The fashion supply chain and the defense of biodiversity

Why is every species on earth important?

The word biodiversity means much more than a generic reference to nature and the need to defend it. Biodiversity is about the variety of species on the planet and the genetic diversity within each species. Each species contributes to maintaining and reproducing a larger ecosystem and ultimately life on earth. The loss of biodiversity reduces the ability of each species to adapt to changes in their environment. It therefore has to do with the set of those delicate biological balances and the extraordinary coexistence between organic and inorganic forms that are the basis of life. Unfortunately, altering this delicate balance is not difficult with sometimes domino effects, as shown by the risks of non-pollination of plants important for human nutrition due to the intensive use of pesticides which causes the death of vital insects such as bees.


What does all this have to do with fashion?


The growing demand for some specific materials, from textile fibers to leather, drives the growth of the production of raw materials. More and more land is being used for intensive cultivation of cotton or for grazing cattle and herds by deforesting entire forest areas, according to the NGO Canopy, fashion contributes significantly to global deforestation with around 150 million trees cut down every year for processing in yarn and cellulosic fabrics, such as viscose. At the same time the consumption of water and the contamination of soils and aquifers increase due to the intensive use of chemical substances: synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides. The increasing use of man-made fibers in the production of textile articles, their washing, but also the rubbing of the garments during use, contribute to the formation of microplastics which then enter the food chain.


It is no coincidence that biodiversity is an important issue in European strategies starting with the Green New Deal and is the subject of objective no. 15 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which reaffirms the commitment to 'Protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, manage forests in a sustainable way, combat desertification, stop and reverse degradation of soils and stop the loss of biodiversity '.


Many fashion brands have included the theme of biodiversity in their strategies and sustainability reports. A commitment that is expressed in the choice of preferring textile raw materials, but also leather, wood, horn, metals, coming from supply chains with a low environmental impact: from organic or regenerative crops, from controlled farms, from responsibly managed forests.


A request that the producers of fabrics and accessories collect as shown by the data relating to Milano Unica. In fact, during the 35^ edition of Milano Unica in July 2022,  there was a growth in exhibiting companies participating in the sustainability area and it is interesting to note that over 40% of these use organic farming materials, while 31% prefer raw materials based on cellulose from responsibly managed forests.


Of course, much remains to be done but the growing attention to the issue by brands influences demand and the choices of 'upstream' suppliers increasingly oriented towards favoring certified materials and coming from traced supply chains. And all this can only be good for the environment and for fashion.