H&M's head of corporate social responsibility, Helena Helmersson, blogged yesterday about our Detox campaign's new focus on her company. Our campaigners are due to meet with H&M decision makers this Friday, but in the mean time we thought it would be good to share this open letter in reply.
This might seem like an unusual way to respond, but it was prompted by your blog that was shared yesterday on both the official H&M Twitter and Facebook accounts.
You say you were surprised and disappointed when you saw the Greenpeace website and the focus of the Detox campaign turning to H&M. I’m surprised that you’re surprised! Greenpeace Detox campaigners reached out to H&M well over two months ago regarding hazardous water pollution from factories linked to top clothing brands, including yours. Nike, Puma and Adidas have all since committed to a toxic-free future, but H&M has not. How can you say H&M is a concerned and conscious company, whilst continuing toxic practices behind closed doors?
Yes, Greenpeace, including myself, have had a close and constructive relationship with H&M in the past. H&M worked with Greenpeace on REACH (European chemicals legislation), supporting the principle that hazardous chemicals must be substituted with safer alternatives where they exist. But the problem does not stop with your products, or at EU borders. Our Detox campaign highlights the urgent problem of chemicals that are used in the manufacture of H&M products such as nonylphenol ethoxylates, which break down in water to become toxic nonylphenol.
H&M has shown signs of environmental leadership in the past, but right now it is failing to disclose important details about its restrictions of hazardous chemicals and suppliers used to make its clothing that others, like Nike and Adidas, share online. Given that we are all working towards the same goal (a toxic-free future) then why not share your tools and experience with others?
H&M’s success and influence means it is ideally and uniquely positioned to be a catalyst for wider change in the clothing industry. I believe H&M has a responsibility to its customers and to the environment to completely eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals from its clothing and production processes, and to disclose where its factories are located and what chemicals these factories are discharging into our precious waterways around the world. 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 our rivers and waterways.
What exactly does H&M have to hide?
Let’s get serious about strengthening H&M’s policies. The sheer volume of clothing that is made for your company gives it considerable influence over its supply chain, and as past experiences teach us, H&M already has the will, the capacity and the corporate structure to bring about ambitious environmental change and to set the trends for others to follow. It is now the middle of September. Fashion season is upon us, and big brands such as Nike, Adidas and Puma have already sent out a clear message that a good “detox” is this season’s absolute "must-have" with their individual commitments to zero releases of all hazardous chemicals by 2020.
We look forward to our dialogue this week, but until H&M recognises the urgency of the situation, and the problems your insufficient chemical management policies are causing for people and wildlife in China and elsewhere, we will keep reminding you.
Head of the Detox Campaign
Slideshow: Photos from H&M stores around the world, where activists this week have begun rebranding the shop windows with large "DETOX" and "DETOX the future" stickers.