Ralph Lauren has committed to tracing its supply of wood-based fabrics to prevent rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.
The firm plans to publish and implement new sourcing guidelines this year as part of a “broader initiative to establish a traceability, risk assessment and verification framework”, said Halide Alagoz, senior vice president of global manufacturing and sourcing.
“We’ve already communicated this commitment to our vendors,” she added.
Wood pulp, while commonly associated with deforestation, is not always associated with clothing. However, it is often used to make semi-synthetic fabrics including viscose and rayon that can be made to have a wool-like texture.
The Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which worked with Ralph Lauren on its new sourcing policy, estimates more than 70m trees annually are pulped to create synthetic fabrics. It also says the process is “criminally inefficient”, with 70% of the tree being wasted.
The campaign group has been calling on brands to be more vigilant and transparent in their sourcing of wood-based fabrics since 2015.
“Indigenous communities in North Sumatra and elsewhere have been suffering the direct impacts of land-grabbing and other human rights abuses from the production of forest fabrics and have been fighting back against expansion onto their traditional lands for over 20 years,” said Brihannala Morgan, RAN senior forest campaigner.
“It’s heartening to see brands beginning to take responsibility for their supply chains,” she added.
Ralph Lauren joins a number of other apparel brands, including H&M, Zara and ASOS, to adopt purchasing policies aimed at preventing deforestation, RAN said in a statement.
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