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LONDON – A damning new report claims UK retailers Tesco, Asda and Next are still sourcing viscose from Indonesian factories which are polluting surrounding areas, potentially causing illness and premature deaths.

Researchers from the Changing Markets Foundation visited viscose factories owned by Indian conglomerate Aditya Birla Group and found conditions had worsened significantly since a similar report last year. Viscose is the third most commonly used material in the fashion Industry, with Aditya Birla commanding a fifth of the market.

Surrounding areas to the factories were characterised by strong smelling and visibly red pollution, claim the researchers, and people in surrounding communities are said to be suffering from health issues such as cancer, tuberculosis and birth defects. Local sources also claim untreated waste is illegally being discharged into a surrounding river.

Lab tests found that an air sample from outside one of the factories contained 125 times the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guideline for carbon disulphide, a chemical used in viscose production.

Aditya Birla Group, which has previously been commended for its environmental record, has refuted the claims made in the report.

“Our investigation suggests that Aditya Birla Group is failing to live up to its sustainability claims,” Changing Markets campaign manager Natasha Hurley said.

“Brands buying from the company should look beyond the green spin to understand what is really happening on the ground, where local residents’ and workers’ lives are blighted by pollution on a daily basis.”

Major brands are still using Aditya Birla Group as a supplier, however, Inditex, H&M, Asos and Marks & Spencer have now pledged to alter their sourcing policy.

We will look into this issue in more depth in the first magazine edition of Apparel Insider.

Image courtesy of Changing Markets Foundation.


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