Some of the world's top fashion brands - like Prada and Zara - might be held responsible for contributing to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest with the haute leather goods they produce, according to a study.
Fashion brands like VMH, Prada, Zara, Coach, H&M, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Teva, UGG and Fendi have been sourcing their leather from manufacturers that have links to Amazon deforestation, said a report released on 29 November by supply chain research firm Stand.earth.
The study, however, did not show a direct link between these fashion brands and the Amazon deforestation, CNBC reported.
"If you're wearing leather shoes, a leather belt or carrying a leather handbag, it's highly likely that it was made from cowhide that contributed to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest," climate justice non-profit organisation Slow Factory wrote in the report for which it collaborated with Stand.earth.
The Stand.earth report analysed 84 companies and claimed that a third of the companies surveyed have some kind of policy in place.
It said that despite having explicit policies on deforestation, 23 fashion brands are probably violating their own policies.
Most of the brands mentioned have reportedly collaborated with tanneries and manufacturers that have links with cows raised on the rainforest land.
According to The Guardian, over 50 brands have supply chain links with JBS, the largest leather exporter of Brazil, which is known to engage with Amazon farmers linked with illegal deforestation.
Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest rose to a 12-year high in 2020 and the cattle industry has been one of the leading causes behind it, data from Brazil's National Institute for Space (INPE) showed.
While the rate of destruction decreased slightly between 2004 and 2012, it soared 92% since Jair Bolsonaro took over as President of Brazil in January 2019, Time magazine reported.
Bolsonaro, a powerful supporter of agribusiness, has allowed exploitation of the Amazon for business by sacking key environmental officials, slashing enforcement and serving notices to non-profit organisations like World Wildlife Fund.
"In this time of climate emergency, if the fashion industry wants to be relevant, this is the opportunity," Angeline Robertson, one of the researchers in the study, told The Guardian.
Céline Semaan, Co-Founder of Slow Factory, said brands should invest in other alternatives that are not extractive.
"At the end of the day, we have to find other solutions and other alternative leathers that are not animal-based and that are not plastic-based," The Guardian quoted Semaan as saying.
The Amazon is 10 million years old and an unrivalled nest of biodiversity with 390 billion trees. Through the years, the region has witnessed deforestation on a vast scale for farmland, firewood and houses.
In the 20th century, the vast mineral riches under the rainforest's soil came under threat. With the advancement in infrastructure, wealthy tycoons built cattle ranches over vast fields of land in the region, reports suggest.
Since 1988, Amazon has lost nearly 1 million sq km forest area in Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Suriname, Colombia, Guyana, and French Guyana. This is equivalent to losing 200,000 acres a day or40 football fields per minute.
In 2018, scientists had said that once the Amazon loses more than 25% of its cover, weather patterns would change and the entire ecosystem would become drier. Moreover, fragmentation of the forest would lead to ecosystem decay, meaning loss of species in the surrounding areas.
At this rate, Robert Walker, quantitative geographer in the University of Florida's Center for Latin American studies, predicted that Amazon would be wiped out from the face of the earth by 2064.
The absence of trees already has a warming effect on the region, leading to a rise in the number of droughts and floods. Further deforestation, wildfires and the impact of global temperature rises might soon push Amazon past its tipping point, Carlos Nobre and Thomas Lovejoy, leading authorities on the Amazon and climate change, told Time Magazine.