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August 30, 2022

H&M Group, WWF team on AI solution to tackle Cambodia deforestation

H&M Group has partnered with the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) on an AI pilot solution aimed at reducing pressure on natural forests in Cambodia.

By Hannah Abdulla

The WoodAI, artificial intelligence (AI) application, a collaboration on innovative tech development between H&M Group and WWF in Cambodia, has been launched to support garment and textile factories reduce their potential contribution to deforestation.

The WoodAI App can quickly identify wood species and can further support garment factories in tackling the lack of information around biomass sourcing. The app enables wood species to be identified using only a smartphone and a macro lens, at the factory gate, helping factories to verify that the wood they source for power generation is from H&M GROUP -approved residues of plantation species like mango and cashew, which are less likely to contribute to deforestation. 

WWF ’s mission in Cambodia is to conserve the country’s rich biological diversity. The forests of Cambodia remain relatively contiguous and contain a large diversity of threatened species. Therefore, we lookout for new and innovative technology like this WoodAI app, as it can play a role in helping to address some of the pressures threatening our natural forests,” says Mr Seng Teak, country director of WWF -Cambodia.

Providing factories with the technology to make better decisions is an active step to contribute to reducing the pressures on forests, to protecting the rich biodiversity and to stabilising the global climate. This is particularly key for the fashion sector – where the energy used in producing clothing is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. This energy is used in processes such as washing and ironing of clothing, and has traditionally come from coal, gas and biomass such as wood.

When used in combination with other additional solutions the WoodAI app can provide an important resource to support the efforts needed in Cambodia to responsibly manage plantations and forests. H&M GROUP aims for projects like this to play a part in its broader efforts to help forest ecosystems stay healthy and continue storing CO2. Reducing deforestation is critical for keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and therefore also essential for H&M GROUP ’s goal to achieve net-zero by 2040.

“It is exciting to pilot this new technology in Cambodia and find new ways to work with suppliers that can help reduce negative impacts on Cambodia’s natural forests,” says Christer Horn af Aminne, country manager for H&M GROUP in Cambodia.

His Excellency Neth Pheaktra, Secretary of State to the Ministry of Environment, added: “The WoodAi App represents an important contribution to addressing some of the drivers that are causing deforestation. The Ministry encourages other clothing brands to follow this example and also support efforts to save natural forests and wildlife for the long term benefit of people and nature.”

The Cambodian garment industry has been in the press recently as it negotiates a higher wage for workers. The second round of negotiations regarding a wage review for Cambodian workers is to take place tomorrow (31 August) after an agreement could not be reached last week.

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