How can the fashion industry reduce deforestation and avoid ecosystem destruction?
The use of forest fibres in our clothing is on the rise and is increasingly in the spotlight. On the one hand, this is great news, as forest fibres provide us with a renewable and recyclable source of material for our clothes. But, on the other hand, we don’t always know where these fibres come from. And that is a problem.
This was the focus of a recent panel discussion at the Innovation Forum Sustainable Apparel and Textiles Conference, held virtually, at the end of April. Ben Gunneberg, our CEO, spoke on this panel, discussing possibilities to make the fashion industry more sustainable, alongside Carolina Sister Cohn from Eastman Naia.
Check out the Innovation Forum podcast, as Ben talks about the benefits for the apparel sector from switching to forest-based fibres.
Fashion brands source around 6.7 million metric tons of dissolving wood pulp for apparel fibres a year. Various studies have found that about 50% of this supply is likely to come from a sustainable source. This means, at least 50% of these fibres are sourced from an unknown forest origin, which brings risks. If the source is unknown, we don’t know whether the use of these forest fibres is contributing to deforestation, or poor conditions for those living and working in the forest.
“This is where PEFC chain of custody certification comes in,” explained Ben. “Chain of custody certification tracks forest fibres along the supply chain, so we know that this material came from a sustainably managed forest, and is not contributing to deforestation.”
PEFC-certified apparel can carry the PEFC label, enabling consumers to choose their clothes, knowing the materials are sustainable, and that they are helping to support forests and those who live and work in them.
So what can fashion brands and retailers do?
It is vital that all fashion brands and retailers know where the forest fibres they are using in their clothing come from. PEFC certification is the perfect tool to provide them with assurance that all fibres come from a sustainable source.
“Brands and retailers can develop responsible procurement policies and guides for all their forest-based products, encouraging that they are delivered with certification. This can go beyond the fibres in the clothing to include packaging, store fixtures, and tags,” Ben explained.
“They can also collaborate with their supply chain, supporting them to advance on certification, and therefore ensure that their supply chain can be traced back to a sustainable source. Brands are in such a powerful position, they can become the ambassadors for forests – giving the forests value, and helping them to remain forests.”