Clothing giant H&M (STO:HMB) has responded to a torrent of tweets, Facebook updates, and Detox sticker actions last week with a public commitment to Detox. Hazardous chemicals are out. Transparency and transformational change are in.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant
There's an amazing energy around Greenpeace right now, and it's not just because of our birthday, or because this announcement brings us to four clothing heavyweights who have committed to eliminate discharges of all hazardous chemicals across their entire supply chains, and their entire product life-cycle by 2020.
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Global fast fashion giant H&M has also agreed (H&M's commitment) to publicise information about chemicals being released from its suppliers' factories. The first round of information is due to be published by the end of 2012, and will include H&M's key suppliers in China and other countries.
Millions of people live near factories around the world, not knowing what toxic and often invisible chemicals are being discharged into local water supplies. Imagine the impact this water pollution information will have for local communities, journalists and officials.
International pressure works too
Campaigners from our Detox campaign spent all day Friday with H&M representatives, after activists in 12 countries spent a week sticking huge “Detox our future!” and "Detox our water!" stickers on the shop windows of H&M stores. Online activists and H&M fans from around the world also encouraged the Swedish retailer to Detox on Twitter and Facebook.
H&M uses Twitter extensively to share news about the brand, and to reply to comments from customers. So we launched a Twitter petition one week ago, which spread quickly around the world reaching over 635,000 people who are following the roughly 1,200 people who "retweeted" to sign it.
If the company had to pick just one social network though, it would probably be Facebook, where no less than eight million people have "liked" H&M's page. Many of those fans began posting and "liking" comments and questions about the Detox campaign on H&M's Facebook page. By Friday morning, as our Detox campaigners arrived to meet representatives at H&M HQ in Stockholm, it was plain to see from the company's Facebook page that its reputation as a sustainability leader was on the line.
Detox is so hot right now!
Ten weeks into our Detox campaign, the world's three biggest sportwear brands, and now one of the world's biggest clothing groups, have committed to eliminate discharges of all hazardous chemicals across their entire supply chains, and their entire product life-cycle by 2020. All four brands are now preparing individual Detox Action Plans to show how they will concretely put the detox commitment into practice to bring about real change in the clothing industry. Our campaigners will continue to work with these companies to ensure they live up to their promises.
H&M is the largest clothing company featured in our Dirty Laundry and Dirty Laundry 2 reports, which detail the science behind the Detox campaign. Our research confirmed that H&M has links to factories discharging a range of hazardous chemicals into China's rivers, and that clothing -- including kids clothing -- sold by H&M, contain nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) that break down into the toxicnonylphenol (NP). These chemicals are a cause for serious concern, as they are known hormone disruptors and can be hazardous even at very low levels.
The company’s success and influence means it is ideally positioned to be a catalyst for wider change in the clothing industry. By committing to Detox its supply chain, H&M is setting the trend for this season, and for every season to come. Which clothing company will be next to Detox? Who's going to wait to be called out by fans for committing the latest fashion faux pas?