Guess joins retailers committing to fabrics that protect forests, locals

NEW YORK (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.

Shoppers walk by a Guess? store in Golden, Colorado, December 3, 2014. Guess? Inc is to release their Q3 2015 earnings on Wednesday. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

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 [LEVST.UL] 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.