More than 500 fashion retailers back supply chain deforestation pledge

More than 500 leading fashion brands and retailers including H&M, Zara and Walmart have now signed up to a major new global pledge to avoid using products and materials associated with deforestation in their supply chains, and to instead shift towards sourcing low carbon alternatives.

As many as 515 fashion brands, which together represent more than $857bn in combined revenues, have backed the CanopyStyle initiative led by Canopy, the conservation non-profit announced yesterday.

First launched nine years ago, the initiative is geared towards solutions-driven approaches to halting the destruction of ancient and endangered forests in supply chains. It commits signatories to investing in the design and use of low carbon and low impact alternative materials and processes, such as recycled textiles, in a bid to drive down deforestation associated with forest-derived fabrics.

Among new signatories to the initiative announced yesterday include Stella McCartney, PVH, Kering, Everlane, L’Estrange, Rachel Comey, BAM Clothing, Nique, Grain de Malice, and BN3TH, according to Canopy.

The harvesting of trees to make fabrics has more than doubled over the past 30 years and is expected to grow by another 50-60 per cent within the next decade alone, according to Canopy, with more than 200 million trees currently being logged every year to produce materials such as viscose and rayon.

Proponents of such materials argue that if sustainably sourced, they offer a more eco-friendly alternative to synthetic plastic-based fabrics such as polyester, and that they can also be made using fewer chemicals and with lower environmental impacts than cotton.

But Canopy said the rapid spike in demand for forest-derived fabrics posed a threat to rare and ancient forests, of which only 20 per cent now remain intact globally. Such forests are both critical ecosystems for plants and nature, while also acting as significant natural stores of carbon.

As such, the NGO estimates that by ending deforestation and forest degradation in fashion supply chains worldwide, the industry would have the capacity to prevent carbon loss equivalent to eliminating the entire national emissions of a country the size of Switzerland.

“Together, we have shifted almost half of viscose production out of sourcing from endangered forests, secured conservation gains, and spurred production of low-carbon next-gen textiles,” said Nicole Rycroft, Canopy’s executive director. “The job isn’t done yet: in this turnaround decade, we are redoubling efforts to keep ancient and endangered forests standing, scaling commercial production of circular alternatives, and moving the needle on climate action.”

Canopy said that before it began the initiative there was “little knowledge” of the hundreds of millions of trees which were being cut down every year for fabrics such as rayon and viscose.

But since launching CanopyStyle in 2013, the non-profit said it has managed to shift almost 50 per cent of viscose production towards production at low risk of originating from ancient and endangered forests.

It also claims to have spurred the transition to low-impact next gen textiles – including working with the world’s first pulp mill which will rely only on waste textiles as its feedstock.

In addition, the majority of brands which have recently signed on to the deforestation initiative have also signed up to Canopy’s Pack4Good campaign, a parallel initiative designed to help fashion companies reduce their use of paper packaging.

Other new signatories to the CanopyStyle initiative include John Lewis and Partners and Wax London.

Marija Rompani, director of ethics and sustainability at John Lewis & Partners, hailed the CanopyStyle initiative’s “tremendous impact in a short period time”.

“Initiatives such as this showcase our dedication to conserving forests for our planet’s climate and biodiversity,” she said. “CanopyStyle is a brilliant addition to our sustainability work, and we look forward to our collaboration.”

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