H&M and Zara Implicated in Environmental Controversy, Tied to Extensive Deforestation in Brazil

In a recent discovery, big clothing companies H&M and Zara have been linked to a troubling problem involving the environment and society.

A report by Earthsight, a group that cares about the environment, explains that these popular brands have been getting cotton from farms in a place called the Cerrado region in Brazil. This has led to serious issues like cutting down trees, corruption, and mistreatment of people.

The report, called “Fashion Crimes,” shows how fast fashion hurts important parts of nature. Earthsight collected lots of proof, like pictures from space, legal papers, and secret investigations, all showing how the environment is being harmed.

Over 816,000 tonnes of cotton were exported from problematic Brazilian farms, implicating major brands.

This problem is centered around two big farming companies in Brazil, SLC Agricola and the Horita Group. They run farms in the delicate Cerrado savanna, which scientists say is one of the most diverse savannas in the world.

But despite its importance, the Cerrado is being taken over by big farms, mainly for growing cotton that’s sold worldwide.

The report says that a huge amount of 816,000 tonnes of cotton was sent from these farms to other countries between 2014 and 2023. Many Asian companies that make textiles have this cotton, and some of these companies sell to H&M and Zara a lot.

This shows that there’s a big problem in how clothes are made, with companies not paying enough attention to protecting the environment and making sure things are done ethically.

The certification process for ethical cotton, like that done by Better Cotton, is now being questioned. Even though the cotton from these farms was labeled as ethical, the Earthsight report found serious problems with how the certification was done.

H&M , Zara
Better Cotton certification was questioned due to flaws revealed in the Earthsight investigation.

This makes people wonder if these labels can be trusted if they’re not checking for big problems.

Better Cotton is now doing an independent check to see if the certification process is reliable. People who care about the environment and human rights are waiting to see what they find out, hoping for more openness and better ways of doing things.

Both Zara’s parent company, Inditex, and H&M are worried about the report’s findings. They want Better Cotton to share the results of their check to clear up any confusion about where their cotton comes from.

H&M and Zara
Industry scrutiny prompts independent audits, H&M and Zara call for transparency in supply chains.

On the other side, the Brazilian Cotton Producers’ Association (ABRAPA) is defending its members, saying that the report didn’t pay enough attention to what they’re doing right.

They say they’re against anything that hurts the environment or treats people unfairly, and they promise to follow rules that protect local communities and nature.

This scandal shows that the fashion industry still has a lot of work to do when it comes to being sustainable and ethical. As more people learn about the bad effects of their shopping choices, brands are feeling more pressure to prove they’re doing things right.

The situation with H&M, Zara, and the cotton they use from Brazil isn’t just about them—it shows a bigger problem in how the fashion industry works. It could lead to changes in how all brands operate, making them more responsible and honest about where their products come from.

Sajda Parveen
Sajda Parveen
Sajda Praveen is a market expert. She has over 6 years of experience in the field and she shares her expertise with readers. You can reach out to her at [email protected]
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