Stage 1: Testing and releasing the report
This is a story that begins at two textile factories in China that were discharging a range of hazardous and hormone-disrupting chemicals into the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas. After our on-site testing, Greenpeace released an investigative report that linked a number of international brands to the factories responsible for these toxic discharges. China's biggest sportswear company Li Ning was also on the guilty party list.
By the Fenghua River in Ningbo, dotted with textile factories, local residents out for a morning exercise stopped our tireless investigators to say, "It always stinks here. And the color of the wastewater changes throughout the day." One of our campaigners came away with severe skin irritation when her foot accidentally came in contact with the toxic waste.
Stage 2: Identify culprits in a global campaign
Adding to Li Ning, sportswear giants Nike and Adidas became our key targets. It was time to throw out our challenge to turn their polluting ways around. A viral video campaign, online petitions and public demonstrations were being held all around the globe, including outside Beijing's Adidas and Nike stores. More than 600 volunteers participated in a "Detox flashmob striptease" outside Adidas and Nike stores in 29 cities in 10 countries. We also reached to the public at events such as Shanghai's Zebra Music Festival.
It wasn't before long that this co-orindated public action began to show results. In July, Puma became the first company to publicly commit to an elimination of all hazardous chemicals from its entire product lifecycle and across its global supply chain by 2020. Then before you knew it Nike had jumped on board as well.
Stage 3: Hitting them where it hurts
When Adidas proved tardy in coming to the table, we turned up the heat. It was time for a global "detox" sticker campaigns that included two Hong Kong stores. We also marched into one of the stores wearing football gear, penalizing the company with a much deserved "yellow card" for their bad behaviour.
And what about Chinese company Li Ning? This was one was personal. On the day we confronted Li Ning to protest their lack of commitment to eliminating toxic waste from their supply chain I wrote on our site: "[None of these companies'] hands are clean. But when a company is trashing its own backyard, and endangering the health of their own people it's no surprise that Hong Kong activists gatecrashed the board meeting of Chinese sportswear giant Li Ning pretty fired up."
And now - with much excitement - we can announce that Li Ning has joined the Detox campaign and along with the other brands will implement a joint plan to eliminate all releases of hazardous substances from their products by 2020. For Li Ning, as leaders in China's growing group of brand companies, it's a move that's set to transform the entire local textile industry.
Greenpeace has also begun to target clothing companies outside the sports arena. H&M have already stepped up to the plate and proven their colours in their involvement for the joint-plan.
Stage 4: Working together for a toxic-free future
This story started at a factory, and now ends with one. Or more specifically at a conference called "Hazardous Chemicals Substitution and Elimination", co-organized by Greenpeace and held in Shenzhen, the heartland of China's (and therefore the world's) manufacturing industry. Previously an industry conference such as this might have had 20-30 attendees - tops. This year, the room was bursting at the seams (pun intended) with over 150 factory owners and textile industry representatives, all eager to learn and conceive of ways to substitute and eliminate hazardous chemicals from their production cycles.
The 'Detox' campaign has shown that smart and strategic campaigning can make a difference. Especially when the voice of the people come roaring behind it. So thanks to every one of you who took part in 'Detox' around the globe. And look forward to the day that the reckless behaviour of multinational companies no longer endangers the health of Chinese people by turning their waterways into rivers of toxic poison.
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