I pulled out the latest issue of Green Futures for a bit of light relief. It instantly lifted my mood as it reminded me just… how exciting sustainability issues can be.
Two of the world’s biggest clothing retailers, H&M and Inditex (owner of Zara), have committed to ending the use of pulp from ancient and endangered forests in their rayon and viscose production processes. They are among 20 brands to sign up to the Fashion Loved by Forest campaign, launched by environmental organisation Canopy in October last year.
Canopy, a not-for-profit dedicated to protecting the world’s forests, species and climate, estimates that 30% of the 70-100 million trees felled for fabric production each year are ancient and endangered species. Its research also shows that the dissolving pulp industry, which supplies the key raw ingredient in fabrics like rayon and viscose, has grown by 11% each year during the past five years, and is anticipated to double again in the next 20 years.
“It is increasingly clear that unless we are able to shift the trajectory of the market, the clothing and the fashion industry will become a significant driving force in global deforestation, with implications for forest-dependent communities, endangered species and ecosystems, and our global climate”, argues Catherine Stewart, Communications Director at Canopy.
As well as Inditex and H&M, the brands now signed up to Fashion Loved by Forest include Stella McCartney, Quiksilver and Loomstate, and together represent $45 billion in annual sales. Canopy is also in talks with around 40 other brands and expects the campaign to gain more signatories in future.
A spokeswoman for H&M said its target is to eliminate the use of ancient and endangered forest-fibre supplies by 2017. “We encourage the development of alternative fibre sources for man-made cellulosic fabrics, such as agricultural residues and recycled fabrics that reduce environmental and social impacts, consistent with our other sustainability initiatives.”
Rodrigo Bautista, who works with brands on sustainable innovation at Forum for the Future, calls the initiative “a positive example of how brands need to act to end practices that are evidently problematic for the environment, such as using pulp from ancient or endangered forests”, adding that brands must also look for long-term solutions: “Can they also produce clothes that last, and that are designed for re-use or recycling?”
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