Beauty brands have also come into the spotlight as many source ingredients from the Amazon, including breu, kaya, ungurahua nut oil, Amazonian clay, and maracuja oil, according to Vogue. This has prompted action from many smaller and “clean beauty” brands, such as hair-care company Rahua Beauty, which partnered with the Land Is Life organization to donate an extra 10 percent of all their online sales. The Brazil-based body brand Sol de Janeiro donated 100 percent of profits from last month’s sale of its Amazon Is Our Heart set to the Rainforest Action Network, and skin-care brand B3 Balm has created a limited-edition Save the Amazon set, with all proceeds going to Rainforest Trust and WWF.
These announcements, donations, and sets are all increasing consumer awareness of products that are sourced from the Amazon rainforest, something Stanley-Jones says is “an important strategy for creating a sustainable fashion industry.” Albeit complicated, he encourages everyone to thoroughly analyze what impact products and materials can have on the planet. For those interested in researching further, Canopy currently has commitments with companies like Allbirds, Patagonia, and Reformation to safeguard forests, and Forest 500 annually ranks brands based on their deforestation policies.
“Understanding the ecological and cultural impacts of shifts in consumer demand for natural materials versus synthetic ones, such as petroleum-derived fibers, which make up the lion’s share of fashion, and increasing shares of material in footwear, is challenging,” Stanley-Jones explains. “Plastic pollution from synthetics, for example, is harming marine environments. Shifting demand from one natural source to a synthetic one may bring new problems in its train.”
The takeaway, he says, is not to only look at single issues, like the leather industry, when working toward sustainable fashion choices, and instead take a holistic view that incorporates the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.
While the announcements from H&M and VF Corporation play an important part in increasing awareness and understanding of the role that the fashion industry plays in the Amazon’s increasing fires, the impact on the Amazon is largely a consequence of the industry’s unsustainable trajectory overall. The number of garments purchased each year by the average consumer increased by 60 percent from 2000 to 2014. And leather is not the only material that increases land-clearing. The production of popular fabrics like rayon or viscose, both often made from old-growth trees from rainforests like the Amazon, has reportedly doubled in the last decade.
With the fashion industry, according to the U.N. Environment Programme, producing 10 percent of all global carbon emissions and a projected rise in fashion and footwear production by 81 percent by 2030 (according to the 2019 Pulse of the Fashion Industry report), it’s clear that halting the purchase of Brazilian leather is just a small fraction of what the industry can do to protect the Amazon. As Stanley-Jones puts it, “To address this threat, people should learn from Indigenous traditions and other local practices how to produce, wear, and dispose of clothing without ruining the one homeland we share: the blue, green, and brown planet Earth.”