Wednesday 25 March 2015

The Detox Catwalk

You may remember Greenpeace's Detox campaign, which named and shamed big fashion brands for their quite literal dirty laundry. It's all too easy for garment factories to dump toxic spill into the ground water of the communities of which they are part, rendering that water useless. It's estimated that over 60% of ground water in China is not fit for human consumption.

The Detox campaign was key in getting a significant fraction of big fashion retailers to sign up to binding agreements to clean up their act by 2020. Nice as it would be to take it for granted that these companies will do as they are told, it make sense to check up on them. Hence the Detox Catwalk: an online platform specifically designed to monitor the big brands and their record on getting toxins out of the water that people use to drink and wash in.

Yixiu Wu, detox campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, says of the Detox Catwalk:

“The fashion companies that have committed to Detox over the past four years represent approximately 10% of the global apparel and footwear market. We believe this momentum is creating a new standard in sustainable fashion: sparking a transparency revolution and proving that zero discharge of hazardous chemicals is within our reach by 2020.”

Transparency is the word, of course. Being upfront and honest about your processes makes it much more likely that you'll act ethically as a company. It's a positive feedback loop that, Greenpeace believes, is starting to show real results.

They're not alone. Liu Jianguo, associate professor at the College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at Peking University, says:

"Increased supply chain transparency is good practice for sound chemical management, which will help decision makers draft and promote solid policies in China. Once companies are transparent, the public then has a chance to monitor what's happening in the industry - they have a chance to take part in the risk management of chemicals. In fact, it promotes good governance of this issue."

So who are the front runners this season? Greenpeace have added Inditex, Puma and Valentino to their Detox Leader board, while Chinese sportswear brand Li Nang and the mighty Nike are accused of greenwashing: talking the talk without walking the walk. It'll be interesting to see if this criticism, and the attendent bad
publicity, have the desired effect.

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