NGO links H&M and Zara cotton to deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado

Earthsight says Asian garment manufacturers supplying top fashion brands use cotton linked to land-grabbing in the Cerrado region.

Brazil's cotton exports have risen sharply in the last decade due to booming output in the Cerrado, which has lost about half of its natural vegetation to agriculture and where laws restricting deforestation are less strict than in the Amazon. Image: , CC BY-SA 3.0, via Flickr.

Clothing factories that supply H&M and Zara are buying cotton linked to environmental destruction and land-grabbing in Brazil’s Cerrado - a biodiversity hotspot where deforestation is soaring, research by the Earthsight nonprofit has found.

While global concern has focused on the impact of beef and soy farming in the Amazon, deforestation alerts in Brazil’s lesser-known Cerrado tropical savannah jumped 44 per cent in 2023, data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows.

Cotton is a major culprit as Brazil sets its sights on becoming the world’s biggest exporter, according to the Earthsight investigation.

“Corporations and consumers in Europe and North America are driving this destruction in a new way. Not by what they eat – but what they wear,” said the report, details of which were obtained first by Context.

Researchers from the group traced thousands of shipment records between two cotton producers it said were linked to land-grabbing and illegal deforestation in the Cerrado to Asian manufacturers that supply finished garments to brands including H&M and Zara - the world’s biggest and the focus of the Earthsight investigation.

This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit

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