Some of the world’s most well-known apparel companies have come under criticism from Greenpeace for not sufficiently monitoring and limiting industrial wastewater discharges by suppliers. In a new report called “Dirty Laundry“, Greenpeace highlights the wastewater discharges from two major manufacturers in China that supply products to a range of major brands — including Adidas, Bauer Hockey, Calvin Klein, Converse, Lacoste, Nike, Phillips-Van Heusen and Puma.
In the report, Greenpeace alleges that the suppliers’ facilities discharge a range of hazardous chemicals into the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas – most significantly, hazardous and persistent chemicals with hormone-disrupting properties that are banned in the European Union and the United States, but not in China. Such bio-accumulative substances can be transported far beyond their release points through ocean currents and food chains. The Greenpeace report urges apparel companies to take action, stating:
Given their significant economic influence, the major brands are in a unique position to lead on this phase-out within the textile industry by setting a deadline for elimination [of hazardous chemicals] and developing a substitution plan.
Although some of the apparel companies cited in the report are recognized as leaders on sustainability issues and do have restrictions on substances present in their final products, Greenpeace found that none of the companies had comprehensive chemical management policies that would provide a comprehensive overview of the hazardous substances used across their supply chain, or any policies to restrict the release of hazardous substances in suppliers’ wastewater discharges, beyond compliance with local regulations.
Since the report was released, Puma has publicly committed to eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals from its product life-cycle by 2020, across its global supply chain. Greenpeace responded to Puma’s commitment by stepping up its pressure on Nike and Adidas through an advertising campaign called “Detox“, aimed at the brand-conscious teenage consumers.