While many people have heard of Amazon rain forest land being cleared for grazing cows doomed to become burgers, the pursuit of cows’ skin is also driving deforestation. Turns out, it’s not just fast-food chains causing problems. According to a new study, many fashion brands source leather from opaque supply chains tied to decimating forests.
The culprits include lots of famous fashion brands like Coach, Zara, Adidas and Dr. Martens. Some, like Louis Vuitton, H&M and Fendi, are multiple offenders, getting busted again after previously pledging transparency.
Advocacy group Stand.earth conducted this research on the Brazilian cattle industry and how tanneries and manufacturers around the globe use Brazilian leather. Brazil’s largest leather exporter, JBS, has been tied to deforestation. Stand.earth wanted to see where JBS’s leather was turning up, so researchers analyzed 500,000 rows of customs data from multiple countries as they traced the cowhide through tanneries, processors and manufacturers. Then, they cross-referenced data with voluntary disclosure lists the fashion brands make of their manufacturing providers.
“The fashion industry is known for deliberately obscure supply chains that hide massive human rights and environmental abuses,” said Colin Vernon, co-founder of non-profit Slow Factory, which collaborated on the report, as reported by Grist. “Given the very lax standards and enforcement on the part of the Brazilian government, we are calling on global brands to make sure that they can prove that their supply chains are clean, without relying on the word of their suppliers, or standards that have massive loopholes.”
The New York Times recently reported on luxury carmakers sourcing seat leather from Brazilian slaughterhouses. According to the Times, some JBS suppliers’ ranches overlap with illegally deforested areas and Indigenous lands.
In the E.U., parliamentarians are trying to halt the importation of goods like soy, palm oil, beef, cacao, coffee and wood, which can be linked to deforestation. Maybe fashion items will join that list.
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