Retailer H&M stops buying leather from Brazil over Amazon fires

Retailer says ban will last until there are 'credible assurances' that leather does not damage Amazon.

    Fires have been raging in the Amazon for more than a month, destroying large sections of the rainforest [File: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters]
    Fires have been raging in the Amazon for more than a month, destroying large sections of the rainforest [File: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters]

    Low-cost fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) has said it is suspending leather purchases from Brazil in response to the Amazon fires.

    The Stockholm-based group said a "temporary ban on leather from Brazil" was linked to "the severe fires in the Brazilian part of the Amazon rainforest and the connections to cattle production."

    H&M said on Friday that the ban will remain in place "until there are credible assurances ... that the leather does not contribute to environmental harm in the Amazon."

    The move may be more about the message than the business impact, as H&M sources the vast majority of its leather from Europe, with only a small part coming from Brazil. The company declined to provide figures.

    In 2017, less than one percent of H&M's clothes were made of leather and it used synthetic leather products five times as much as real leather.

    The group has already been moving away from using materials derived from animals.

    Last week, the owner of Timberland, Vans and several other shoe and clothing brands said it has stopped buying leather from Brazil because of the rainforest fires.

    Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, VF Corporation said it would not buy leather and hide from Brazilian suppliers until it is assured that the materials "do not contribute to environmental harm in the country". VF said 5 percent of the leather it purchases for its products comes from Brazil.

    Ongoing crisis

    Fires have been raging in the Amazon for more than a month, destroying large sections of the rainforest. 

    As well as extensive environmental harm in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, the fires have damaged the reputations of some leaders in the region.

    Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro and Bolivia's Evo Morales have been accused of failing to act quickly enough to quell the blazes and supporting policies that may have contributed to the destruction. 

    While forest fires are an annual occurrence in the Amazon, environmentalists and NGOs have attributed the spike in blazes this year to farmers setting the forest alight in order to clear land for pasture and for loggers razing the forest for wood. 

    The Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world, covering more than five million square kilometres across nine countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

    It acts as an enormous carbon sink, storing up to an estimated 100 years worth of carbon emissions produced by humans, and is seen as vital to slowing the pace of global warming.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies