Zara, H&M and Better Cotton linked to illegal deforestation

Fashion retailers Zara and H&M have been linked to deforestation and illegal farming practices in Brazil, according to a new hard-hitting report.

The two fashion giants source cotton from industrial farms in Brazil which are facing a raft of accusations including illegal deforestation, corruption and land grabbing, according to a report from climate NGO Earthsight.

The cotton had been certified as sustainable under the Better Cotton label, throwing the non-profit’s integrity into doubt as both H&M and Zara’s parent company Inditex call for it to clarify its certification processes.

The probe scrutinised satellite images, court rulings and shipment records as well as visiting trade shows undercover for over a year. It linked nearly a million tonnes of cotton from ‘notorious estates’ in Brazil to clothing manufacturers in Asia that supply both H&M and Zara.

In the report, the farms under the spotlight are based in Brazil’s Cerrado region. Around half of the region’s native vegetation has been cleared for agricultural development in recent years, creating major environmental damage and generating 230 million metric tons of carbon per year.

Earthsight tracked 816,000 tonnes of cotton made in the region to eight Asian manufacturers over 12 months. It was then made into clothing for global retailer giants H&M and Inditex, including items for Inditex’s flagship brand Zara.


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Earthsight claimed that Better Cotton’s certification’s rules are “riddled with holes, conflicts of interest and weak enforcement”.

“Cotton from land illegally deforested before 2020 can still qualify as ‘better’, even if it was stolen from local communities,” it said.

H&M and Inditex don’t buy the raw material directly, instead sourcing their garments directly from suppliers in Asia.

Better Cotton said it has launched an enquiry following Earthsight’s report, including an independent audit of three farms highlighted by the investigation.

H&M said: “The findings from Earthsight’s report are highly concerning and we take these very seriously.

“H&M Group was one of the first brands to move to 100% organic, recycled, or sustainably sourced cotton. However, this is not where the journey ends and the report clearly highlights the need for all actors to continue the work to further improve standards and traceability systems, which we fully support.”

The spokesperson added that H&M is “in close dialogue” with the non-profit, following its own investigation into Earthsight’s findings.

A spokesperson from Inditex said: “We are committed to upholding best practice in the textile industry. We take the allegations against Better Cotton extremely seriously and we urge them to share the outcome of their third-party investigation as soon as possible and take any necessary measures to ensure a sustainable cotton certification that upholds the highest standards.”

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • fiona fletcher
    April 15, 2024 9:07 am

    it is lack of regulation of suppliers . Box ticking rather than old fashioned on the ground inspection. all retailers are guilty of it.
    they put the onus on the suppliers to self regulate. they ask ridiculous prices that are not achievable from suppliers so shortcuts are taken. The china suppliers will take the rap for this if it gets dirty. they wont pay. The business will cease and then someone else will start up a similar operation elsewhere and the spotlight will have shifted away. the practice will continue .

    Reply

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