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BAM products: Bid to make bamboo more sustainable

Written by Fiona

June 17 2024

There is a lot of greenwashing in the outdoor industry with companies competing to impress consumers with claims of being more environmentally friendly across the entire production process. One product that is increasingly used for making sports gear is bamboo. But while bamboo is an easy crop to grow and readily available, the process of turning it into useable fabric can be much less eco-friendly. One brand I have been following is BAM.

Have a read of my last article: New “traceable” activewear collection from BAM.

Here is more information about BAM’s use of bamboo viscose.

Bamboo viscose production process

BAM viscose production

BAM believe that working with bamboo is good for the planet and better than using polyester, cotton or hardwood trees. They claim they have a priority to ensure that the process used to turn bamboo into a fibre – the viscose process – is safe.

They reveal that in 2018, they didn’t have any relationship with our viscose producers. So, they traced the supply chain to identify the yarn mills that garment manufacturers were buying from and then identify who was supplying those mills with viscose.

They identified our two viscose producers that were industry giants, Sanyou and Jilin.

But then BAM wondered how much impact can one tiny brand could have. A spokesperson said: “We don’t have the commercial clout of much bigger brands and we don’t have the leverage to compel producers to change. To put that into perspective, our two producers jointly make 850,000 tonnes of viscose each year, yet we buy a little less than 200 tonnes (0.02%). 

“But commercial clout isn’t everything. We have been able to build the relationships needed to influence a change. And the good news is that the industry has woken up to the fact that it needs to clean up textile production.

“Having identified Sanyou and Jilin were making our viscose we visited them in 2019 and established that they were both committed to improving their equipment and processes to reduce their environmental impacts.”

Canopy Hot Button and other eco verification measures

Three and half years on, these viscose producers are rated as joint third in the world in the Canopy Hot Button report, which ranks viscose producers according to their environmental performance and commitments to protecting the worlds ancient & endangered forests.

Both of them hold Oekotex step level 3 certification. This is one of the most rigorous industry audits assessing the use of chemicals, environmental and social impact and quality management performance.

The EU BAT (Best Available Techniques) specifically relates to viscose production and is internationally recognised as the most rigorous and responsible standard.

Sanyou have already been verified, while Jilin have been assessed and have some criteria still to meet. They were working towards verification in their follow up in 2022.

BAM further reports that both producers have invested millions of dollars in technology and infrastructure to achieve these levels and they continue to work towards the safest and most responsible production techniques.

The organisation ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals), which instigated the shift in cleaning up of the dyeing and finishing industry over the last 10 years is now shining a spotlight on viscose production.

The BAM spokesperson added: “We have worked with Sanyou and Jillin to gain their commitment to engage in the ZDHC MMCF – manmade cellulosic fibres, which is the group of fibres that viscose belongs to – module when it launches later this year.

“This will be another rigorous assessment of their chemical management, which will support their constant improvement.

“Having built relationships with both suppliers, having visited their facilities, having persuaded them to share their technical data with us, and used experts to analyse it, we are satisfied that they are both already responsible viscose producers.

“We are also satisfied that they are committed to making it even better.”

See BAM Clothing.

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