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How Canopy’s ForestMapper Mitigates Environmental Risk in Supply Chains

Canopy wants the fashion industry to see the forest for the trees.

Though viscose production is responsible for the logging of 70 million to 100 million trees every year, only a third of the global supply chain poses a verifiably low risk of coming from ancient and endangered forests, according to the Canadian forestry nonprofit.

To help brands make better sourcing decisions, Canopy launched ForestMapper, a first-of-its-kind interactive map that pinpoints critical hotspots across the planet, from the boreal woodlands of the Great White North to the tropical rainforests of Indonesia.

Members of Canopy’s fashion-centric CanopyStyle initiative, including C&A, Eileen Fisher, H&M, Kering, Marks & Spencer and Stella McCartney, helped fund development of the tool, which combines geospatial data with ecological values, like the habitat ranges of key endangered species and concentrations of forest carbon stocks.

ForestMapper will continue to evolve as new data sets become available, said Nicole Rycroft, Canopy’s founder and executive director. Primary forests weren’t included in this iteration, for instance, because “that data doesn’t exist at a global scale at the moment.” That is likely to change, however. “This is just version one of the tool,” Rycroft added.

Canopy created ForestMapper to serve as a “one-stop shop” for any business that wants to assess and mitigate its supply-chain risks or take climate action. As a platform, it complements other tools brands have at their disposal, including Canopy’s “Hot Button” ranking of the world’s leading viscose producers according to sustainability performance and its own CanopyStyle audit—the first to hone in on forest-based fabrics.

“We developed ForestMapper to help brands have a better understanding of what’s actually happening on the ground and where they are sourcing,” Rycroft said. “It enables brands to make better decisions based on science, which helps them reach their sustainability goals as well as contribute to the global push to stem species decline and climate change.”

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In what areas has the fashion industry made the biggest strides in sustainability in the past five years?

“The spotlight is on sustainability in the fashion industry in a way it hasn’t been before. Circularity, innovation and sustainability are well resourced in most leading brands and retailers, and strategic raw material sourcing is one of the most important actions being taken.

In just five years, brands and retailers tackling forests in fabric have gone from zero to 175, signaling that when an environmental issue is highlighted and a collaborative course is set out, the industry is ready to act. But until we have a more certain future in terms of dedicated conservations, the areas, species and carbon storehouses identified in ForestMapper are at risk. The fashion industry has the power to make these changes happen, and Canopy is here to support them.”

Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.

See more of our Sustaining Voices honorees and their stories, here.