Sustainability according to GreenpeaceThe results and problems that emerged from the Detox campaign. What has been done and what still needs to be done so that fashion eliminates toxic and hazardous substances from its products according to the non-governmental environmental organisation
To address the global crisis of access to drinking water, in 2011 Greenpeace launched the DETOX campaign, which has been challenging the world’s most popular fashion brands to eliminate all releases of substances that are toxic and hazardous for the environment and human health. According to Greenpeace, the textile industry, and clothing production in general, is one of the biggest polluters in the world, with a huge negative impact on water.
The DETOX campaign, currently underway, aims to reach a level of “Zero Discharge” by 2020. Over the years, some of the most famous international fashion brands have joined the campaign, including sportswear brands, fast fashion brands, discount brands and numerous Italian textile companies. So far, more than 80 textile companies and international groups have made serious and credible commitments with consumers around the world to eliminate toxic substances from the production chains.
We discuss these issues with Giuseppe Ungherese, Manager of the Greenpeace Pollution Campaign.
Does the DETOX campaign also take into account fashion accessories (footwear – handbags) or does another similar project address these products?
“The Detox campaign is aimed at all textile, clothing and accessory products. Not surprisingly, companies that have made a commitment to the Detox campaign include companies that market products such as shoes, belts and bags. They range from luxury companies such as Valentino and Burberry to sportswear brands such as Adidas and Puma and fast fashion companies such as Benetton and Zara.”
There is currently the danger of too much talk about sustainability, but in reality, it’s more a camouflage?
“Greenwashing in this industry is unfortunately always in fashion. We are talking about a production sector that generates billions of euros in sales and it’s a shame that so many important and prestigious companies hide behind the impossibility to achieve ambitious goals. To date, 80 international companies have joined the Detox campaign, including multinational companies and small and medium sized textile companies in the Prato district. You just have to want it and the path is within everyone’s reach.
These ambitious initiatives are counteracted by initiatives such as the one by the Italian Fashion Chamber that, in 2015, announced guidelines to reduce toxic substances and to which all the brands of the Italian Fashion Chamber have joined. This initiative is typical of greenwashing because it adopts the allowed limits of extremely high levels of substances, which are already achievable without any effort. We expected a high level of commitment from such an important organisation, certainly not a facade initiative.”
Do you know some positive case histories of fashion accessory companies?
“An excellent example is Valentino. Thanks to a close collaboration with its Italian suppliers of leather products, the prestigious Italian brand has managed to eliminate hazardous chemical substances such as PFCs from all its leather products including accessories, adopting safe and alternative waterproofing and finishing treatments. Let’s not forget that PFACs, which are part of PFCs, are extremely polluting and are still affecting the Alto Vicentino with serious consequences on the health of over 300 thousand residents. This area also contains the largest tannery district in Arzignano, a real excellence of Made in Italy.”
Fashion companies and their chain of suppliers complain that important brands introducing very stringent requirements, which are sometimes impossible to meet and even unnecessary (specifying limits that are lower than those required for children’s toys). What does Greenpeace think about this?
“The path outlined by the Detox campaign is already within reach of numerous production companies. This is demonstrated by the numerous companies that for years have followed a path based on traceability of the supply chains and transparency. In addition, of the more than 400 hazardous chemical substances that Greenpeace wants to completely eliminate with the Detox campaign, to date we can count on the fingers of one hand those for which there is no alternative available on the market. We are talking about substances that are extremely hazardous for the environment and health and for which the safety levels should be close to zero. A good example is ethoxylated alkylphenols, known as endocrine disrupters that have been used massively for decades as detergents in numerous textile processes. Nowadays, these substances can be replaced with ethoxylated alcohols, substances that guarantee the same performances and same costs, with the advantage of not impacting negatively on the environment.”