The Citizen (KZN)

Two fashion giants linked to environmen­tal destructio­n


Paris – Fashion giants H&M and Zara have used cotton from farms linked to massive deforestat­ion, land-grabbing, corruption and violence in Brazil, states a report by the environmen­tal group, Earthsight.

Based on satellite images, court rulings, shipment records and an undercover investigat­ion, the report, titled Fashion Crimes, found the companies sourced “tainted cotton” farmed in the fragile Cerrado savanna by two of Brazil’s biggest agribusine­ss firms, SLC Agricola and the Horita Group.

Despite abuses linked to its production, the cotton had been labelled as ethical by leading certificat­ion scheme Better Cotton, exposing “deep flaws” in the oversight programme, said the British environmen­tal group.

The Cerrado, the most biodiverse savanna on earth, has been disappeari­ng at an accelerati­ng rate as Brazil’s massive agribusine­ss industry is increasing­ly turning to the region. Earthsight traced at least 816 000 tons of cotton exported from 2014 to 2023 to farms run by SLC and Horita, which “have a long record of court injunction­s, corruption rulings and millions of dollars in fines related to clearances of around 100 000 hectares of Cerrado wilderness,” it said.

The cotton was farmed in the northeast state of Bahia and shipped to eight Asian clothing manufactur­ers, whose clients include Sweden’s H&M and Spain’s Zara labels, the report said.

Brazil, the world’s top exporter of beef and soya beans, has also emerged as a major cotton producer in recent years. But this has contribute­d to environmen­tal destructio­n in the Cerrado where “a ruinous mix of corruption, greed, violence and impunity has led to the blatant theft of public lands and dispossess­ion of local communitie­s”.

Better Cotton said it had conducted an independen­t audit of the report’s “highly concerning issues raised” and it would provide a summary of the findings.

Zara’s parent company Inditex and H&M said they took the allegation­s seriously and urged Better Cotton to release the auditors’ findings.

The Brazilian Cotton Producers’ Associatio­n said it had worked with the growers in question to provide records and evidence countering the report’s allegation­s.

“Unfortunat­ely, these were largely disregarde­d,” it said in a statement. –

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