Greenpeace success in the fight over toxic textile production

Greenpeace success in the fight over toxic textile production

Greenpeace success in the fight over toxic textile production

Chlorophenols, perfluorinated hydrocarbons or phthalates: with some chemicals that are still used in textile production today, the consumer can get queasy.

They are considered to be highly toxic, carcinogenic or dangerous for fertility. Seven years ago, on July 13, 2011, the environmental protection organization Greenpeace therefore started a detox campaign to ban eleven “super-chemical pollutants” from textile production around the world, thereby increasing the risk to people and the environment in production countries such as China, Indonesia and Mexico to decrease. With success, as the managing director of Greenpeace International, Bunny McDiarmid, said on Thursday. “There has been a profound change in the clothing industry,” she praised the development in recent years in the Greenpeace report “Destination Zero: Seven Years of Detoxification in the Textile Industry”.

According to Greenpeace, a total of 80 companies, which account for around 15 percent of global textile production, have now committed to reducing the use of the eleven most dangerous chemical groups in the production of their goods to zero by 2020. Also on board are fashion giants such as, Primark and, sporting goods manufacturers such as, and, but also retail chains such as Aldi, Lidl and Tchibo. Environmentalists reported that even 30 percent of the textile industry was on a detox course.

According to Greenpeace, the implementation of the promises is making visible progress. Almost three quarters of the companies involved have now done without dangerous perfluorinated chemicals, so-called PFCs, which are among other things carcinogenic in their textile production. The rest of the companies made “good progress along the way”. Other dangerous substances are also being developed. “From an ecological point of view, this is all a huge success,” said Greenpeace. The demands were originally dismissed as “a thing of impossibility”.

Thomas Rasch from the German fashion association Germanfashion admits that before the Detox campaign, the main focus of the industry was on product safety in Germany. The campaign also brought the situation in the production countries more into focus. Today the topic – as the Alliance for Sustainable Textiles proves – is firmly anchored in the industry. According to Kai Falk from the German Retail Association (HDE), the detox campaign has contributed to changing the industry. “Detox is no longer a niche topic today. The aim of the campaign was fully achieved in retail, ”he says.

That is also necessary for the trade expert Martin Fassnacht from the business school. “Today consumers expect companies to be more committed to the environment,” he emphasizes. However, it is bitter for retailers and manufacturers that the majority of consumers are not willing to pay more for it.

For Greenpeace, however, the successes to date are no reason to rest. Because environmentalists are worried that the progress made so far will be undermined by the ever increasing fast pace of the fashion world.

Excessive textile consumption is a problem that needs to be addressed. Otherwise clothing consumption will increase dramatically in the next few years: From 62 million tons in 2017 to 102 million tons in 2030, Greenpeace fears. The fashion industry is challenged here. It has to bring about a radical change by producing better quality, more durable and more versatile clothing instead of ever shorter-lived collections. “The time has come to tackle the next unthinkable,” says Bunny McDiarmid.