Time for Nike and Adidas to Detox the world’s water

Feature story - July 12, 2011
Game on. Greenpeace is calling on Nike and Adidas to see which one is stronger on the flats, quicker on the breaks, turns faster and plays harder at a game we’re calling ‘Detox’,

Greenpeace has issued a Detox challenge to see which of these sporting goods giants will be the first to eliminate hazardous chemical discharges from its supply chain. Which one champion a toxic-free future.

To turn up the urgency, Greenpeace showed up at Nike and Adidas stores in Beijing today with the results of a year-long investigation into toxic water pollution from the textile industry in China. The results don’t show the companies in a good light. But Greenpeace and millions of supporters worldwide are hoping that the two companies, like any athlete who has had a bad lap or a stumble, will try harder – especially if their fans are cheering them on.

Challenge one: Work with suppliers to eliminate all toxic chemicals

The investigation shows Nike and Adidas, along with the Chinese brand Li Ning, have commercial links to production facilities that discharge a range of hazardous and persistent chemicals with hormone-disrupting properties into the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas.

Alkylphenols (including nonylphenol) were in waste water samples from both the Youngor Textile City Complex and the Well Dyeing Factory Limited factories, perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) were in the waste water from the Youngor Textile Complex, even though it has a modern wastewater treatment plant. The alkylphenols and PFCs are a cause for serious concern. They are known hormone disruptors and can be hazardous even at very low levels. Both groups of chemicals are man-made substances that persist in the environment with potentially devastating effects as they accumulate up the food chain. 

These chemicals mess with human reproduction, harm development, damage the liver, affect the immune system, disrupt hormones and decrease sperm counts. 


A recent survey found that water scarcity and water pollution are the two top environmental concerns of the world’s population. The UN estimates that globally industry is responsible for dumping 300 to 500 tonnes of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other waste into the world’s waters annually.

Up to 70 per cent of China’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs are affected by water pollution. One in four people in China do not have access to clean drinking water. Shanghai’s 20 million residents depend for their drinking water on the Yangtze which has around 30 billion tonnes of wastewater dumped into it every year. Twenty to 30 per cent of China’s water pollution is a result of manufacturing goods for export.

Why Nike and Adidas?

Greenpeace has focused on Nike and Adidas because they are the front runners in sportswear manufacturing. Other brands are also linked to polluting operations in China. Nike and Adidas can have the greatest impact on improving supply chains by teaming up with suppliers to eliminate all toxic chemicals from their supply chains and products and take the industry to a new place.

How can Nike and Adidas just do it?

Come up with a game plan: Adopt clear company and supplier policies with realistic timelines to drive the shift from toxic to non-hazardous chemicals;

Actions not talking: Respond to this urgent situation with substantial action, get rid of the worst chemicals immediately;

Be a team player: Become more transparent; make data on eliminating these hazardous chemicals public to hold companies and suppliers accountable.

Help Detox Nike and Adidas:

Whether you’re “All in” with Adidas or believe Nike’s “Just do it,” you can challenge the brand you wear to deliver a turnaround-jump-shot slam-dunk blitz record-time hole-in-one ace -- in the game of creating a green and toxic-free future. 

Here’s how you can make your favourite brand a winner:
1. Create your own version of the Detox video and share it with your friends
2. Challenge the brands to champion a toxic-free future
3. Stay in the game  - sign up for action alerts (psst! We're planning on breaking a world record on July 23. Help us smash it).

You have the power to change Nike and Adidas and an entire industry. Clean water is not only a basic human right - it is the world’s most threatened essential resource.

Be a champion of clean water. Help deliver a toxic-free future.

For more information visit  www.greenpeace.ca/detox

Short backgrounder on the Detox campaign

The executive summary and the full Dirty Laundry report are available at http://www.greenpeace.org/dirtylaundryreport