This post originally appeared on Greenpeace International, November 22, 2012.
Our campaign calling upon Zara to “Detox” began just over 48 hours ago. Already over 200,000 concerned customers, activists and fashionistas have signed up, calling on the world’s largest fashion retailer to create fashion without pollution.
What an incredible response.
With such an enormous groundswell of people calling on the company to take responsibility for the pollution caused when its clothes are made and washed, it is not surprising that the brand has decided to respond.
Zara has responded to some of your emails by reiterating its “willingness to take the necessary actions to reach, in the shortest time possible, the common goal of Zero Discharge”.
This is encouraging. Here at Greenpeace our Corporate Dialogue team is already in talks with the brand about how it aims to turn these words into actions.
Because words are not enough.
Right now, around the world, our water is being poisoned by the release of hazardous chemicals that come from the textile industry. When released into the environment these hazardous chemicals can break down to form even more harmful substances, some of which have hormone-disrupting, reprotoxic and even carcinogenic properties.
Many of these chemicals were found in the Zara items we tested in an independent laboratory. This means that they were used in the production process and later discharged into rivers and waterways around the world.
And when a brand churns out a whopping 850 million clothing items are year, like Zara does, then this has a big impact on both the environment and the people who share the same water for their livelihoods and drinking supplies.
That is why we singled out Zara as the next brand to lead us on the road toward a toxic-free future. Its sheer size and scale mean Zara is ideally positioned to be a catalyst for wider change within the clothing industry. Suppliers listen to brands like Zara because they provide them with such huge amounts of business, and as an industry leader it is clear that where Zara go, others will soon follow.
So what exactly are we asking of the world's biggest clothing brand?
We believe that Zara has a responsibility to the public and to the environment to completely eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals from its clothing and production processes, and to require its suppliers to disclose what chemicals they are discharging into our precious waterways. People living near these factories and buying these products have the right to know what is in their clothing and the harmful effects these chemicals have when released into the environment.
Some of its big competitors are already showing how to walk the walk down the catwalk to toxic-free fashion. Marks & Spencer, for example, have committed to release pollution data from several of its suppliers by February 2013. Given that Zara produces many more clothes than M&S each year, it stands to reason that the company should be requiring many more of its suppliers to publicly disclose this information, and soon.
Another close competitor, H&M, has given a concrete date for when it will phase out PFCs – one of the most hazardous chemical groups used by the sector. H&M says this is possible by 1st January 2013, so what’s to stop Zara from doing the same for this and other chemicals of concern currently being used to make its clothes?
The company can apparently design, produce and deliver a new garment and have it in its stores in just 15 days. We want to see them use their speed to respond to the urgency of the pollution and clean up the fashion industry for good.
After all, Zara has known about the issue for a long time. Our first report highlighting the toxic pollution caused by textile production came out almost 18 months ago. Since then Zara has done very little. But thanks to your incredible support, persistence and creativity over the last two days, the company finally seems to be waking up.
Let's do this together
Please share the campaign with more of your friends, because the more people who get involved, the more the senior leaders of the company – the world's third richest man among them – will realise that they need to take ambitious and immediate action to Detox. And when you have done that, feel free to head to their facebook page or send them a message via twitter calling on the brand to show the leadership and responsibility befitting of the world's number #1.
Zara is a company notorious for its ability to respond at lightning speed to the latest trends – so let's shows the clothing giant that the “must have” collection this season should be 100% toxic-free.
Join the campaign and share it with your friends
Tommy Crawford is the Strategic Communications Manager on the Detox Campaign. You can follow him on twitter at: @theecowarrior
Image: Three Greenpeace activists camouflage themselves becoming "invisible" in a Zara shop window in central Hong Kong and unfurl a banner reading "Invisible fashion victim". They are representing the hidden victims of the pollution caused by the fashion brand. © Clement Tang / Greenpeace