The forest Canopy is becoming a hit in the fashion world this season. Building on a growing groundswell, global retail leaders H&M and Inditex/Zara have made commitments to address the impacts of the use of trees in man-made cellulosic fabrics like viscose and rayon. Most recently, Stella McCartney have also hit the catwalk of forest sustainability, joining Canopy’s Fashion Loved by Forest Initiative.
This initiative highlights our love of forests at Canopy, as we work to protect globally significant ancient and endangered forests.
Having led Canopy’s outreach with newspaper publishers for the past four years, I have been observing a shift in paper and noted that Return on Investment for the forest industry has diminished for certain paper types such as newsprint. At the same time, investment has increasingly focused on expanding dissolving pulp production for viscose fabrics as well as diversifying into other new products for the forest sector like plastics[i] and food additives.
While a significant amount of trees, approximately 50 million annually, continue to be cut down for newspapers in North America, producing 4.5 million tonnes of newsprint annually, demand for newsprint is not increasing. Instead the growth in demand for dissolving pulps and accompanying supply has been within the fashion sector in the form of man-made cellulosic fabrics such as rayon and viscose – currently driving theharvest of 70-100 million trees per year.
Paired with an eye to the latest fashion and fabric styles, this tipped us off as to the next trend. However, wearing tree-sourced fabrics is not “hot” for the animals and birds that live in forests harvested for the fibre.
These man-made cellulosic fabrics represent a significant five percent of the 1.2 trillion dollar fashion industry. This percentage is also growing, and expected to double in the next 20 years. The fiber used to feed the demand is all too often from key ancient and endangered forests globally. This is one style that we want to have branded as “last season”.
Building on the early leadership of EILEEN FISHER, lululemon athletica, prAna, Patagonia and Quiksilver, global retailers H&M and Inditex/Zara, along with Loomstate, have committed to putting forests first. I have spoken to many champions within these companies that are now aware some fabrics are sourced from endangered forests. Interested in addressing this growing issue, they are turning to Canopy to chart a path forwards.
Inditex/Zara’s forest product policy, embedded in a biodiversity strategy, considers impacts on ancient and endangered forest ecosystems. H&M’s forest statement commits to put a plan in place to avoid sourcing fabrics from endangered forests, and to promote the use of fabrics that come from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified plantations, or FSC certified forests found outside endangered and ancient forests.
Collectively, we are looking to ensure a future that doesn’t use ancient and endangered forests for man-made cellulosic fabrics and builds transparency across the supply chain. The Fashion Loved by Forest initiative encourages exploring fabrics sourced from recycled and agricultural residues as an alternative to trees. We are also working to support the protection of key ancient and endangered forests – including areas that are currently part of the fibre basket for cellulosic fabrics. I look forward to building on these solutions with my colleagues at Canopy, the brands that we partner with, and the viscose producers making the fabrics.
With a combined market share of approximately $45 billion, our partner clothing brands and retailers are already interested in sustainable viscose fabrics. Now certain man-made cellulosic producers are starting to examine their sources of dissolving pulp and the forests they are sourcing from. Responding to the marketplace interest, select producers are already taking steps to ensure their fibre is free of endangered forests. Let’s follow the thread to ensure sustainable fabric choices are on trend for years to come.
 FPAC. The New Face of the Canadian Forest Industry The Emerging Bio-revolution The Bio-pathways Project. November 2011.