VF Corp suspends sourcing of Brazilian leather due to Amazon fires concerns
VF Corporation, the owner of brands such as The North Face, Timberland and Vans, has announced that it will stop sourcing leather from Brazil, highlighting concerns over the environmental impact of cattle ranchers that have caused the vast majority of fires plaguing the Amazon rainforest.
The company made the announcement on Friday (30 August), claiming they wouldn’t reconsider until it had “confidence and assurance” that materials used in the company’s products couldn’t be linked to environmental damage in Brazil.
Brazilian media outlet Folha de São Paulo reported (link in Portuguese) confirmed that VF Corp had informed the Center for the Brazilian Tanning Industry of its decision to suspend leather purchases from the country due to concerns over the causes of the fires in the Amazon rainforest
"VF Corporation and our brands have decided to no longer directly source leather and hides from Brazil for our international businesses until we have the confidence and assurance that the materials used in our products do not contribute to environmental harm in the country," VF Corp said in a statement according to Reuters.
Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) states that there has been a total of 72,843 fires in Brazil this year and more than 1.5 football fields of Amazon rainforest are being destroyed per minute, per day – an increase of 80% compared to the same period the year prior.
The vast majority of these fires have been linked to poor environmental practices of loggers and ranchers clearing land to raise cattle or source timber.
The business and environmental risks of deforestation are well-versed, yet inaction over the last decade has stifled attempts to create a deforestation-free world.
In 2009, for example, Greenpeace published an investigation looking at companies that were “laundering” produce from Amazon slaughterhouses. The investigation prompted the likes of Nike to implement measures and policies to ensure they weren’t sourcing materials linked to deforestation in Brazil.
More broadly, research from CDP warns that the business community is risking up to $941bn on commodities linked to deforestation, with just 13% of companies that responded to a disclosure request making time-bound pledges to zero-deforestation.
Already, food manufacturers and retailers such as Tesco, Unilever and Nestlé are "seizing the opportunity" of a thriving plant-based market to assist with the low-carbon transition and move away from livestock production. The alternative protein market is expected to be valued at $100bn in the next 15 years.
Research from Global Canopy found that 52% of shareholder proposals between 2011 and 2017, put forward by members of the Ceres Investor Network – which collectively manages more than $17trn in assets - led to the formation of some sort of company action plan or commitment to tackle deforestation risks.
However, private sector commitments including the New York Declaration on Forests and pledges to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Consumer Goods Forum have created a 2020 deadline for many firms to tackle deforestation in supply chains. The private sector is off-track to meet this deadline.
These issues are starting to be better understood by consumers. The BBC has reported findings from researchers Mintel that notes that animal welfare is now a priority issue for 42% of consumers purchasing clothing items. Mintel claims that veganism is no longer just a dietary concern, and is now forming new consumer habits in the fashion sector.