Pina Gervassi

Forests, an Opportunity for Sustainable Fashion and Cultural Sustainability

When we think of forests and their connection to our daily lives, the first association we make is wood and its by-products (e.g. furniture, flooring, etc.) or paper products (e.g. bags, cups, etc.) But trees are connected in other ways which might not be so obvious; such as the sole of our shoes made of natural rubber, or the wood used as the main component in many jewels and accessories, or the fibers in our clothes.

Today worldwide more and more organizations and companies from diverse sectors understand the importance of manufacturing their products and managing their operations in ways which take care and respect forests. By doing so, they contribute significantly to lower the impact on the environment.

One are highly associated to forests is fashion. It is fundamental to understand this connection and promote a change towards sustainable practices. It requires not only a joint effort from designers, but the collaboration of suppliers through the implementation of solid policies, as well as consumer´s support of those products derived from the forests that are sustainably manufactured and create a positive impact in the communities that live in and around them.

The change to sustainable fashion is not new, yet only recently it has gained momentum mainly through the commitment of designers and the attention of the media. However, to make sustainable fashion a reality we also need further collaboration, the integration of platforms and global sustainability initiatives that promote projects which address some of the fashion value chain problems. There are global companies committed to the manufacture of textiles from sustainably managed forests. Among the brand names of fibers used to manufacture clothes sustainably produced we find Lyocell and Tencel. These FSC certified companies are engaged in social development projects linked to the production sites including increase employment of local communities residents, as well as the rescue of traditional cultural values of the indigenous people.

An example is the work carried out in the community of Calleria in Peru. They use products from the forest to dye the textiles – an ancestral practice passed from generation to generation. The dyes are extracted from the bark, roots, flowers and fruits available in the forest. However, the lack of market outlets for these textiles is one of the problems facing these communities. The FSC has developed a program to allow extending the certification to natural dyes and high quality and design developed by the community.

Pina Gervassi, Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), Regional Director - Latin America
Pina Gervassi, Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), Regional Director - Latin America
Pina Gervassi,
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Regional Director - Latin America

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Consumers today are concerned about the environment and want to know “where” and “how” their clothes are made: from the raw materials, to the dyeing and finishing of the textiles, all the way to the production of the final piece of garment. In this process, both "locals" and the handling of living materials, such as plant fibers become very important. Consumers’ knowledge and understanding creates a closer relationship with each of the clothes they purchase and use and the people that were involved in its manufacturing. They are the link which connects the past and the future. And it is this emotional connection that drives the efforts to protect the forests that generously provide raw materials to the communities that live off them and are custodians of the traditions and knowledge.

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