Fibres from forests

Fibres from forests

We are committed to being a zero-deforestation brand, carefully verifying all of our viscose sources to ensure our material only comes from sustainably managed forests. 

Viscose, also known as rayon, starts its life as a tree. Every year, 150 million trees are cut down to create fabric. 1 Some come from sustainably managed forests, like those Stella McCartney uses, though a significant amount of the global viscose supply still originates from ancient and endangered forests. This is unacceptable. 

The deforestation and forest degradation of Mother Earth continues at an alarming rate; 13 million hectares of forest are chopped down annually 2 and this accounts for 12 to 20% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

We must protect our forests; – they provide us with clean water and air, give us food, medicine, resources like timber and are a habitat for the majority of the world’s birds and animals. This is why we are committed to sourcing our viscose exclusively from protected places. 

Over 80% of animal, insect and plant species that live on land reside in forests – though most do not survive once they have lost their home.


Since 2017, all of our ready-to-wear viscose has come from sustainably managed and certified forests in Sweden 4 – ensuring that zero deforestation occurs and no ancient or endangered forests are destroyed. 

We planted the seeds for a better tomorrow and want to be more ambitious today. Moving forward, we hope to be able to produce our collections without cutting down any trees and rely instead on fabrics that are recycled or made from alternative raw materials. 

  • Deforestation is the destruction of forests by humans. 
  • Deforestation comes in many forms, including fires, clear-cutting for agriculture, ranching and development and unsustainable logging for timber. However, the biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture.5
  • In the Amazon roughly 17% of the rainforest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle ranching.6
  • Forests and trees have the greatest potential to reduce carbon emissions. Reforestation, avoided forest loss and better forestry practices could cost-effectively remove 7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually by 2030.7
  • Ancient and endangered forests are defined as intact forest landscape mosaics, naturally rare forest types, forest types that have been made rare due to human activity and/or other forests that are ecologically critical for the protection of biological diversity.8
  • Key endangered forests globally include: the Canadian and Russian Boreal Forests; Coastal Temperate Rainforests of British Columbia, Alaska and Chile; and the tropical forests and peatlands of Indonesia, the Amazon and West Africa.
  • Managing forests sustainably means using them in a way that maintains their productivity, biodiversity and regeneration capacity, as well as ensuring that they can meet society’s needs now and in the future.9
  • Good sustainable forestry practices mimic nature’s patterns of disturbance and regeneration, balancing the needs of the environment, wildlife, forest communities and supporting decent livelihoods while conserving our trees for generations to come.10

Viscose in our collections 

Our forest-friendly viscose is used in our woven fabrics, the backing of some of our leather alternatives and our knitwear. It makes up around 16% of the fabrics we use in our women’s ready-to-wear collections annually. Arguably our most recognisable use is in our stretch cady fabric, which is made from a viscose-acetate mix with a small amount of elastane. We use this lightweight, slightly stretchy, comfortable and versatile fabric in both everyday garments and eveningwear. 

Fibres from forest

We also use viscose for our tailoring and outerwear lining, where we combine it with organic cotton. Our other primary usage of this forest-friendly material is in our iconic compact knit styles. A key part of our knitwear offering, these pieces are modern, clean, sporty and minimalist. 

For Stella Kids, we primarily use forest-friendly viscose along with TENCEL (another cellulose fibre) for our dresses; cellulose fibres make up around 3% of the materials used in our kids’ collections. 


Our viscose supply chain 

Our primary viscose supply chain is entirely traceable, transparent and European. We carefully source pulp from trees that come from a sustainably -certified forest in Sweden that is neither ancient nor endangered. 

The pulp is then turned into a viscose filament in Germany by our supplier ENKA according to strict chemical standards (an important point as creating viscose can be a very harmful process) and made into fabric in Italy. This gives us a level of traceability that is unprecedented and ensures we are not directly or indirectly contributing to the destruction of forests. 

Our other forest-based fabrics, or Man-Made Cellulose Fibres (MMCF), also come from sustainably managed forests that are neither ancient nor endangered. These materials include acetate and modal. 

  • ENKA is FSC® certified and sources their pulp from Domsjö Fabriker in Sweden, the first-ever dissolving pulp mill to bleach without chlorine and the world’s only closed-loop bleach plant without any emissions. 
  • ENKA® Viscose has received the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute's Gold level Material Health Certificate and is certified according to ISO 9001:2008, ISO 50001:2011. 
  • ENKA complies with the requirements of DETOX, which eliminates the use of 11 hazardous chemical groups, and ZDHC MRSL – a list of chemical substances banned from intentional use. 
  • All relevant parts of ENKA’s production work in closed circuits, allowing it to regain and recycle raw -materials (including chemicals). 
  • The main by-products of ENKA’s manufacturing are Glauber salt (which can be used for the making of detergents) and cellulose yarn residues; both are sold for further usage into different industries, creating a more circular system. 
  • ENKA® Viscose meets the Fairtrade Textile Standards. 
  • We also work with Lenzing, who are OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Class 1 Certified 

The Future of Viscose 

We are supporting the development of the next generation of sustainable, recycled cellulose fibres. Instead of coming from trees, they are being made from materials such as used cotton garments and agricultural residues (what is left over after crops have been harvested). 

We also have a long-running partnership with Evrnu, an American start-up that has developed a game-changing method of transforming cotton waste into cellulose. They have created of a new kind of engineered fibre called NuCycl™ made from liquefied cotton waste. 

We believe that solutions like NuCycl™ are a crucial element in innovating the future of fashion, with the industry historically being reprehensible at recycling its own waste. Only 1% of textiles get a second life globally, leaving us with a staggering amount of unwanted material to deal with. 


Pioneering conservation solutions 

In 2014, we established a partnership with Canopy – an NGO that is developing solutions to protect the world’s ancient and endangered forests. 

Canopy played a key role in helping us verify that our supply chain was truly free from ancient and endangered forests. Now, we are working together to advance visionary solutions that protect conservation areas in places like Indonesia and Canada. 

In the run-up to our Winter 2019 show, we launched our #ThereSheGrows campaign – raising awareness about the deforestation of the Leuser Forest in Sumatra, Indonesia. This is the last place on Earth where elephants, tigers, orangutans and rhinos live side by side. We invited supporters to make a dedication to a loved one and, in return, we donated to Canopy to help them protect the Leuser Ecosystem and endangered forests around the world. 


Measuring the impact of viscose 

After realising that there was little data available about the environmental impacts of Man-Made Cellulose Fibres (MMCF) production, we commissioned our own study. 

In 2017, we released the results of a new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – an internationally recognized scientific methodology comparing the environmental performance of 10 different raw material sources of MMCFs such as viscose. 

This was the first time a comparative LCA had ever been commissioned to evaluate global sourcing scenarios for 10 MMCF supply chains. The study examined a broad range of environmental issues, from the time raw materials are obtained from forests, through to the production of viscose and other MMCFs. 

The study helps ensure our products are free from fibres derived from ancient and endangered forests. More importantly, we hope it will serve as an informative and guiding tool for the industry. Our aim in conducting this research was to help bring attention to the impact that MMCF sourcing can have on the world’s forests, species and freshwater, as well as our global climate and human health. 

Sustainably sourced wood and paper 

All of the wood used in our products comes from sustainably certified sources. The same is true for the paper we use in our offices, stores and packaging. Sustainable forestry certifications give us the assurance that the wood and paper we use will protect forests for the future. You can read more about our paper and packaging here.

1Forests into fashion, Canopy Planet
2CanopyStyle Verification and Guidelines Evaluation Report for: Birla Cellulose in Mumbai, India, Rainforest Alliance
3REDD myth no.1: Deforestation accounts for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions’, Redd-Monitor
4Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss‘, United Nations
5Deforestation Overview, WWF
6Deforestation Overview, WWF
7Lands of Opportunity, The Nature Conservancy
8Protecting Forests, Canopy Planet
9 Sustainable Forest Management, European Commission
10Sustainable Forestry 101, Rainforest Alliance
11Sustainable Forestry 101, Rainforest Alliance
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