Zara owner Inditex demanded more transparency from a certifier that vets some of the cotton used by the Spanish fashion giant following an investigation that found evidence of malpractice by two Brazilian certified cotton producers.

Inditex sent a letter dated April 8 to Better Cotton CEO Alan McClay asking for clarity on the certification process and progress on traceability practices after the NGO Earthsight informed the retailer that producers with Better Cotton certifications were involved in land grabbing, illegal deforestation and violent acts against local communities, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters.

Inditex said it had waited more than six months for the results of an internal investigation by Better Cotton that was promised for the end of March and began in August 2023, according to the letter.

The allegations “represent a serious breach in the trust placed in Better Cotton’s certification process by both our group and our product suppliers,” Inditex said in the letter. “The trust that we place in such processes developed by independent organisations, such as yours, is key to our supply chain control strategy.”

The contents of the letter was first published by Modaes, a fashion business news site. Inditex confirmed to Reuters it had sent the letter.

Inditex does not purchase cotton directly but its providers are audited by certifiers such as Better Cotton to ensure good practices when obtaining their raw materials.

Geneva-based Better Cotton, one of the world’s largest certifiers of sustainable practices in the cotton industry, told Reuters it would provide more information in the coming weeks once it had analysed the results of the audit it had commissioned.

Better Cotton said in an April 4 statement that it would not publish its findings until it had seen the full NGO Earthsight report, which was due to be published on Thursday.

Better Cotton said its strategic partner in Brazil, the Brazilian Association of Cotton Producers, was revising elements of its standards to align with those of Better Cotton.

Created by companies and several nonprofits including the World Wildlife Fund, Better Cotton says it aims to support improved practices in areas like water and soil stewardship and to promote better working standards.

Fashion retailers face increasing pressures from consumers and activist groups to sell products with less environmental impact and made in safe labour conditions.

By Corina Pons; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Mark Potter

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