Earlier this month we reviewed the Greenpeace Dirty Laundry report and focused on the effects of traditional textile dyeing factories and the dire consequences for China’s water and its people. But, we’ve been thinking about the responses to the Greenpeace report by the companies who are using the two textile manufacturers.
Each of the companies, including Nike, Adidas, The Gap, and H&M (who all have published ambitious sustainability goals) denied that their goods were dyed at either the Youngor Textile Complex in Ningbo on the Yangtze River Delta or the Well Dyeing Factory in the Pearl River Delta near Hong Kong. The brands did confirm, however, that they use one or the other facility, but only as a “cut and sew” supplier.
Each company has tried to distance themselves from the clearly documented water-polluting textile companies. As you can see here in two excerpts from the letters…
Nike’s Vice President of Sustainable Business and Innovation Hannah Jones wrote:
NIKE, Inc. currently sources from two factories in the Youngor Group Co, Ningbo Youngor Knitting and Underwear and Ningbo Youngor Sportswear in Zhejiang Province.
These factories are cut and sew facilities. They do not have manufacturing processes that include use of the chemicals called out in your letter. In addition, neither factory sources materials from the Youngor Dye House. Both factories feed only sanitary wastewater into the Water Treatment Facility.
From H&M’s Head of CSR, Helena Helmersson (emphasis H&M) said:
H&M is currently sourcing small quantities of garments from a pure garment factory called Ningbo Youngor Yingchen Uniform, with no wet processes. It belongs to Youngor Group Co Ltd and is located within the premises of Youngor International Garment City….
H&M is not in any way using the wet processes within the premises of Youngor International Garment City and is therefore not contributing to discharging toxic chemicals in the Fenghua River.
But here’s, the problem: These brands have their clothing dyed somewhere in China and those factories are using similar “wet dye” and finishing processes that spew heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals into the waterways. Even with water treatment, some heavy metals cannot be removed, and the dyehouse is still using vast quantities of water to dye, finish, and clean the fabric.
Wet processes are common because there simply aren’t the facilities in China to dye fabric without the use of water (we know, because we’re working on building that capacity now, and no production is yet online there).
Claiming their commitment to sustainability, the international brands (Nike, H&M, Gap, and Adidas) site their efforts working with various voluntary, industry groups, such as the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Apparel Mills & Sundries Working Group to improve sustainability, factory auditing and continuous improvement. The BSR, however, is not a technical organization staffed with scientists nor do they have powers like the EPA here in America to fine and put offenders in jail.
In the responses to Greenpeace’s report, the companies also declare their commitment to improvement. For example, from Nike’s letter:
Nike and Greenpeace have a common goal of eliminating discharges of hazardous chemicals in our manufacturing process. Over the years, we have almost entirely eliminated hazardous chemicals in the materials we use to make our products… Managing water in our manufacturing process remains one of the critical keys to successfully eliminating hazardous chemicals.
So, we ask you, as the ultimate influencer–the end consumer–to pressure Nike, Adidas and the other brands to not just write carefully crafted letters and corporate sustainability goals, but to take direct and quick action to stop polluting the world’s waterways with their wet process textile dyeing.
Sign Greenpeace’s Detox Now! petition, post this to Facebook or in a tweet. Be sure you let industry leaders know they need to do more to conserve precious fresh water and give us a toxic-free future.