World's biggest fashion brands linked to deforestation in the Amazon, from Zara to Fendi

LVMH, Prada, H&M, Adidas and Nike are also among companies found to have connections to suppliers engaging in harmful environmental practices

This aerial photo shows a deforested area of Amazonia rainforest in Labrea, Brazil in September. AFP

A new study of the fashion industry’s convoluted supply chains has linked a number of the world’s biggest brands to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

Conducted by Stand.earth, a supply chain research company, the report places a spotlight on tanneries and other companies involved in the production of leather and goods made from it in Brazil. The cattle industry is the single largest driver of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and tropical forests globally, and Brazil has the largest cattle herd in the world, amounting to 215 million animals.

According to Stand.earth, Brazil has the largest cattle herd in the world, amounting to 215 million animals. Reuters

The report found that brands such as as Coach, LVMH, Prada, H&M, Zara, Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Teva, Ugg and Fendi have several connections to suppliers that are known to contribute to deforestation. For example, more than 50 brands have many supply-chain links to Brazil’s largest leather exporter, JBS, which is known to engage in deforestation. The company has recently pledged to eliminate deforestation across its global supply chain by 2035, but environmental groups have claimed this is insufficient.

While JBS is the country’s largest leather exporter, according to the report, “this problem is endemic of the entire Brazilian leather industry”. Tannery companies such as Minerva and Fuga Couros were also named as complicit.

Stand.earth analysed customs information obtained from several data providers, and cross-referenced this with data collected from numerous other sources to uncover hidden supply chains linking shoe and fashion brands to Amazon rainforest deforestation.

Their analysis does not prove a direct link between each fashion brand and Amazon deforestation. Instead, it highlights connections that increase the probability of individual garments being the result of cattle ranching in the Amazon.

Stella McCartney with Britain's Prince Charles at the Cop26 summit last month, where the designer called for a ban on the use of fur and leather. AP

Many of the fashion brands named in the report have publicly announced policies designed to distance them from companies that contribute to deforestation. The Stand.earth data suggests, however, that 22 of the 74 fashion companies identified are “potentially breaching their own policies against sourcing leather from deforestation”. The other two-thirds have no relevant policies in place at all.

At the recent COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in the UK, ethical fashion designer Stella McCartney called for an outright ban on fur and leather across the fashion industry, highlighting its destructive qualities.

“I still don’t think many people truly understand the devastating impact that animal agriculture has on the planet,” she told The National. “Not only is it horrifically cruel, animal agriculture is behind 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and is driving the deforestation of vital ecosystems like the Amazon. Leather production is also a human rights issue, poisoning tannery workers, often in developing countries.”

Updated: December 6th 2021, 8:12 AM