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Ambitious Vision for Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers Promises Greater Resilience for Textile Industry

New report highlights the huge potential of manmade fibers such as viscose, modal and lyocell to create a more sustainable future, and outlines a sector-wide vision that could revolutionize multiple industries.

Major industry players and stakeholders in the man-made cellulosic fibers (MMCF) value chain have today revealed an ambitious shared vision for unleashing the fibers’ huge potential for embedding long-term resilience into the industry.

The MMCF 2030 Vision, co-authored by Forum for the Future and Textile Exchange, outlines how the MMCF value chain can transform the textile and apparel sectors while building on existing standards; and the progress already being driven by existing industry initiatives to address specific social and environmental issues. It calls on businesses and industry actors — from apparel and personal care brands to fiber producers — to align and act collaboratively to build a resilient industry that helps regenerate producer communities and the planet at the same time.

After cotton, man-made cellulosic fibers are the second-biggest cellulosic fiber group in use — for everything from apparel to seat covers to wet wipes. Responsibly produced, they can be a major contributor to realizing circular fashion — by helping to regenerating ecosystems, providing vital carbon sinks, and increasing community resilience and prosperity.

“The MMCF sector is facing significant social and environmental challenges, including deforestation, chemical use and labour rights. The COVID-19 crisis is intensifying these challenges,” said Forum for the Future CEO Dr. Sally Uren. “While progress is being made on traceability, innovation and sourcing practice, opportunities for deeper, systemic change are being lost in the absence of a holistic approach to addressing these interrelated challenges within the full value chain. By aligning behind a shared vision for a resilient and sustainable industry, the MMCF industry could lead the transformation of the apparel and textile sector, as well as make a positive contribution to other industries that source these versatile fibers. We now invite actors from across the industry to explore how they will work together to achieve this vision.”

The new vision builds on the work of environmental NGO Canopy’s CanopyStyle initiative, which now comprises over 200 major fashion brands and textile suppliers working to eliminate their use of fibers from ancient and endangered forests, and developing forest-free alternatives to nylon and viscose; as well as technologies from other industry innovators created to extend the life and recyclability of plant-based fibers. In January, Canopy also released a comprehensive plan to save the world’s forests and climate by removing 50 percent of the forest fiber from textile and paper manufacturing, and replacing it with next-generation alternative fibers such as agricultural residues and waste cotton textiles. According to the report, doing so will enable 30 percent of the world’s forests to be conserved — and avert the climate and biodiversity catastrophe — by 2030.

The MMCF 2030 Vision builds on those efforts by setting out five interrelated areas for ambitious and collaborative action throughout the fiber lifecycle — from raw material sourcing and fiber production, to disposal and re-use — to help move the sector forward at the pace and scale needed, and stimulate new kinds of partnerships and investment:

  1. Regenerating ecosystems: Restoring natural ecosystems and ensuring a carbon-negative value chain
  2. Producing with zero harmEliminating hazardous chemicals, enabling zero emissions and closed-loop production systems
  3. Enabling circular systems: Designing, incentivizing and implementing circular value chains and zero waste
  4. Creating prosperity: Distributing economic value equitably; applying living wages, universal access to education & healthcare
  5. Upholding rights: Community empowerment and related access rights; protecting the rights of individuals, indigenous peoples and other communities

The vision sets out the activities required to deliver the ambition within each of the five areas, commentary on where challenges exist, and critical enabling factors needed for delivery.

The vision will be taken forward by the industry and facilitated through the Textile Exchange MMCF Round Table, which will then convene in early November to share progress on aspects of the plan.

Read more about the MMCF 2030 Vision

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