The fashion industry alone has immensely contributed to global warming and the excessive textile waste in landfills. Approximately 92 million tons of textile are discarded into landfills every year, with society pushing for top profit, production methods such as fast fashion leave lands decimated by waste, toxins, and degraded resources. But waste isn’t the only thing the fashion industry has a tight grip on, deforestation has become a severe issue. Particularly focusing on forests in Cambodia, a double edge sore has developed. Many laborers rely on logging as a means of income and stability for them and their families, but logging also means illegal activity and high environmental impacts. So is there an upside to this? Let's find out.
In an identified report, about 14 international fashion brands listed that they use illegal forest wood. These 14 brands were approached for questioning—none answered, mostly afraid for legal backlash and complications. After the wood is illegally cut and transported, international factories purchase this wood to be used for thermal energy to wash, steam, dry, and iron fabrics. There is almost no way of knowing where this wood originated and if it was chopped down on an illegal site. From the loggers perspective, almost all do not know who they are selling the wood to, or for what use. The informal network of the illegal loggers proceed with their occupation in order to meet the high demand of Cambodia’s garment factories. They also receive opacity when it comes to the inner details of each sale and factory supply chain, risking their lives daily in order to receive necessary profit without knowledge of anything on the outside.
Fortunately, Sweden’s H&M has developed an app that allows its partner factories to identify the deliveries of forest wood, collecting origin and legal status. Those in the fashion industry appreciate this step to regulate, but they also believe that the government should have a larger say in the issue. In 2021, the nonprofit, Slow Factory, accused over 100 international brands of participating in illegal deforestation across the Amazon, many largely linked to cattle supply chains. Other materials the industry relies on such as leather and rubber have also been tied to the deforestation of other areas to make ad hoc plantations. These plantations have seen the elimination of homes, villages, natural resources, and farms across Cambodia. An estimated one third of the 1,200 garment factories in Cambodia were burning an average of 562 metric tons of forest wood every day, using it for factory thermal energy.
Mongabay publications reached out to 881 Cambodian garment factories for questioning, and only one reached out denying any allegations. Another 48 factories, listed by the Royal Holloway, were approached for questioning on if they use wood to fuel their boilers, and yet again only one rejected response was received. How can these numbers decrease? And how can forests be conserved from illegal activity? Well, the EU passed the anti-deforestation bill in April of this year , and that legislation will be presumed to see tighter amending to measures in regards to the known Cambodia logging scandal, and their refusal to comply with questioning. Reporters were able to verify and validate the use of logged forest wood within factories in the Kampong Speu province. Observing the supply chain process from sale to resale.