, M&S and H&M; we have Till from ENKA, who buys pulp from us; and we have Canopy bridging this path from forest to fashion.”