Swedish multinational clothing-retail company H&M has stopped purchasing leather from Brazil over concerns that the country’s cattle industry has contributed to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
The announcement of the temporary ban is the second to hit Brazil after a spike in rainforest fires this year drew global outcry, reports nytimes.com.
Last week, VF Corporation, which includes labels such as Timberland and The North Face, announced a temporary halt on the purchases of Brazilian leather, until its suppliers could prove they were not connected to any environmental harm.
Nearly 50,000 fires have been detected in the Brazilian Amazon so far in 2019 — the highest number in almost a decade.
While fires happen every year during the dry season, the spike coincides with new policies by President Jair Bolsonaro that have encouraged greater access to protected lands.
Though it is unknown how much of the leather exported by Brazil is linked to Amazon deforestation, researchers connect much of it to the forest being cut down for pasture. A 2016 report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization linked 80 per cent of deforestation in the country to cattle grazing.
The sudden rise in recent fires has prompted world leaders and celebrities to issue warnings about the future of the world’s biggest rainforest. Many took aim at Bolsonaro’s policies, which also included slashing the budget of environmental protection agencies.
On Saturday, Bolsonaro dismissed the boycott concerns, saying it was just some “pressure” and “part of the game.”
“This is normal in the whole world,” he had told the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo.
Last week, the Brazilian President signed an executive order forbidding fires during the dry season in the Amazon. The government also sent the military to fight the fires in the Amazon, but thousands of blazes are still raging there.
The brand has already had requirements in place to ensure that raw hides and leather used in its products did not originate from cattle raised in the Amazon, a spokesperson said.
The ban by the clothing label on all leather from Brazil will remain “until there are credible assurance systems in place to verify that the leather does not contribute to environmental harm in the Amazon,” the company said.
The spokesperson added that a “very small” amount of the retailer’s leather comes from Brazil, and that the vast majority comes from Europe, but could not immediately provide specifics. The ban will extend to all of H&M’s brands. (IANS)