LVMH, Prada, H&M and Zara are among over 100 global fashion brands that may have ties to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest based on their connections to leather sources. 

What is Happening? 

More than 100 global fashion brands may have ties to the deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, according to new research into the fashion industry’s complex global supply chains. 

Famous brands such as Coach, LVMH, Prada, H&M, Zara, Adidas, Nike, and New Balance were found to have connections to tanneries and other companies involved in the production of leather and leather goods, which are known to have links to cattle raised on recently deforested Amazon land. 

The cattle industry is the single largest driver of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, mainly for beef production and exportation. But the global leather demand, which is propped up by the fashion industry, plays a significant role in supporting that cattle industry. Projections show the fashion industry will have to slaughter 430 million cows annually by 2025 to keep up consumer demand for leather wallets, handbags and shoes. 

The study conducted by Stand.earth Research Group, a supply chain research firm, analysed nearly 500,000 rows of customs data and discovered more than 50 brands have multiple links to the largest Brazilian beef and leather exporter, JBS, one of the most well-known companies responsible for Amazon deforestation. The firm recently made a commitment to achieve zero deforestation across its global supply chain by 2035, and disputes the findings in the research. 

JBS said in a statement that the study “does not prove a link between products sold by JBS to deforestation in the Amazon,” and that the company “is fully committed to a sustainable cattle production supply chain in every region where we operate.” 

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While the report does acknowledge that “each individual connection is not absolute proof that any one brand uses deforestation leather” or claims these brands to have deliberately chosen to source their materials from deforestation activities, it believes that among the 84 companies analysed, 23 companies have “likely” violated their own policies against deforestation. 

“With a third of companies surveyed having some kind of policy in place, [you’d expect] that would have an impact on deforestation,” said Greg Higgs, a researcher from he report. “The rate of deforestation is increasing, so the policies have no material effect.”

The new research was conducted in partnership with the climate justice nonprofit Slow Factory, which accused the fashion industry of “pushing the Amazon rainforest closer to the tipping point of irreversible ecosystem collapse.”

The Amazon rainforest loses about 1.7 million hectares of forest land every year, with deforestation rates hitting its highest rates this year under the Bolsonaro administration. Despite more than 100 countries recently making a pledge to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, as well as the EU proposing to ban food imports with links to deforestation, world leaders have yet to make any regulations in regards to the fashion industry and its contribution to deforestation.