The groundswell movement to save the rainforest amid Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s disastrous land policies, continues to grow, while the Amazon continues to burn.
Enter H&M, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer.
This week, the Stockholm-based company announced it will stop purchasing leather from Brazil over concerns that the country’s cattle industry has contributed to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, the Independent reported.
The announcement of the temporary ban is the second to hit the South American country after a spike in rainforest fires this year sparked a global outcry.
Last week, VF Corporation, which includes international brands like Timberland and The North Face, announced a temporary suspension of 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 this year — the highest number in almost a decade, the report said.
While fires happen every year during the dry season, as farmers and land grabbers clear trees to grow crops or graze cattle, the spike coincides with new policies by president Bolsonaro, that have encouraged greater access to protected lands.
A 2016 report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization linked 80% of deforestation in the country to cattle grazing.
The sudden rise in fires prompted world leaders and celebrities to issue warnings about the future of the world’s biggest rainforest.
Meanwhile, the Brazilian president dismissed the boycott concerns over the weekend, telling O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, “This is part of the game … this is normal in the whole world.”
According to ABC News, Brazil exported US$1.4 billion in leather products in 2018, with most of it going to the United States, China and Italy, according to the Center for the Brazilian Tanning Industry.
Last week, Bolsonaro 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.
Swedish and Norwegian pension funds announced last week they had started investigations into whether international companies with investments in the Amazon were doing enough to save the rainforest.
H&M’s ban 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.
According to ABC News, president Bolsonaro was elected this year on a staunchly pro-business platform and has weakened environmental protection for the Amazon, supporting farmers who would like to use the land for agriculture.
Late last year, he pushed for Brazil to withdraw its offer to host the United Nations’ climate conference and he has also emphatically refused offers of aid from other countries to help fight the blazes. He said international interference is a threat to Brazil’s sovereignty and a shadow of colonialism, telling European leaders that they should concern themselves with re-foresting Europe.
H&M’s chairman Stefan Persson is the wealthiest person in Sweden. He has a net worth of US$18.1 billion, according to Forbes, due to his 32% stake in the company. His son, H&M’s CEO Karl-Johan Persson, is also a billionaire, with a net worth of US$1.8 billion.