Sep 14, 2012
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Greenpeace pursues Detox campaign

Sep 14, 2012

Greenpeace put in an appearance at the Fabric Start trade show in Munich to talk with textile professionals about its Detox Campaign. The occasion was an opportunity to make a first assessment of this one-year-old effort that has meanwhile rallied brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma, H & M, C & A and Li Ning to its side. 

A scientist from Greenpeace outside a textile plant in China / Photo: Greenpeace

And no doubt other names are soon to follow, according to Greenpeace. "Brands such as G-star, Levi's, Lacoste and others are currently discussing the subject," said Ulrike Kallee, Greenpeace's chemicals expert. "That was the idea from the start, to involve some brands that would encourage others to follow their example. And the international buzz worked. Brands have come to us and asked, 'What do you want us to do?'."  

Greenpeace says the campaign's goal is to get companies to aim for zero discharge of chemicals by 2020, based on the principles of precaution and the right to know. The NGO Greenpeace also encourages brands to publicize their commitment to consumers and not just to environmental activists, such as H&M has done. A few days ago, the chain announced a ban on the use of perfluorocarbons or PFCs (perflourinated compounds) by its subcontractors, effective January 1 of next year. 

NGOs like Greenpeace are noticing a change of attitude among brands. "Originally, our conferences on water pollution for manufacturers attracted only 20 to 30 people," remembers Ulrike Kallee. "But since the beginning of the campaign, we see more than 150 suppliers in attendance, including brands such as Adidas, who encourages their subcontractors to participate." 

But the change in attitude does not mean the end of a lack of transparency with major brands, which remain very protective of their suppliers. "The brands usually have a lot invested in their sub-contractors," said Ulrike Kallee. "And keep in mind that some manufacturers simply ignore the fact that they handle highly pollutant products. This is why we are focusing on brands so that they involve and educate their partners."

Chinese manufacturers are especially being targeted by Greenpeace. With nearly 50,000 textile factories, the "factory of the world" is in fact the first victim of textile water pollution, prompting even the government to face up to the problem. "China is moving toward legislation where each company is responsible for its wastewater," said Ulrike Kallee. "Awareness is now very high."

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