Today, British retail giant Primark became the 20th global clothing company to commit to Detox. In doing so, they have taken up the challenge laid down to the fashion industry by people around the world to eliminate all hazardous chemicals from our clothes and our waterways once and for all.

This is fantastic news for Primark’s customers, the local communities that suffer the effects of toxic water pollution and people everywhere.

Primark commits to Detox

Primark commits to Detox

But you might ask, what happens after a brand like Primark commits? How do these companies ensure they meet their promises and credibly eliminate the toxic little monsters from their clothes and their factories?

Well, there are 5 crucial steps they need to take.

Detox Logo

Detox Logo

Step 1 – Commit to Detox

Like Primark did today and Burberry did last week, brands need to start by admitting they have a toxic problem they are willing to solve. A Detox commitment makes brands individually responsible for delivering credible steps towards a toxic-free future on behalf of their consumers and local communities.

Little Monsters - Phthalates

Little Monsters – Phthalates

Step 2 – Spot the monsters

Next, brands should work with their suppliers to find where in the production process notorious chemical monsters like nonylphenol ethoxylathes (NPEs) are hiding. Once spotted, brands need to demand their suppliers use alternatives, for example, detergents and dyes, that are free from hazardous chemicals. If there is no good alternative available yet, these global corporations should use their collective power and influence to work alongside chemical suppliers to develop them.

Step 3 – Come clean

River Pollution in West Java © Andri Tambunan / Greenpeace

Industrial wastewater containing hazardous chemicals discharged into the Cihaur River, a tributary of the Citarum River.

Be open and honest about what chemicals suppliers are releasing into our waterways. In most of the countries where our clothes are produced these ‘discharges’ are not regulated or recorded. Greenpeace has worked with fellow NGO the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) to set up the world’s first publicly accessible voluntary reporting system. Already, leading brands like Mango have helped ensure that more than 100 suppliers are disclosing their discharges online.

Step 4 – Beware of the unknown monsters

 'Little Monsters' Escape from Factory Pipe (Photo Illustration) © Greenpeace

“Little Monsters” escape from a waste water pipe in China. This photo illustration was created for the Greenpeace report: “A Little Story About the Monsters in Your Closet.”

For many of the approximately 5,000 chemicals used in the textile industry we don’t have anywhere near enough information about their hazardous properties. To make sure we know which little monsters are actually ending up in our clothes and rivers, brands need a screening process to identify them in order to create a blacklist. This may sound like a pretty huge task, that’s why they have until the end of 2019 to do it. Of course, we expect them to start acting towards this date already.

Step 5 – Be accountable

Detox Protest at Adidas Store in Hamburg© Dmitrij Leltschuk / Greenpeace

Greenpeace volunteers protest in front of an Adidas chain store in Hamburg.

It is really important that brands committed to Detox are accountable and open to their customers, local communities and civil society. As global citizens we have a crucial role to play to monitor these corporations in their path to zero discharges, congratulating those making real progress and exposing and encouraging those that are failing to meet their promises by using Detox to greenwash.

Trendsetters and toxic addicts

Over the past two weeks Primark and Burberry have embarked on the Detox programme and now it’s time for them to walk the talk. Detox leaders like Mango, H&M and Fast Retailing are showing how it’s done and setting the toxic-free trend. Unfortunately, some like Nike are stuck on the first step, while others like Disney haven’t even got off the starting block.

These brands are in need of some serious Detox rehabilitation.

We need urgent action to stop the build up of these little monsters in the rivers, lakes and seas we all rely upon, posing untold risks to the health of our children and adults everywhere. Achieving zero discharges of hazardous chemicals won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight but by following this five-step programme, the fashion industry can help us build the toxic-free future our children deserve.

Take Action

Together we have helped convince 20 major companies to Detox our future but it doesn’t stop there.

Tell brands like Disney and American Apparel to make our clothes a story we can all be proud of.

Tweet to @Disney.@Disney stop the toxic nightmare, #Detox now and let our children live happily ever after:

Tweet to @americanapparel.@americanapparel time to stop using #LittleMonsters! Help us build a toxic-free future, #Detox now.

Watch the video

Find out about how people power made 20 global companies stand up and listen, committing to give this nightmare a happy ending and Detox our rivers of these toxic little monsters for ever after.