Seven years ago Greenpeace asked fashion companies all around the world to face their environmental responsibilities and take a pledge to stop polluting waterways with hazardous chemicals. 80 industries committed to ban such chemicals from their production line by 2020, and according to a new report by Greenpeace they have already achieved substantial progress.
The paper, dubbed “Destination Zero” and published by Greenpeace Germany, shines a spotlight on the fast fashion companies which proved to be particularly virtuous – among them we can find Inditex (Zara), H&M, Benetton and Fast Retailing. Unfortunately, only two fashion labels from the luxury sector (Burberry and Valentino) took part in the mission to reduce the use of chemicals that pollute our planet.
Anyway, the companies which joined the project represent 15% of global clothing production and the report maps the major steps they took since the campaign was launched.
To begin with, all the companies which committed to the Detox project are currently carrying out the elimination of the 11 priority groups of hazardous chemicals identified by Greenpeace. Moreover, 72% of Detox-committed brands are disclosing their suppliers lists down to Tier2 and Tier3 wet processing, in order to report water pollution right where it occurs more often. Furthermore, the same percentage of brands has achieved the total elimination of perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) from their products, while 20% are currently working in order to completely remove them from their production lines.
Bunny McDiarmid, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, said that the Detox campaign triggered “a major paradigm shift in the clothing industry”, and that now companies are taking “responsibility for their production instead of just their products”, but there are still many goals which have not been achieved yet.
As online shopping becomes more and more pervasive, for example, looking for cheaper products becomes the norm: poor-quality materials contribute to the mountains of waste and discharges microplastic from synthetic clothing into the oceans, increasing fibre pollution.
Greenpeace believes that eliminating the usage of hazardous chemicals is an essential step towards circular economy because it would avoid the endless recirculation of toxics through recycled materials, and some Detox-committed brands are currently supporting the enforcement of due diligence which will make corporations legally responsible for their supply chains all over the world.
In this regard, Kirsten Brodde, Greenpeace Germany project lead of the Detox-my-Fashion campaign, asserts that while everyone should be extremely happy about the progress achieved by Detox companies we must remember that 85% of the textile industry is still not doing enough.
There are still plenty of challenges to face before we can consider the industry to be truly non-toxic, and the fact that global supply chains are complex and often internationally-spanning will not make things easier.
In any case, the Detox campaign has shown that fashion activism can actually work, and that in order to be effective it has to be a multifaceted strategy: research, creative campaigns, petitions, advocacy – we must rely on everything that is capable of raising awareness, but the fact that the campaign is proving to be so successful means that we can really make a difference.