The world’s second-biggest fashion retailer announced the temporary ban on Thursday, pointing to concerns that the country’s cattle industry had contributed to the deforestation.
This is the second ban to hit the country since its unprecedented surge in wildfires this year, the highest rate since records began in 2013, which have prompted world leaders and celebrities, such as Leo DiCaprio, to speak out and warn of the potentially disastrous environmental impact.
VF Corporation, which includes brands like Timberland, The North Face and Vans, also announced last week it was putting Brazilian leather purchases on hold until it could be satisfied its suppliers were not connected to any environmental harm.
Brazil has reported nearly 50,000 fires in the Amazon this year – the highest number in almost a decade. Many of which are believed to be man-made, deliberate and illegal, including attempts by land-grabbers to destroy trees and raise the value of the property they seize.
The situation is believed to have worsened, at least in part, due to Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president, who has slashed the budgets of environmental protection agencies, and expressed support for miners, farmers and loggers.
While it is unclear how much of Brazilian leather exports is related to the Amazon, a 2016 report linked about 80 per cent of deforestation in the country to cattle grazing.
However, Mr Bolsonaro has dismissed boycott concerns as some “pressure” and “part of the game”, telling one Brazillian national newspaper: “This is normal in the whole world”.
Last week, he signed an executive order forbidding fires in the dry season in the Amazon, and sent military to fight the fires. However, thousands of blazes are still burning.
The recent ban, which will extend to all of H&M’s brands, including & Other Stories and Cos, will remain “until there are credible assurance systems in place to verify that the leather does not contribute to environmental harm in the Amazon,” the company told the New York Times.
The spokeswoman said a “very small” amount of the retailer’s leather comes from Brazil and that the company already had requirements in place to ensure that raw hides and leather used in its products did not originate from cattle raised in the Amazon.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR UK.