Over the past couple of days, Greenpeace activists and supporters around the world, from South Africa to Hong Kong, have been busy pasting huge ‘detox posters’ on the windows of their local G-Star Raw stores.

The reason: G-Star Raw is trying to masquerade as a zero-chemical champion, but is unwilling to make the necessary commitments to ensure that it will actually follow through on its words.

In essence, the brand is greenwashing, and in doing so is deceiving its consumers and the people who live and rely on the rivers into which the pollution from G-Star Raw’s products is released.


No one likes a greenwasher

Don't get us wrong, we like the brand’s new attitude and its willingness to engage in creating a toxic-free future. By recognising the urgency of the issue and beginning to act it is already several steps ahead of some of its competitors. But the fact of the matter is that it can and must do better. Half-hearted commitments and slippery loopholes are not the tools used by champions of change. They are the tools of fraudsters. And after months of G-Star Raw declining many invitations by Greenpeace Netherlands to resolve the issues surrounding its public commitment to detox its global supply chain, the global re-branding of G-Star Raw exposes the company for what it is: a greenwasher.

The background

After research published by Greenpeace International confirmed that G-Star Raw’s clothing is manufactured using toxic chemicals such as Nonylphenolethoxylates (NPEs), the denim retailer responded with a public commitment to detox. It followed the example of six international brands that had announced they would be toxic-free by 2020. But the words in G-Star Raw’s commitment do not match its own zero discharge ambition. In the past few months we have been in an intensive dialogue with the denim brand to explain what we call a real detox commitment and a strong individual action plan.

One of our key demands was a policy of transparency. It is not acceptable that G-Star Raw is still vague on local people’s right to know what chemicals are released into the water from individual factories. For example, they state that they are committed to disclose the discharge of toxic chemicals facility-by-facility, but in their action plan they state: “without reference to specific facilities.” This kind of environmental data has to be easily accessible for the communities living by the rivers and for the brand’s consumers and other stakeholders.

Another key demand was tied to creating clear and ambitious elimination deadlines for some of the most toxic substances used in their production processes, such as the hormone-disrupting Alkylphenols. G-Star Raw’s current ambition – to eliminate all Alkylphenols from their supply chain by the end of 2014 – is far too slow given the urgency of water contamination that is taking place in countries such as China, Indonesia and Thailand. Other brands are a lot more ambitious: H&M, for example, says that complete elimination is realistic long before 2014, even though it has a more complex supply chain than G-Star Raw.

So we asked G-Star Raw to show more ambition, and to ensure that its commitment was water-tight.

Soon after, G-Star Raw stopped talking to us.

In every challenge, an opportunity

G-Star Raw is so close to being a champion of toxic-free production, and yet seems to be falling at the final hurdle, and as such is failing both itself and its customers.

We need it to stop and show that it is serious about this issue, and deliver a commitment and action plan that match the seriousness and urgency of the issue of toxic-water pollution.

Our door is always open.

Ilze Smit is a Detox Campaigner with Greenpeace Netherlands, working to create a toxic-free future.