Dirty Fashion 2.0 – from bad to worse

In June 2017, the Changing Markets Foundation published the Dirty Fashion Report, exposing the damage to the environment and human health caused by some of the world’s largest viscose manufacturers and suppliers to well-known fashion brands.

The update “Dirty Fashion Revisited” was released this month, following a return visit to the factories of the Aditya Birla Group, the world’s biggest producer of viscose fiber, to see whether its factories in India and Indonesia had changed their ways. Despite paying lip service to being an eco-friendly manufacturer, eco-cide appeared to be a more apt description of Aditya Birla Group’s viscose production.

The report alleges that groundwater and air pollution from their factories had, for example: resulted in 60 people becoming paralyzed, devasted local agriculture, contaminated drinking water, caused serious health conditions including cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects and stomach disorders. In addition, while on-site the team witnessed steaming hot, foaming, illegal discharges into a small creek, where just downstream children bathed and farmers used the water for irrigation.

After polyester and cotton, viscose is the most-used fiber in the textile industry. Viscose is produced from cellulose, a naturally biodegradable component extracted from plants (usually bamboo or eucalyptus). Unlike pesticide-intensive cotton and petroleum-based polyester, it is often marketed as the more sustainable alternative. With closed-loop production and proper wastewater management, the report concludes, viscose can indeed live up to its sustainability reputation.

Photo: Changing Markets Foundation

Jonathan Fraenkel-Eidse
jonathan.eidse@norragency.com