Thursday 22 November 2012

Zara: An Increasingly Toxic Brand

Yesterday, we looked at Zara and how their fast fashion thinking is percolating into the way we treat clothing; as disposable landfill fodder. Now, they have the starring role in another fashion faux pas. They've been tagged by Greenpeace as serial polluters.

The latest instalment of the Detox campaign, that has successfully persuaded brands like Adidas and Nike to clean up their act in dumping toxins into water supplies near their factories, looks at nasties in the clothes themselves. It's not a pretty picture. Of 141 garments purchased worldwide from global brands like Armani and Levi's, 89 were shown to have high levels of NPE, a known irritant that is highly toxic to aquatic life.

Worse, two garments were shown to use azo dyes that contained high levels of cancer-causing amines. Both these items came from Zara, who scored highly on the list throughout.

It's an eye-opening read, with some real and nasty surprises. I recommend a flip through the report, which is available in full at Greenpeace's Toxic Threads page.

As an aside, we should also note that it's tougher than you'd think to successfully audit a global fashion supply chain. For example, you can't actually buy a Greenpeace t-shirt at the moment. That's because, as a by-product of the Toxic Threads study, Greenpeace found that their clothing contained some of the same chemicals they were campaigning against. As a result, they've pulled all their textile merchandising from sale "until suppliers are able to provide us with transparent information proving that they are able to produce clothing using zero hazardous chemicals throughout their supply chains."

It could be a PR nightmare, but by being transparent and sticking to their principles, Greenpeace have not just averted a crisis--they've shown how serious they are about the campaign. If only Zara, who have so far only issued a boilerplate assertion of ill-defined best practice documentation, could show the same level of commitment.

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