The Impact of Fashion on the World’s Forests

120 million trees cut annually for fabric – projected to more than double within the next decade

By Malika Kanatbek kyzy, Youth Correspondent for FSC General Assembly 2017

Every day you open your wardrobe and ask only one question – ‘What should I wear today?’ Many people are concerned only with the way they look and are rarely interested in the fact that the material used for the production of their clothes creates major environmental problems; animals such as orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra lose their habitat because of the rapidly developing fashion industry.

More than 100 million trees are l ogged every year and turned into cellulosic fabric – if placed end to end those trees would circle the earth seven times.

But is there any possibility to safeguard the world’s forests, species, and climate, while retaining fashion? During a side event organized by the fashion coalition on 11 October at the FSC General Assembly 2017, some interesting ways of saving the world’s forests through the fashion industry were found.

Can fashion save the world’s forests?

Viscose, rayon, lyocell, and modal are all forest-based fabrics that are increasingly used by the fashion industry. They can be more environmentally friendly than synthetic textiles or cotton, if the cellulose fibres they are made of come from well-managed forests. However, according to Canadian environmental non-profit organization Canopy, cellulose fibres are often sourced from ancient or endangered forests.

Canopy works with forest industry’s biggest customers and their suppliers to develop business solutions that protect the environment. According to Amanda Carr, Canopy Campaign Director, four years ago they made a call to fashion brands, retailers, and designer partners to collaborate to make their supply chains more sustainable and conserve ancient and endangered forests. Currently, there are 105 partners from the fashion industry who support this idea and have become a part of the fashion coalition.

Together with Zara-Inditex and H&M, Levis Strauss & Co., Marks & Spencer, ASOS, and Portico are bringing their commitment and supply chain influence to the world’s forests through Canopy.

H&M goals by 2030

Cecilia Brannsten, Sustainability Business Expert at H&M group, shared the sustainability report of his company. One interesting goal stood out: “H&M put a goal to use only recycled or other sustainably sourced materials in all its products by 2030,” she said during her presentation.

H&M has been gradually taking steps towards this goal and its vision to become fully circular and renewable fashion while being a fair and equitable company. Globally, H&M is the biggest user of cotton certified by the Better Cotton Initiative and of responsibly sourced down.

H&M will promote the use of fabrics that come from FSC-certified plantations or forestry found outside of ancient and endangered forests.

Did you know that cocoons are placed into the boiling water to make silk?

Since 1899, when ENKA Viscose was founded, wood fibre has been the raw material of choice. Instead of boiling cocoons to extract silk, ENKA uses wood fibre from trees.

“Still today, ENKA Viscose filament yarns are based on wood fibre pulp – our main raw material which we buy only from FSC-certified partners in the North of Europe,” said Till Boldt, Managing Director at ENKA Group.

The session on FSC and Fashion was concluded with a presentation of Marks & Spencer’s plan to convert itself into a zero-waste business, and comments from Manohar Samuel, of Birla Cellulose, on the value of collaboration to ensure sustainable forest-based textiles.