Big news! The Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning have committed to the elimination of all hazardous chemical discharges from across its supply chain by 2020. This follows our global campaign 'Detox' that began with testing at two Chinese textile factories, the resulting report linking a number of international brands - including Li Ning - with the release of hazardous and hormone-disrupting chemicals into rivers in China.
Out of all the clothing companies Greenpeace was targeting, Li Ning was the one that bothered me the most. Not because it was any more or less guilty than the rest, but because this was a Chinese company. Polluting in Chinese rivers and endangering the lives of Chinese people. And in that, it was harder for Li Ning to say, "we didn't know". Harder for Li Ning to say, "we don't care." And it's easier for the Chinese people to say to them, "hey, this isn't right."
Which is exactly what we did. Greenpeace campaigners from the Hong Kong office walked right into the Li Ning office during their annual board meeting where the man himself, former superstar gymnast and now founder of one of China's most successful athletic companies, Mr Li Ning, was present. Our bright yellow banner read, "李寧要給力, 承諾零排放" ("Li Ning, Go Toxic Free!"). Eventually one of the board members came out to accept a letter that outlined our demands: the company must agree to the phase out of all toxic chemicals in production.
"Their commitment to detox by 2020 also sends a clear signal to the other big international brands that the problem of water pollution needs to be solved as soon as possible," commented Zhang Kai, Toxic Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, "And that these toxic and hormone-disrupting chemicals are already affecting our rivers, our fish and the millions of people who rely on these waters for their livelihoods."
In a country more famous for making other people's things - rather than their own, Li Ning was an exception. Here is a very successful Chinese brand - both domestically and internationally - which makes them a leader in the Chinese industry. What they do, other Chinese brands will follow. So it's safe to say we're extremely happy that Li Ning has come on board and decided that environmental responsibility is a priority. And hope that this is a very positive sign of what's to come for the textile industry overall in China.
Here's a look back at the day we gatecrashed the Li Ning annual board meeting: