FOREWORD: Sustainable fashion: We’re on trend!
The summer is already well behind us here in Europe and it’s hard to believe we are entering the fourth quarter already, those summer holidays now a distant memory. It’s been a busy year so far, not least at the 13th Viscose Industry Forum in Hangzhou, China, of which Södra was a sponsor. China is responsible for two thirds of the world’s viscose production and this event continues to grow, reflecting the development of the Chinese market and the viscose industry.
While the viscose market is oversupplied at present, global demand remains strong with growth averaging 5-6%/year. However operating rates have fallen to around 70-75% and prices have fallen with them. But unlike some in the business who swing from paper pulp to dissolving pulp and back again according to market dynamics, we are fully committed to dissolving pulp production with a dedicated line at Mörrum that is now capable of producing 170,000 tpy. Customer feedback from one-to-one meetings in Hangzhou confirmed that the significant investments made at the mill to improve quality are paying off: Our customers really can see the difference.
It’s not all about quality, however. It was interesting to see how sustainability is very much in the minds of our Chinese customers these days. In part, increased environmental awareness has been driven by the Chinese government which has forced the closure of the most polluting viscose mills, and they are not done yet - more closures will come. The second push has come from retailers and NGOs with big European brands such as Zara and H&M pushing upstream for sustainable practices, transparency and certification (both PEFC and FSC are increasingly important).
The fact that this Forum included speakers from the United Nations, which now has an Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, speaks volumes. The global supply chain for the fashion industry is waking up to the fact that it must become more sustainable and this is fantastic news for the environment. As a supplier to the fashion industry with sustainable forest practices at the heart of our business, it’s also great news for Södra. There are many challenges ahead to encourage best practice across the whole chain and to strike the balance between consumption and fashion - we are buying 60% more items of clothing than we did 20 years ago and a shift in consumer habits is also needed. But I like to think that suppliers like us have a part to play in finding more sustainable solutions for the fashion industry and we are certainly in the dissolving pulp business for the long term.
Business Area Manager Dissolving Pulp
Wang Kan, purchasing manager of Sanyou Xingda fiber, Norman Wong, general manager of Ekman China, Zheng Baishan, Chairman of Sanyou Xingda fiber and Ma Hui, deputy purchasing manager of Sanyou Xingda fiber, join in the fun in Hangzhou with Södra’s Act of a Hero theme. The message that anyone who chooses sustainable fibre is a hero was embraced by our Asian customers. Watch the videos here: sodra.com/actofahero