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Corporate Governance

Guess joins retailers committing to fabrics that protect forests, locals

Ellen Wulfhorst

27 Feb 2018

Production of wood pulp for fabric can involve clearing forests to build eucalyptus plantations on land traditionally used by indigenous communities

Employees wait for customers in the Guess section in the Central Universal Department Store (TsUM) in Kiev, Ukraine May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, Feb 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Fashion retailer Guess Inc. is adopting a policy to trace the sources of its wood-based fabrics, joining an array of fashion companies aiming to rid their supply chains of products from endangered forests, the company and activists said.

The new Guess policy seeks to trace the origins of its viscose, rayon and modal fibers in a bid to battle deforestation and protect the rights of people living in at-risk forests, Chief Executive Victor Herrero said in a statement.

Production of wood pulp for fabric can involve clearing forests to build eucalyptus plantations on land traditionally used by indigenous communities, campaigners say. The issue is particularly acute in Indonesia.

U.S.-based Guess, the maker of designer jeans, accessories and other apparel, is the latest fashion company to adopt policies to keep its supply chain clean of products that endanger forests and indigenous land rights.

Its policy was created in collaboration with Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which has been conducting an “Out of Fashion” campaign to call attention to the risks posed by the sources of wood-based fabrics.

“Guess has developed a responsible sourcing policy to track rayon and other similar fabrics to ensure that the materials we use do not come from any currently endangered forests,” said Herrero. “This is simply the right thing to do.”

Other companies to take similar measures include Abercrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren and Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands, H&M, Zara, Levi Strauss & Co and British fashion designer Stella McCartney.

“Guess’s policy is an important step, and we applaud its efforts to limit the impact that its fabric purchases have on the world’s forests and on the people who depend on them,” said Brihannala Morgan, RAN senior forest campaigner.

“Guess’s policy is another critical step in an industry-wide shift to take responsibility for the on-the-ground impacts of rayon and viscose fabrics.”

Wood-based rayon, sometimes called the poor man’s silk, is inexpensive and flexible, contributing to its popularity with clothing makers, campaigners say.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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