18 July 2024
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The Link Between H&M, Zara, and Environmental Destruction in Brazil

Fast fashion giants H&M and Zara have recently come under scrutiny for their sourcing practices in Brazil, with a report by the environmental group Earthsight revealing disturbing connections to environmental destruction in the country. The report, titled “Fashion Crimes,” highlighted how these companies have been using cotton from farms associated with massive deforestation, land-grabbing, corruption, and violence in Brazil, particularly in the fragile Cerrado savanna region.

The Cerrado savanna is known as the most biodiverse savanna on Earth, but it has been rapidly disappearing due to the expansion of Brazil’s agribusiness industry. Earthsight’s investigation used satellite images, court rulings, shipment records, and undercover research to uncover the sourcing practices of H&M and Zara. The report found that the cotton used by these companies was farmed in the Cerrado by two major agribusiness firms, SLC Agricola and the Horita Group, both of which have been embroiled in controversies related to environmental damage and human rights violations.

Implications of Using “Tainted Cotton”

The report by Earthsight revealed that despite the unethical practices associated with the production of cotton in the Cerrado, the cotton had been labeled as ethical by the Better Cotton certification scheme. This discrepancy exposed significant flaws in the oversight program of the certification scheme, raising questions about the credibility of ethical sourcing claims made by major fashion brands like H&M and Zara.

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The cotton sourced from the farms in question was exported to Asian clothing manufacturers, some of whom are clients of H&M and Zara. This raises concerns about the indirect contribution of these fast fashion brands to environmental destruction and human rights abuses in regions where their raw materials are sourced. The supply chain transparency and accountability of these companies come into question, as they must take responsibility for the impact of their sourcing decisions on fragile ecosystems and local communities.

Response from Stakeholders

In response to the report, Better Cotton conducted an independent audit to investigate the issues raised by Earthsight. Both Zara’s parent company, Inditex, and H&M expressed seriousness towards the allegations and called for the release of the auditors’ findings by Better Cotton. The Brazilian Cotton Producers’ Association (ABRAPA) also issued a statement condemning practices that undermine environmental conservation, violate human rights, or harm local communities.

It is essential for companies like H&M and Zara to engage in transparent and ethical sourcing practices to ensure that their supply chains do not contribute to environmental destruction and human rights violations. Consumers play a crucial role in holding these companies accountable by demanding transparency, sustainability, and ethical standards in the fashion industry.

The Urgency of Sustainable Fashion

The case of H&M and Zara’s connection to environmental destruction in Brazil underscores the urgent need for a shift towards sustainable fashion practices. The fast fashion industry’s reliance on cheap and unsustainable sourcing practices has significant implications for the environment, biodiversity, and local communities in regions where raw materials are extracted.

Consumers can make a difference by supporting brands that prioritize ethical sourcing, transparency, and sustainability in their operations. Choosing quality over quantity, investing in timeless pieces, and supporting brands that follow sustainable practices can help reduce the demand for fast fashion and promote a more responsible fashion industry.

The report linking H&M and Zara to environmental destruction in Brazil serves as a wake-up call for the fashion industry to prioritize ethical sourcing, environmental conservation, and social responsibility. It highlights the interconnectedness of global supply chains and the impact of consumer choices on the environment and communities worldwide. By advocating for sustainable fashion and holding brands accountable for their sourcing practices, we can work towards a more sustainable and ethical future for the fashion industry.

Links to additional Resources:

1. Earthsight 2. H&M 3. Zara

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Fast fashion, Environmental impact of cotton production, Better Cotton Initiative

Fast fashion
Fast fashion is the business model of replicating recent catwalk trends and high-fashion designs, mass-producing them at a low cost, and bringing them to retail quickly while demand is at its highest. The term fast fashion is also used generically to describe the products of this business model, particularly clothing...
Read more: Fast fashion

Cotton production in Pakistan
Cotton production in Pakistan is integral to the economic development of the country. The nation is largely dependent on the cotton industry and its related textile sector, and the crop has been given a principal status in the country. Cotton is grown as an industrial crop in 15% of the...
Read more: Cotton production in Pakistan

Better Cotton Initiative
Better Cotton is a non-profit, multistakeholder governance group that promotes better standards in cotton farming and practices across 22 countries. As of 2023, Better Cotton accounts for 22% of global cotton production. In the 2022-2023 cotton season, 2.2 million licensed farmers grew 5.4 million tonnes of Better Cotton. Partner retailers include...
Read more: Better Cotton Initiative

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