Forests area: 313 million ha
Forest owners: > 750,000
Companies (CoC): 20,000
Any idea how much water it takes to make one pair of jeans? The answer? More than 10,000 litres. That’s the same amount of water that one person drinks in ten years. Why is this? Because cotton is an extremely water intensive crop.
But it goes further, according to the UN, despite covering just 3% of the arable land, the production of cotton uses 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides on this planet. This has serious implications for both the environment and the workers.
What’s the alternative? Synthetic fibres? 70% of the climate impact of the total clothing life cycle comes from their production. This is because synthetic fibres are oil-based and are extremely energy intensive to produce.
In addition, every time we wash clothes made from synthetic fibres they shed microfibers. Every year, around half a million tonnes of these plastic microfibers end up in our oceans.
So what’s the solution? How can we produce clothing that doesn’t pollute our planet, use up significant quantities of water and harm the health of those that produce it? We believe the answer is in our forests!
You may not know it, but forests provide materials and fibres for many of the common consumer products we use today.
Fibres from cypress, beech and eucalyptus trees can all be used to make yarn for clothing – the most popular cellulose fibres are Viscose, Modal and Lyocell. In addition, cork and even wood can be used for not only clothing, but accessories too! Even better, these forest materials are softer and more breathable than cotton or silk.
Importantly, these materials are also more environmentally friendly, requiring considerably less energy and water to produce compared to cotton and other synthetic fibres.
Not to mention of course, all the other benefits that forests provide. From helping to mitigate climate change, maintaining water quality and stabilizing soil, to providing food and income to millions of people around the world and home to for an extraordinary amount of biodiversity.
So, we need to ensure that the forest-based materials used to make our clothes originate from sustainably managed forests, and that we produce them in a sustainable and ethical manner.
An important part of our work in the fashion sector is connecting the supply chain to ensure traceability: this can be achieved by ensuring each step of the manufacturing process is PEFC Chain of Custody certified.
Leading the way is PEFC Spain, who have teamed up with Textil Santanderina, the largest fabric producer in Spain, and renowned Spanish fashion designer María LaFuente to promote PEFC certification and establish partnerships within the apparel sector.
From responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), gender equality (SDG 5) and clean water and sanitation, (SDG 6) to decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), climate action (SDG 13) and life on land (SDG 15), sustainable, forest-based fashion has the potential to contribute to many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
But to unlock the full potential, the sector needs radical transformation and innovative solutions. That’s where PEFC certification has an important role to play - mobilizing forest-based solutions towards creating a sustainable fashion sector.
The initiative “Forest for Fashion” was first launched in 2014 by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). Since then it inspired other initiatives and partners to join forces and continue growing the idea.
The “Forests for Fashion – Fashion for Forests” publication, released in June 2017, provides deeper insights on what happens when sustainable forest management meets sustainable fashion trends.
The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) works with young designers to bring the trend to a wider audience, while ensuring that forest-based materials originate from sustainably managed forests.