H&M rises to Greenpeace 'zero discharge' challenge

Clothing retailer joins Adidas, Nike and PUMA in committing to elimination of toxic chemicals from water discharge.

The next wave of apparel activism is paying off for environmental group Greenpeace. That's because the second largest global clothing retailer H&M has taken a vow to cut out the use of hazardous chemicals in its production by 2020.

The move follows similar commitments by Adidas, Nike and PUMA, who responded to Greenpeace's "Detox" campaign during the summer.

Greenpeace has focused on 14 apparel industry giants, which it has said use suppliers in China that support questionable policies for discharging polluted water. While Greenpeace has stopped short of directly connecting these companies directly with the polluted water; its position has been that the world's largest clothing brands, which use some of these Chinese suppliers, have the power to pressure them into changing their practices across the board. Greenpeace said its investigation of certain production facilities reveals that many use nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). This substance can break down nonylphenol (NP), a toxic chemical that can disrupt hormones.

Said Marietta Harjono, Toxics Campaigner at Greenpeace International:

"By committing to ‘Detox’ its supply chain, H&M is not only setting the trend for this season and the future; it also sends a clear message to other brands that using toxic chemicals to make our clothing is no longer in vogue. H&M’s landmark commitment has the potential to be a catalyst for wider change across the fashion industry."

As I mentioned, Greenpeace has targeted 14 international companies that it hopes will take up the clean water and zero discharge standard. So, that leaves 10 more to go, unless one has declared over the weekend while I was traveling back from my vacation.

The first step in H&M's detox pledge will be to publicly disclose which chemicals are released by its suppliers' factories by the end of 2012.

Greenpeace has committed to working closely with H&M and the other companies that have responded to its Detox campaign in helping them meet their pledges.

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