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Walking the Talk
Cutting-Edge Textile Policies Set New Bar for Apparel Industry

A more sustainable apparel industry is on the horizon thanks to continued efforts by industry leaders to develop innovative textile policies that value natural resources.

A more sustainable apparel industry is on the horizon thanks to continued efforts by industry leaders to develop innovative textile policies that value natural resources.

Natural fiber producer CRAiLAR Fiber Technologies launched a groundbreaking new policy in which it pledges to only source agricultural residues to create next-generation fabrics. The move opens up new opportunities for brands and retailers seeking sustainable alternatives to fabrics currently derived from ancient and endangered forests.

“The fastest way to protect the world’s last endangered forests is to ease market demand for logging in these global treasures,” said Nicole Rycroft, Executive Director of environmental non-profit Canopy. “Canopy is working with 110 brand and retail partners to kick-start next generation solutions such as viscose and rayon made from straw.”

Over 120 million trees are felled every year to produce textiles, with approximately 30 percent originating from ancient and endangered forests.

As part of its work to protect these valuable natural resources, Canopy launched the CanopyStyle initiative in 2013 to encourage global brands, designers and retailers such as H&M, Zara, Stella McCartney and VF Corporation to develop sustainable sourcing policies for rayon and viscose fabrics. A key component of the initiative is to jumpstart commercial production of fabrics and textiles made from lower-impact fibers such as straw and recycled fabrics.

“Partnering with Canopy by putting in place an ancient forest friendly policy is a natural fit. We have a product that has a lower environmental footprint than many traditional forest products and textiles and Canopy is driving a collective demand for sustainable innovation like ours,” said Jason Finnis of CRAiLAR.

CRAiLAR uses a unique, sustainable technology to produce its USDA-designated, 100 percent BioPreferred® products, which drastically reduces chemical and water usage and environmental harm. The company’s products are made from straw left over from various bast fiber harvests — including flax and hemp — and have the potential to diversify fiber sourcing and ensure healthy forests into the future.

Meanwhile, fellow CanopyStyle member VF Corporation is saying sayonara to animal materials with the roll out of a new fur-free policy that sets formal guidelines for the procurement and use of approved materials by the company’s brands and global supply chain partners.

VF developed the Animal Derived Materials Policy in partnership with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Humane Society International. Under the policy, VF brands will no longer use fur, angora or exotic leather in their products.

“As we continue to promote the development of viable commercial substitutes to animal materials, this policy will help to ensure that the material we use today are procured from sources that prioritize animal welfare and responsible business practices,” said Letitia Webster, VF’s VP of Global Corporate Sustainability.

The policy builds on other recent efforts by VF related to animal-derived materials:

  • Timberland collaborated with other footwear brands, tanneries and retailers to form the Leather Working Group to promote responsible practices within the leather industry.
  • In 2014, The North Face collaborated with Control Union and Textile Exchange to unveil its Responsible Down Standard (RDS), a global standard to allow brands to evaluate and certify their complete down supply chains.

“The Humane Society of the United States applauds VF for demonstrating compassionate leadership in the apparel and footwear industries,” said PJ Smith, manager of the fashion policy for the HSUS. “The robust policy sets a bar to which others in the industry should aspire.”

Earlier this year, VF announced a new Forest Derived Materials policy. The company also has rules governing the purchase and use of Conflict Minerals and Cotton Country of Origin, in addition to a Restricted Substances List for its chemical management program.