Untangle the threads of the biggest names in fashion and you will find the twine tied to the rapidly endangered Amazon rainforest. According to a new report released by Slow Factory non-profit foundation and conducted in coordination with the Stand.earth supply chain research group, more than 50 of the most popular clothing and accessory manufacturers are contributing to the Amazon’s ongoing deforestation.
The guilty parts include brands that you are no doubt familiar with and may even have in your wardrobe right now. Luxury brands like Coach, Prada, Fendi and Louis Vuitton have all contributed to the deforestation of the world’s largest rainforest. Likewise, fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara – already blamed for the massive amount of waste they generate – are also engaging in nefarious practices. Even sports brands like Nike, Adidas and New Balance have contributed to this problem.
Deforestation in the Amazon is a serious problem. Last year, the Amazon experienced its highest deforestation rate in a decade, losing more than 4,000 square miles of its essential ecosystem. As the Amazon loses more and more of its land, it puts the planet in danger. The rainforest is one of the world’s largest natural carbon sinks, capturing carbon emissions from the atmosphere and storing them in a way that reduces damage. If deforestation continues at its current rate, it is possible that the Amazon will become a carbon emitter instead of an absorber.
At the heart of the problem are the extensive and far-reaching supply chains that many of these apparel companies operate. While they may not directly contribute to bulldozing Amazon lands, they do a lot of business with other companies that do. And it is almost impossible to separate the demand created by these clothing companies and the continued degradation of rainforest ecosystems.
One of the biggest issues is the continued use of a company called JBS, the largest exporter of leather in Brazil. Last year, investigation in the practices of the company discovered that it does business with a number of farms that have illegally felled trees in the Amazon and set up livestock farms on the land. While JBS has promised to cut farms that illegally destroy rainforest from its own supply chains, the company has been given until 2035 to follow through on this commitment.
Speaking of largely meaningless commitments: The study also found that a third of all brands involved in this supply chain nightmare have policies in place to limit their contribution to deforestation. . Technically, these brands can claim to be in compliance with their own standards. They’re dealing with a company that previously denied contributing to deforestation and is now, you know, committing to making sure that is true. There are only enough plausible denial for these big brands to say it’s not their fault or that they didn’t know. But all you have to do is pull the string and see where it leads.