Owner of Timberland, Vans, and Dickies says it needs assurance that materials used in its products "don't contribute to environmental harm."
Exactly ten years ago, during the summer of 2009, shoe company Timberland said it wouldn't buy Brazilian leather that came from newly deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest. Sadly, little has changed; in fact, the situation is even worse now than it was back then.
On Thursday this week, Timberland's parent company, U.S.-based VF Corp, announced it will no longer buy Brazilian leather at all, due to the wildfires raging in the Amazon that indicate inept environmental stewardship on the part of the Brazilian government.The wildfires have been controversial in recent weeks, with much of the world expressing serious concern about their extent, while president Jair Bolsonaro continues to insist that everything is under control. VF Corp is implicated because shoe leather is a byproduct of the beef industry, which is at the root of the fires. From a Reuters report:
"Many of the fires burning were initially set by cattle ranchers or farmers in a bid to clear land. An investigative report in July by local news media showed that JBS SA, the world’s largest meatpacker and the world’s largest leather producer, had been buying cattle from ranchers operating on land that the government has said must not be used for grazing. JBS denied the report, although it acknowledged the difficulty of tracing some cattle’s origin."
Because of the lack of transparency, VF Corp said it will no longer purchase leather from Brazil "until we have the confidence and assurance that the materials used in our products do not contribute to environmental harm in the country."
In addition to Timberland, VF Corp owns Vans, Dickies, Smartwool, The North Face, Icebreaker, Jansport, and Kipling, among others. A spokesman for the Center for Brazilian Tannery Industries told Globo News that VF Corp isn't a huge client, but that it's an important one. He said, "Selling to one famous brand helps us sell to others."
Globo says the Brazil exports 80 percent of the leather it produces to 50 countries. Between January and July of this year, export sales totalled US$712.6 million, which was 18.5 percent less than the same time last year. Nearly a quarter of the leather goes to China, 17 percent to Italy, and 16 percent to the United States. Globo also states that 70 percent of leather exports come from southern states in Brazil, nowhere near the Amazon.