Nike, Fendi, Prada, H&M, and others are doing business with companies that are contributing to the illegal deforestation of the world’s largest rainforest.
Unravel the threads from the biggest names in fashion and you’ll find the string tied to the rapidly disappearing Amazon rainforest. According to a new report published by the non-profit Slow Factory Foundation and conducted in coordination with supply chain research group Stand.earth, more than 50 of the most popular clothes and accessories manufacturers are contributing to the ongoing deforestation of the Amazon.
The guilty parts include brands that you are undoubtedly familiar with and may even have in your closet right now. Luxury brands like Coach, Prada, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton all were found to be contributing to deforestation of the world’s biggest rainforest. Likewise, fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara — already on the hook for the massive amount of waste that they contribute — are also engaging in harmful practices. Even athletic brands like Nike, Adidas, and New Balance were found to be contributors to this issue.
Deforestation in the Amazon is a serious problem. Last year, the Amazon experienced its highest rate of deforestation 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 at risk. 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 harm. If deforestation continues at its current rate, it is possible that the Amazon may become a carbon emitter instead of an absorber.
At the heart of the issue are the expansive and wide-reaching supply chains that many of these clothing companies operate. While they may not directly contribute to the bulldozing of Amazon land, they do a significant amount of business with other companies that do. And it’s nearly impossible to separate the demand created by these clothing companies and the ongoing degradation of the rainforest’s ecosystems.
One of the biggest issues is the ongoing use of a company called JBS, the largest leather exporter in Brazil. Last year, an investigation into the company’s practices found that it does business with a number of farms that have illegally cut down trees in the Amazon and set up cattle farms on the land. While JBS has promised to cut farms that are illegally destroying the rainforest out of its own supply chains, the company gave itself until 2035 to actually follow through on that commitment.
Speaking of largely meaningless pledges: The study also found that one-third of all of the brands implicated in this supply chain nightmare have policies in place meant to limit their contributions to deforestation. Technically, these brands may claim they are in compliance with their own standards. They are doing business with a company that previously denied contributing to deforestation and is now pledging to, you know, actually make sure that is true. There’s just enough plausible deniability for these big brands to say it’s not their fault or that they didn’t know. But all that needs to be done is pull the string and see where it leads.