Deforestation for Fashion: Getting Unsustainable Fabrics Out of the Closet: An Analysis

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/zara-h-m-fashion-sustainable-forests-logging-fabric

The article “Deforestation for Fashion: Getting Unsustainable Fabrics Out of the Closet” by D. G. McCullough serves as a brief glimpse into how the fashion industry affects forests globally. By detailing the steps that major fast fashion chains H&M and Zara have taken to remove endangered and ancient forests from their supply chain for dissolvable pulp, the article also details that damages that have occurred leading up to this point. Ancient forests, McCullough states, have been exploited by textile corporations for their dissolvable pulp to use for viscose and rayon fabrics. Apparently, 30% of these cellulosic fabrics are made from dissolvable pulp sources from endangered and ancient forests. This action has previously resulted in the mass deforestation of ancient forests, which has numerous ecological effects and connotations. However, the article continues to explore the fact that these companies are reportedly committed to finding more sustainable alternatives. Additionally, the companies first step is to stop the cycle of use, ensuring that existing supply chain developments ask for assurance that the pulp used for their fabrics do not originate from endangered forests.

While this article was informative in its nature about the connections between the fashion industry and ancient forests, I feel that it lacked the weight of the environmental implications of this action. The article was focused primarily on the politics of the business, and the companies’ insistence that they are planning to improve. However, the suggest improvement strategies were vague and non-committal, with no real sense of regulation or responsibility behind them. Additionally, the most relevant information included seemed to be absent-minded add-ons by the author, such as the fact that “forests-based fabrics represent 5% of the total $1.2tn global apparel industry.” Lastly, the article seems to applaud the actions being taken by H&M and Zara, without exploring the further environmental exploitation that companies are active in. It has a congratulatory tone that is meant to assure the reader that their clothing will soon be environmentally conscious and ethical, without detailing the various other problems with fabric.

While this article lacked critique of the attitudes of the companies and did not adequately weigh the implications of the goals of the companies from a systems perspective, it was useful in giving a brief overview in the direct manner in which ancient forest, dissolvable pulp, and the fast fashion industry are related. Furthermore, it gave interesting tidbits of information concerning the general role of the industry in relation to deforestation.

Additionally, it was a good baseline for further research concerning the dependence of fast fashion on cellulosic fabrics, as I believe that we tend to ignore the fact that our textiles can come from trees, and not just agricultural crops like cotton. Deforestation is a serious problem, and the exacerbation of extinction of certain forests by the apparel industry is a clear environmental overstep and concern. Overall, I would label this piece as a decent framing piece, giving general perspective on an issue, but was not a sufficient stand-alone piece. Its lack of in depth investigation into the promises of the apparel companies and complex exploration of the ecological impacts of this deforestation demonstrate how this piece was simply meant to regurgitate the message of H&M and Zara, not analyze their environmental impacts.

McCullough, D. G. “Deforestation for Fashion: Getting Unsustainable Fabrics out of the Closet.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 25 Apr. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.

-SK