April is Earth Month, marked with a month-long celebration of the environment and a heightened focus on the impact of business on the natural world. Although Earth Month only kicked off a few days ago, some brands are already making big environmental announcements, working to protect endangered resources through bold commitments and proving fast fashion doesn't have to be irresponsible fashion.
This week, two of the world's largest clothing brands made important commitments to the environment – pledging to eliminate materials harvested from ancient and endangered forests from their purchasing practices. H&M and Zara joined the ranks of Patagonia, lululemon athletica, EILEEN FISHER and others, partnering with environmental nonprofit Canopy to support the "Fashion Loved by Forest" initiative. Fashion staples like rayon, viscose and modal are often harvested from "threatened" forests, and by committing to the initiative, H&M and Zara promise to help curtail the problem and build solutions for the future that will allow companies to procure these materials in a sustainable way. For its part, H&M hopes to have a plan in place to address the issue by mid-2014 and work to be endangered-forest free by 2017.
From the massive Bangladesh factory collapse to environmental issues such as deforestation in comprised areas, the real cost of fashion has certainly been in the spotlight over the past year. Yet, major commitments from H&M and Zara provide yet another proof point that fast fashion can be responsible too. With these retail giants taking the lead, it will be hard for others not to follow in their footsteps.