Major clothing brands contribute to deforestation in Cambodia, report finds

A new report suggests that the garment industry is contributing to deforestation in Cambodia due to factories relying on illegal forest wood to generate electricity. While the garment industry does contribute deforestation, experts say that economic land concessions granted by the Cambodian government for agro-industrial purposes are by far the dominant driver of forest loss.

A drone camera soars over a timber yard where thousands of tons of logs are strewn across the ground. In one clip, a bulldozer scoops up a heap of wood while black smoke billows out of its exhaust pipe. In another, workers load wood onto the back of several truck beds. The wood is not being prepared for sale, but will be used for another purpose: to fuel fires that will keep the electricity running in the large garment factory attached to the timber yard, located about an hour south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Laurie Parsons, a geographer at the University of London’s Royal Holloway, says this particular factory produces clothes for major brands in the U.K., and also provides ironing services for other garment factories. When this factory is at peak capacity, Parsons estimates, it uses hundreds of tons of firewood each day to help keep the fires burning.

Where is this wood coming from? In many cases, it’s being illegally taken from forests, adding pressure to Cambodia’s considerable deforestation issue, according to a recent report published Oct. 13 by Royal Holloway.

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