Will H&M make “Detox” the new must-have?

Feature story - 13 September, 2011
There's a skeleton in H&M's closet. The fast-fashion retailer sells clothes made with chemicals which cause hazardous water pollution around the world, and the only way to stop this water pollution is to come clean and stop using such chemicals for good. As one of the largest clothing groups in the world, an H&M committed to a toxic-free future would set the trend for the rest of the fashion industry to follow.

A Snoopy t-shirt, a red and white striped polo shirt, a women's white tank top, and a grey children's shirt purchased in H&M stores in China, Russia, the Netherlands and Switzerland. They were tested and found to contain nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), which break down in water to become toxic nonylphenol (NP).

Nine weeks into our Detox campaign, the world's three biggest sportwear brands have already committed to eliminate discharges of all hazardous chemicals across their entire supply chains, and their entire product life-cycle by 2020. They are now preparing individual Detox Action Plans in consultation with our campaigners for delivery between September 20 (Puma) and mid October (Nike and Adidas).

H&M needs to come clean

How does H&M keep its prices so low? And where are its factories?

The company's current commitment to transparency just doesn't wash. Nike and Adidas, for example, have already published a list of their suppliers online, and have published extensive details about their hazardous chemicals management program. In contrast, H&M only publishes general information about its "Restricted Substances List" and does not reveal where its suppliers are located.

What does it have to hide?

For H&M to be fashion forward, it needs to match the efforts of Nike, Adidas and Puma by committing to eliminate all uses and discharges of hazardous chemicals throughout its entire supply chain.

But simply matching is not enough - to really stand out, H&M needs to be honest with both its customers and the people living near its factories about where its suppliers are located and what hazardous chemicals these factories are releasing into our precious waterways during the manufacture of its clothes.

Clothing and the global toxic cycle

Exposing H&M's Dirty Laundry

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 confirms 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 toxic nonylphenol (NP). These chemicals are a cause for serious concern, as they are known hormone disruptors and can be hazardous even at very low levels.

Nonylphenol and other chemicals found in our sampling are man-made substances that can persist in the environment and can have potentially devastating effects as they accumulate up the food chain.

Alternative chemicals and manufacturing methods exist, so why is H&M still dragging its heels and refusing to Detox?

No 'safe' amount of hazardous chemicals

Adidas's commitment on August 30 to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals, means that now all three of the world's leading sportswear companies have recognized that there is no such thing as a 'safe limit' when it comes to these substances. This is a significant shift for the companies, and a milestone for our campaign to stop industry poisoning our water with hazardous chemicals.

HM Detox - Toxic is so last season

Reputation on the line

H&M's reputation as an industry leader in sustainability is on the line, as the company faces questions over its commitment to people and the environment in China and elsewhere. With the fashion season already upon us, H&M are running out of time to show the world what it's capable of.

We're eyeing H&M

It's time for H&M to publicly claim its place as a leading brand in the effort to Detox our water, and to commit to its customers, its workers and the communities whose resources it shares that H&M is ready to champion a toxic-free future.

Greenpeace Detox campaigners are meeting with H&M decision makers this week to find out if the company is now ready to take responsibility for its actions, and lead the fashion industry towards a toxic-free future.

H&M, which made US$17 billion in sales last year, likes to tout how close it is to its suppliers (cutting out the middle-men cuts costs), so what's to stop H&M from using this influence to catalyze change across the fashion sector, and leading a Detox and transparency revolution?

Take action

Click the "tweet it" button to sign our petition and spread the word on Twitter:

Retweet to sign petition ► @HM needs to #Detox! Hazardous chemicals are so last season! #fashion #water http://act.ly/484

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