Forests in the furnace: Can fashion brands tackle illegal logging in their Cambodian supply chains?

Global fashion brands touting sustainability claims continue to buy from their contract factories in Cambodia that burn illegally logged wood in their boilers.

“Going into the forest is dangerous, some people die when trees fall on them, but they are desperate,” said Saroeun*, a logger who makes multiple trips each day into Central Cardamoms National Park in southwest Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province.

“They don’t know what else to do: if we don’t go to cut trees, we don’t have money,” he added. “I go every day and risk my life. I struggle and have to persist with my life in the forest.”

The timber that Saroeun illegally cuts and transports from the forest to his village of Kteh will change hands many times, being bought and sold until it comes to rest in a garment factory, possibly in Kampong Speu province, neighboring Kandal province or further afield in Phnom Penh. Whichever factory buys the wood, it will be incinerated to generate thermal energy used for steaming, washing, dyeing or ironing fabrics — likely as part of an international fashion brand’s supply chain.

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