The cattle industry, which involves leather procurement, is the leading cause of the Amazon jungle's deforestation. Now, Stand.Earth has released a new report that details how some of the world's biggest fashion brands may be worsening the deforestation situation.
According to "Nowhere to Hide: How the Fashion Industry Is Related to the Destruction of Amazon Rainforests," the Brazilian Amazon rainforests lost about 6.7 million hectares in just nine years (2011 to 2020). Further, the country also lost 45% or 21.8 million hectares of its entire forest land to the livestock sector. Meanwhile, cattle is estimated to be responsible for 36% of worldwide tree cover depletion between 2001 and 2015, overtaking roughly twice as much forest as all combined commodities.
Cattle ranching also accounts for over 2% of world CO2 emissions yearly, approximating all worldwide airline operations. According to research, the majority of deforestation is caused by illegal cattle ranching.
Fashion In Connection Amazon Rainforests Deforestation
The leather industry is a 'top shot’ business in Brazil, exporting 80% of its bovine leather. The country possesses the world's largest cattle herd with more than 215 million cattle— slaughterhouses earnings account for about $1.1 billion.
JBS, in particular, Brazil's largest leather and beef corporation is revealed to be the main culprit for the devastation of the Amazon rainforest. Fashion businesses that transact with JBS via leather manufacturers or directly have been linked to deforestation in the Amazon rainforests.
Image source: Stand.earth Research Group
The report further exposes certain fashion brands using Leather Working Group (LWG) certification to cover up the crime. The LWG is demonstrated to assess slaughterhouses purely based on the capacity to trace leather back to slaughterhouses. Not taking into consideration farms or the connection between slaughterhouses and deforestation— invalidating their claim of deforestation awareness. Or a deforestation-free leather supply chain practice, for that matter.
Image Source: Getty Images via Vogue UK
ASIC, LVMH, Clarks, Adidas, Zara, Nike, H&M, Prada, and Marks & Spencer are among the prominent fashion houses increasing the destruction vulnerability of Amazon rainforests, according to the findings of the report. Further, 22 of the 74 companies analyzed may be violating their policies by opposing leather deforestation. Meanwhile, the remaining 52 are void of any policies pertaining to the subject in concern.
From Fast Fashion To Natural Fibres— Sustainable Fabric Reshaping The Fashion Industry
Many of us may not be considering the clothes we wear but every piece of clothing is more than just a finished product— it carries carbon footprints and human impacts, starting from the farms. Given the massive influence of clothes on the environment and the lives of garment workers, it's critical to analyze the lifespan of the clothes we wear and become better educated on what is environmentally friendly or sustainable.
Unfortunately, it is in cahoots with the oil industry— another pollution juggernaut. The textile sector is monumentally dependent on the oil industry for fabric treatment, manufacture, and delivery. Particularly, to produce synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and acrylic— the inexpensive variants that are easier to produce and sell (resulting in increased usage).
We can drastically transform the apparel industry and reap significant benefits by opting for natural fibers that are gentler on human health and the planet. Sustainable clothes made of natural fibers can also substantially shave consumption rate and the detrimental consequences of the fashion sector on the global ecosystem.
Synthetic materials pollute the environment and expose human bodies to pollutants. Polyester and other synthetics retain and proliferate bacteria with continued washes and wear. It also carries plastic strands that absorb pollutants from the environment. Even in terms of functionality, synthetic materials pill and wear quicker than natural fiber clothes. Then to add insult to injury— they take hundreds of years to degrade once discarded, releasing toxins into soil and water during the process. To put it simply, synthetic fabric equals one word “harmful.”
How can fashion brands continue to develop, design, and manufacture while leaving a smaller footprint and having a more beneficial impact?
Brands can take advantage of regenerative agriculture to promote more sustainable fashion ideals. Environmentally concerned companies are increasingly focusing on lowering their CO2 emissions, aware that reducing emissions alone would not be enough to slow climate change. And, investing in carbon insetting can aid in achieving long-term sustainability objectives.
Circular production chains can help reduce synthetic fiber-related emissions. Recycling old fabric into new garments cycles the fabric within the supply chain, reducing emissions. Then, there’s practicing the highest degree of transparency and traceability. The increasing demand of mindful consumer demands is now making transparency an important factor not just for fighting socio-environmental challenges but for attracting product interest and purchases.