There is increased demand for vegan alternatives to leather, suede and wool © Christian Vierig/Getty Images
There is increased demand for vegan alternatives to leather, suede and wool © Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Vegan fashion guidelines call for retailers to map supply chains

3 February 2020

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has issued voluntary guidelines to ensure all fashion labelled as ‘vegan’ is free from animal-derived materials.

The guidelines were developed by the BRC, the trade body for retailers, to encourage firms to engage with suppliers to meet increased demand for vegan fashion. 

Brands such as Dr Martens, Marks & Spencer and Topshop have launched vegan products such as footwear and accessories in recent years. 

While manufacturing vegan products rules out the use of leather, suede, wool, and natural silk, retailers also have to consider the use of many glues, dyes, and chemicals which have traditionally been derived from animals. 

“Classing a product as vegan is a very complex process with the need for retailers to ask more questions than ever before… Retailers need to go back to their suppliers and ask the right questions about the raw material ingredients in order to verify them individually,” the BRC said. 

As part of the guidance, the BRC has called on retailers to map product supply chains to check for the presence of animal-derived products. 

The guidance recommended identifying risks within the supply chain and highlighted the role of procurement, sourcing, regulatory, and technical teams to help assess the key risks. 

“Not all synthetic materials necessarily mean they are vegan so you will need transparency of chemicals in the synthetic materials to validate vegan requirements,” the BRC added.  

The body also said brands must consider the possibility of cross-contamination in factories where both vegan and non-vegan products are made.

“Good manufacturing practices and segregating where possible will help reduce the likelihood of being cross-contaminated,” it said. 

The BRC added retailers should not claim a product is sustainable on the basis it is ‘vegan’ as issues such as water use and carbon footprint must also be considered. 

BRC sustainability policy adviser Leah Riley Brown told Drapers: “Veganism is not just growing in food but in fashion too, as consumers look for products that cater to both their diets and their beliefs. Classing a product as vegan means not just ruling out the use of leather and wool but also many glues, dyes, and other animal-derived materials.

“To help tackle these challenges, the BRC and its members have published the guidelines with the aim of providing consumers with the level of assurance that any vegan product can be purchased with confidence.”

According to the Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. In 2019 there were 600,000 vegans.

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