Progress and hurdles on the road to Detox

Page - December 9, 2011
Recent Greenpeace investigations into the use of hazardous and persistent chemicals in the textile supply chain found persistent, hazardous chemicals in the discharges coming from two textile manufacturing facilities in China – suppliers of big sportswear and clothing brands.

Further to this research Greenpeace has also tested garments from international clothing brands made and sold in a number of countries around the world and found the presence of a number of these substances still in the fabric of the clothing.

This body of evidence formed the basis of the Greenpeace “Detox” campaign, directed towards global sportswear and fashion companies, challenging them to eliminate all hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and products. A number of brands – including all those directly challenged by Greenpeace and hundreds of thousands of people around the world – took up the challenge and made individual commitments to zero discharge of hazardous substances by 2020. In doing so, they publicly committed to taking responsibility for the elimination of the use and release of such persistent, hormone-disrupting chemicals into our waters via their production processes, with the aim to prevent the further accumulation of these substances in the environment.

Six of these brands – Adidas , C&A, H&M, Nike, Puma and Li-Ning not only took up the challenge and committed to Detox but have also started collaborating to develop and implement a ‘draft Joint Roadmap towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals’ which was launched mid-November 2011. This paper sets out the steps that the companies mean to take to achieve their commitments and invites other companies to partner in this endeavor.

The draft Roadmap is currently under consultation; feedback is being solicited from a key group of stakeholders and is also open for comments from the public up to December 31st 2011.

Good potential - but too much 'wait and see'

Greenpeace welcomes the fact that Adidas, C&A, H&M, Nike, Puma and Li-Ning have met (or will meet) their individual commitments to publish their individual action plans online, and that the brands have taken ownership of the zero discharge challenge by co-ordinating their collective actions in the form of a Joint Roadmap. Greenpeace also encourages other brands to make an individual public Zero Discharge Commitment and join the Roadmap.

However, Greenpeace is disappointed to see that some important elements of progress are still missing. While the draft Roadmap has the potential to become a real and effective action plan able to engage and change the apparel and textile sector in a transformational way, it is yet to meet its full potential because it lacks concrete and measurable deliverables and timelines.

After a detailed analysis, Greenpeace has identified three main areas where clear and specific intermediate targets and milestones are still missing. Only by seriously addressing these issues will the brands make their Joint Roadmap a really credible plan of action.

Disclosure: By disclosure we mean locally accessible, web-based information on the pollution released from key supplier facilities, the publication of which is key in order to make the brand’s commitments credible. Only this condition will actually guarantee that concrete and effective change is happening on-the-ground where the pollution has been taking place for decades.

C&A and H&M's individual commitments both include disclosure of the first pollution data – facility by facility, by the end of 2012. This commitment to disclosure needs to be added to the Joint Roadmap and adopted by all brands, along with details about which information will be released and by when.

Elimination: The plan lacks clear action points in relation to the elimination of the worst (and well known) hazardous chemicals – substances which have already been banned and regulated in other parts of the world.

The 11 priority groups of well-known hazardous chemicals are: 1. Alkylphenols 2. Phthalates 3. Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants 4. Azo dyes 5. Organotin compounds 6. Perfluorinated chemicals 7. Chlorobenzenes 8. Chlorinated solvents 9. Chlorophenols 10. Short chain chlorinated paraffins 11. Heavy metals, cadmium, lead, mercury and chromium (VI).

There are also no clear `next steps´ as to how the next family of chemicals for phase-out will be chosen. No milestones for the introduction of non-hazardous alternatives - `green chemicals´ have been set and the Roadmap fails to clarify how the phase-out programme will roll out in the supply chain and which elements will make the phase-out verifiable for the public.

Timeline to phase-in green chemicals: The joint Roadmap does include a process to establish, by the end of 2012, a generic inventory of all chemicals (hazardous and not) used by the textile industry. It also outlines plans to develop a new hazardous chemical screening tool. Both initiatives are welcome, as they provide the basis to do a gap analysis on the existence of alternatives which is a necessary step to phase-in green chemicals. However, it fails to set any deliverable date.

Through the Roadmap, the committed brands need to speed up the process of substitution and include specify dates for the setting of the elimination targets, as well as dates for the phase-in of alternative substances.

For the full analysis, please click here

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