Land use change

Fashion’s demand for raw materials has a major hidden cost: the loss of wild animals and plants.

What’s going on?

Production of raw materials for use in fashion (as well as other sectors, like food) often has a hidden cost: the loss of wild animals and plants.

This can be due to management practices and, also, the changes in land use that drive agricultural growth.

The fashion industry drives land use change by encouraging agriculture for specific crops, such as cotton.

However, agricultural expansion often means the conversion of natural habitat to create more land able to grow commodity crops. Habitat conversion means the loss of native plants, invertebrates, and significant impacts on migratory animals.

Diggers ripping up earth

When land is converted for use for agriculture, the habitat wildlife depend on for food, water, and population connectivity often becomes fragmented.

This is a problem because it forces all species that are native to that land to transverse productive landscapes.

In some agricultural landscapes, native species also face the use of pesticides, lack of food resources, and reduced access to water. Fencing prevents movement across landscapes or, worse, injure wildlife as they try to cross. Boundaries on agricultural lands can also separate adult wildlife from their young.

Keystone species

Keystone species – those species that define an entire ecosystem that, if lost, cannot be replaced – can also be at risk. [source]

In places where livestock are raised for animal fibre and leather production, for example, keystone predators may be killed because they pose a risk to flocks and herds. Native herbivores may also be killed if their grazing competes with livestock.

Soil quality is often a casualty when land use is changed – it can be degraded by cotton cultivation, for example. Most cotton is grown on well-established fields, but soil exhaustion leads to expansion into new areas and the attendant destruction of habitat. 

Irresponsible raw materials sourcing threatens endangered ecosystems, including rainforests and wetlands.


Cows in shed

Getting nature positive

Inspired by steps fashion companies are already taking, we’ve compiled suggested actions to help you on your journey to getting nature positive.


Explore actions for nature