How do we choose the clothes we wear? Leather or synthetic, plant-based or cruelty-free? It’s not always easy to know which alternative is better. Yet one thing is certain, choosing leather clothes or gadgets always coincides with animal suffering and deforestation.

Leather from the Amazon

New research into the fashion industry’s complex global supply chains shows that a number of major brands are at risk of contributing to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, based on their connections with tanneries and other companies involved in leather production.

6.7 million hectares of forest were lost in the Brazilian Amazon forest from 2011 to 2020. In 2019 and 2020, Brazil faced criticism from world leaders for not doing more to protect the forest from devastating fires. Deforestation in the crucial ecosystem continues at an alarming rate.Research has shown that the cattle industry is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon and all tropical forests: From 2001-2015, cattle accounted for 36% of global tree cover loss. And the fashion industry is a major cog in the leather export machine, with big importing countries such as China (41.6%), Italy (27.3%) and Vietnam (9.6%)

Figura 1: Stand.earth Research Group, Cattle Industry and Forest Loss
Figura 1: Stand.earth Research Group, Cattle Industry and Forest Loss
Figura 2: Stand.earth Research Group
Figura 2: Stand.earth Research Group

The most guilty brands

The link between the cattle and fashion industries is JBS, Brazil’s largest beef and leather company, which countless studies have shown to be the biggest contributor to rainforest destruction. The new study by Stand.earth Research Group was able to connect the various specific brands that source directly or indirectly from JBS and thus link them to the deforestation of the Amazon.

At the moment the report has linked more than 100 brands – but the study continues and is analysing over 400 links. According to the results, more than 50 brands have multiple supply chain links to JBS, showing a very high risk of driving the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. These include Coach, LVMH, Prada, H&M, Zara, Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Teva, UGG and Fendi, all with multiple connections to deforestation.

The results are alarming, also because 23 of the surveyed brands had recently announced policies to distance themselves from players contributing to deforestation along the chain. This implies that they are probably violating their policies. 

It is also up to us

It is clear that continuing on this path is not possible. For a while now we have had the means to be aware of how our daily choices, be they by stomach or wardrobe, have an impact on the planet. The alternatives to choose local and plant-based products – even from waste – are now available; and above all we can all choose to consume less

With our purchases – and non-purchases – we can put pressure on fashion brands to stop using leather that causes deforestation and suffering. We must all together be part of the solution now.

Written by: Laura persavalli

Sources:

https://slowfactory.earth/supplychange

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/nov/29/fashion-industry-amazon-rainforest-deforestation

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