Dear global fashion brands and retailers,

We represent a broad spectrum of civil society organisations based in Indonesia and we sign this open letter to the fashion industry in order to express our concerns about the use of biomass energy in their supply chains. As a concrete step towards a 100% renewable energy commitment, we urge the fashion industry to phase out fossil fuels, leapfrogging the practice of burning biomass, and accelerate the adoption of genuinely clean energy sources like solar and wind power.  

We are deeply concerned that fashion brands’ decarbonisation strategies fail to consider the detrimental social and environmental impacts of biomass on communities in Indonesia and other regions of Southeast Asia. Increasingly, biomass is being promoted as an alternative to fossil fuels and many brands are recommending their suppliers switch from coal to biomass boilers. For example, H&M, who source from 60 factories in Indonesia, have been supporting suppliers to transition to thermal energy from biomass. Other brands such as Puma, Adidas and Inditex are also promoting biomass as a ‘low carbon’ alternative in Southeast Asia, despite the high emissions generated by biomass. Biomass is not a renewable or sustainable energy source; it is a false solution that  undermines the integrity of corporate climate commitments

Indonesia hosts one of the largest remaining tropical forests in the world, providing rich biodiversity, clean air and an essential defence against climate change. However, the Leuser Ecosystem, the only remaining natural habitat of endangered Sumatran orangutans and home to a diverse range of rural communities speaking hundreds of Indigenous languages, is under threat from deforestation driven largely by the timber, wood pulp and palm industries. In 2022, some of Indonesia’s most important rainforests suffered a spike in deforestation, including the clearing of primary forests on carbon-rich peatlands.

It is also important to consider the human rights, livelihoods and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples and local communities who are impacted by the increased conversion of land to energy crops in Indonesia. The IPCC warns that biomass production on a large scale may result in adverse effects on local life and the rights of indigenous peoples, including impacts on food and water security. Additionally, the release of particulate matter from burning biomass has been linked to reduced air quality and negative health impacts for people living close to generation sites. 

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government plans to generate 23% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025, and to meet this target, state-owned energy firm PLN will fire over 10 million tonnes of biomass in 52 coal power plants. This includes woody biomass such as sawdust and wood pellets from energy crops, and agricultural products such as palm kernel shells and rice husks. According to Trend Asia’s report Deforestation Threats of Energy Crops, this could risk the loss of over 2 million hectares of natural forest, equivalent to 35 times the area of ​​Jakarta province, or 3.27 million football fields. The fashion industry is highly influential in the country, with textile exports exceeding $11 billion USD in 2021, so the potential for the rapid expansion of biomass production to fuel the sector is alarming. 

Although Indonesian officials claim that co-firing coal power plants with biomass will reduce emissions, this is based on flawed assumptions and accounting loopholes. Repurposing captive coal-power plants with biomass and labelling it as green will impede the real green energy transition. According to scientists, when forests are cleared to produce biomass fuels, the carbon that the forests have stored in the trees and soil over a long period of time is released into the atmosphere. There is no guarantee that cleared forests will recover to their original state, and even if they do, it will take decades to centuries to completely restore the CO2 released into the atmosphere. In addition to this, CO2 derived from fossil fuel use is generated at each stage of harvesting, processing, and transportation, so upstream and downstream emissions must also be considered. What’s more, woody biomass actually generates more CO2 emissions per kilowatt hour of electricity produced than coal, therefore biomass is not compatible with 2050 net zero goals. Therefore, fashion brands which claim to be serious about sustainable energy should really focus on phasing out coal as well as forgoing biomass burning.

We know that the fashion industry is aware of deforestation as an environmental risk in their supply chains, and many brands have committed to sourcing materials that are free from links to deforestation. However, no brands have yet made the same level of commitment to zero deforestation when it comes to fuel feedstocks, and we are troubled by the lack of consideration to ensure local groups are consulted on this issue. 

We enthusiastically support your commitment to phase out coal, but we also urge you to reconsider any supply chain decarbonisation strategies that rely on biomass and instead, invest in clean renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. There is already a plan for growing renewable energy capacity in the national grid, so if fashion brands invest in electrification, they can effectively decarbonise their supply chains. 

Thank you for your consideration.


  • Kanopi Hijau Indonesia
  • Auriga Nusantara
  • Koaksi Indonesia
  • Trend Asia
  • Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)
  • Walhi Jawa Barat
  • Srikandi Lestari
  • AEER (Aksi Ekologi & Emansipasi Rakyat)
  • PENA Masyarakat
  • Traction Energy Asia
  • Koprol Iklim
  • Sajogyo Institute
  • YLBHI (Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia)
  • 350 Indonesia
  • Enter Nusantara
  • Rainforest Action Network (RAN)