When it comes to the environment, we're already used to hearing catastrophic news. Pollution is killing more people than war and violence, plastic is flooding the oceans, and industrial demand for things like palm oil, used in many foods and cosmetics, are damaging the forests. To help counteract some of these negative effects, in 2011, Greenpeace International launched 'Detox My Fashion,' a programme that, according to the report, is meant "to challenge big clothing brands from all sectors to take responsibility for the environmental impacts of their manufacturing supply chains and commit to achieve zero discharges of hazardous chemicals by 2020." The initiative received commitments from 80 major global brands, including adidas, Nike, Victoria's Secret, and Valentino.
It's been seven years since the plan went into motion, and on Thursday, the environmental organisation announced some surprisingly good news. According to a new report from Greenpeace Germany, titled 'Destination Zero: 7 Years Of Detoxing The Clothing Industry,' it turns out the textile industry has actually made some improvements.
Here's what's changed: 72% of the companies involved have eliminated per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which are used to make clothing water-repellant, from their products; 72% have also moved towards more radical transparency by publishing a list of all suppliers on their supply chain. The complete list of advancements can be found here.
“We have made great progress in phasing out hazardous chemicals that pollute our waterways and environment — there has been a major paradigm shift in the clothing industry triggered by the Detox campaign, which now takes responsibility for their production instead of just their products,” said Bunny McDiarmid, executive director of Greenpeace International.
Despite some success, Kirsten Brodde, Greenpeace Germany's project lead of the 'Detox My Fashion' campaign, notes that the 80 companies involved make up only a small part of the fashion industry. "85% of the textile industry is still not doing enough to eliminate hazardous chemicals and improve factory working conditions," she said. "This is unacceptable. It is time for policy makers to step in and make 'Detox' a worldwide standard."
In order to make a significant change to the way our actions impact the environment, we need to implement stronger regulations worldwide. From 2020, it will no longer be legal to import any textiles containing the hormonal nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) into the EU; carcinogenic substances are also on the agenda. Even China, the world's second-largest polluter, has introduced stricter pollutant controls. Fashion needs to take a stand against using toxic chemicals in the production of clothing, and commit to a transparent and ethical supply chain. And while that may be a huge task, there are ways you can help it get there. Because as it turns out, shopping sustainably is a lot easier than you think.