Urging avoidance of textiles from the rainforest

The business-oriented Vancouver-based environmental group Canopy has launched a campaign against what it describes as textiles from ‘ancient and endangered forests’ being used in clothing. Canopy defines ancient and endangered forests as the Canadian and Russian boreal forests; temperate rainforests of British Columbia, Alaska and Chile; and the tropical rainforests of Indonesia and the Amazon. According to Canopy, clothing made from, or containing, rayon, model or viscose fabric may be made from material from these forests.

The Canopy campaign is very eye-catching with one of the photos featuring an adult and young orangutan apparently preparing for a smooch while others feature a bear, a forest scene, and a woman dressed in a little bit of greenery. Gallondaily suspects that this campaign will attract significant media attention. So far, Canopy reports that EILEEN FISHER, Quiksilver, prAna, Patagonia, and lululemon athletica have signed on to its campaign to protect “endangered forests from being logged for clothing”.

Such consumer-oriented campaigns are laudable but, as the somewhat controversial multistakeholder Forest Stewardship Council has shown, they make progress towards eliminating unsustainable cutting of forest resources at a pathetically slow rate, if at all. A good summary of criticism of FSC is provided in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_Stewardship_Council#Criticism.

The economic, social and trade issues associated with use of forest fibre for paper, furniture, construction, and clothing are complex. An treaty to ban cutting of trees in unsustainably managed forests has been attempted and has failed to achieve the kind of international agreement required. In the short term, linking certain clothing fabrics to destruction of ‘ancient and endangered forests’ is a useful educational tool for business and consumers but it is unlikely to stop the destruction of the forests. What is needed is for the economic value of standing forests to exceed the economic value of cut timber. International climate change discussions are moving in that direction but still have a very long way to go.

The Canopy campaign for textiles from sustainably managed forests can be found at http://canopystyle.org/ . More about the environmental group Canopy is at http://canopyplanet.org/

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