The campaign kicked off by challenging global sportswear brands to champion a toxic-free future. Since then, some of the world’s largest fashion retailers have also come under the spotlight. The call for fashion made without pollution has also been echoed by big names within the fashion scene, including designers, models and bloggers, many of whom have signed the Detox Fashion Manifesto.
Workers in Youngor textiles factoy, Ningbo, China
Since July 2011, the Detox campaign has mobilised hundreds of thousands of people around the world to challenge major clothing brands to eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and products. So far, the campaign has been able to secure public commitments from eighteen international brands: Nike, Adidas, Puma, H&M, M&S, C&A, Li-Ning, Zara, Mango, Esprit, Levi's, Uniqlo, Benetton, Victoria's Secret, G-Star Raw Valentino, Coop and Canepa). For these companies, the focus now turns towards creating concrete elimination plans for the most hazardous substances, as well as providing greater transparency around the chemicals that their suppliers currently release into our shared waterways.
In October 2013 Greenpeace International released the Detox Catwalk, assessing the steps taken by clothing companies towards their Detox commitments. The Catwalk revealed that while leading names like H&M, Mango and Uniqlo were matching their words with concrete actions, Nike, adidas and Li-Ning had failed to walk the talk and follow through on their promises. The Catwalk also highlighted the Laggards that have still yet to make a credible Detox commitment despite their implication in the toxic scandal.
As global players, international brands are perfectly placed to eliminate the negative environmental impacts of their production. They can do this through the suppliers they choose to collaborate with, the design of their products, and the control they can exert over the chemicals used throughout the production processes.
Zara, the world's largest fashion retailer, announced a commitment to Detox on November 29 after days of intense international public pressure.
Yet many top clothing brands have still to respond to the urgency of the pollution and commit to cut their addiction to hazardous chemicals. People around the world have spoken out against toxic fashion and it’s now time for brands such as G-Star, Calvin Klein and GAP to listen to their customers and urgently Detox.
Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch-Up
Our latest report, published in November 2012, presents the results of an investigation that found residues of a variety of hazardous chemicals in clothing made by 20 global fashion brands, including Zara, Calvin Klein, Levi's and Victoria's Secret. The chemicals found included high levels of toxic phthalates and cancer causing amines from azo dyes. Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), which can break down to form a toxic and hormone-disrupting substance when released into the environment, were found in trace levels in clothing items from every single brand tested.
The use of these chemicals in manufacturing results in water pollution that affects millions of people around the world. In China alone, one third of the population lacks access to clean drinking water. The textile industry is one of the biggest polluters.
Aside from being critical habitats for wildlife, waterways such as rivers and lakes also provide vital resources for almost all life on Earth. Many people rely on this water for drinking, for farming, and for foods like fish and shellfish. Yet these vital public water sources are often abused by industry and treated as if they were private sewers.
The dispersal of hazardous chemicals from our clothes into water systems, both when they are manufactured and after they are sold, should be addressed by their rapid and transparent substitution with safer alternatives.
The Detox Solution for brands and governments
What we ask of clothing companies
To adopt a credible, individual and public commitment to phase out the use and release of all toxic chemicals from their global supply chain and products, by 1 January 2020.
In order to be credible, the commitment needs to be based on three fundamental principles:
Zero discharge of all hazardous chemicals – This means really eliminating all releases: whether via waste water pipe discharges, other production emissions (e.g. air and solid wastes) or later life "losses" from the final product -- recognising that there are no environmentally safe levels for hazardous substances.
Prevention and Precaution – This means taking preventative action towards the elimination of hazardous chemicals in the face of scientific uncertainty. This should be focused on elimination at source through substitution with sustainable alternatives or even product redesign.
Right to know – This means that brands and their supply chains need to be fully transparent and that they need to publicly disclose information about the hazardous chemicals used and discharged when making their products.
Major Fashion brands need to “walk the talk” by:
Adopting clear and ambitious deadlines by when they will have eliminated all releases of the different types of hazardous substances, with priority chemical groups for elimination including alkylphenols and perfluorinated chemicals. Establishing a comprehensive `blacklist´ of hazardous chemicals for elimination and setting deadlines in the near future that are based on the precautionary principle.
Brands need to require their suppliers to disclose the quantities of hazardous chemicals released, in a fully transparent and accessible way. This needs to begin with facilities in the Global South, in countries such as China.
Publicly demonstrating to others how they are making the transition to non-hazardous chemical use so that their process and steps can be followed.
People living near factories and rivers have a right to know what's in the water.
What we ask of governments
Adopt a political commitment to zero discharge of all hazardous chemicals within one generation. This is to be based on the precautionary principle, and include a preventative approach which avoids the production and use of hazardous chemicals (and thereby prevents exposure).
This commitment must be matched with a comprehensive set of chemicals management policies and regulations that establish:
a. Intermediate short term targets to ban the production and use of well-known hazardous chemicals, based on properties such as carcinogenicity, toxicity for reproduction amongst others,
b. A dynamic list of priority hazardous substances requiring immediate action, based on the substitution principle, so that hazardous chemicals are progressively replaced with safer alternatives, and
c. A publicly available register of data on discharges, emissions and losses of hazardous substances, such as a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR).
The role of #PeoplePower
As global citizens and consumers we also have a voice, and this voice is even more powerful when we speak together. Collectively we can:
- Choose to buy fewer new clothing products, and instead buy second-hand clothes where possible. This can also involve re-purposing and re-using older items to create “new” pieces for our wardrobes, or taking part in clothes swaps with friends;
- Influence brands to act responsibly on behalf of the planet and its people. The need for companies to make the right choices and protect future generations has never been greater than it is today, and brands need to be challenged on whether they have set a date for the elimination of the use of APEs and other hazardous chemicals in their supply chains; and
- Demand that governments act to restrict the sales and import of products containing hazardous chemicals.
Together we can demand that governments and brands act NOW to start Detoxing our rivers, Detox our fashion and ultimately, Detox our futures. A post-toxic world is not only desirable, it’s possible. Together we can create it.
More than hazardous chemicals
At Greenpeace, we are focusing our resources on tackling the urgent issue of hazardous chemicals being released into our waterways. However, we are also aware of many other serious and pressing issues related to the textile industry that needs tackling. You can find out more about these issues and what you can do through organisations like UNICEF, Oxfam and Save the Children.
For the latest news on which companies are being linked to sweatshop use or child labour you can also visit: http://www.cleanclothes.org/ and http://www.laborrights.org/