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High street giant H&M pledges to change its ways

Hannah Corr

20th September, 2011

In the wake of a Greenpeace campaign, H&M has agreed to put an end to polluting practices. So could this be the start of a new trend? Hannah Corr reports

Following the Greenpeace campaign against the use of the toxin NPE in leading clothing brands, H&M have agreed to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals from all production processes associated with its products by 2020. The company had originally appeared reluctant to change its ways, claiming, in a statement to the Ecologist, that the Greenpeace study on the release into Chinese rivers was ‘untrustworthy’. However, the company has since changed tack following Greenpeace’s 'Detox' campaign during which thousands of people took action against the store, including smothering the windows of the high street chain's stores with 'Detox our future!' stickers.

In a statement issued on its website, the company said: ‘H&M has the size and ability to act as a catalyst for change in the industry. H&M has also recognised the importance of cooperation; the industry must act together to achieve zero discharge.’

H&M is the second largest clothing retailer in the world and joins major brands Nike, Puma and Adidas in committing to ‘Detox’ its supply chain. According to Marietta Harjono, Toxic Campaigner at Greenpeace International, 'H&M is not only setting the trend for this season and the future; it also sends a clear message to other brands that using toxic chemicals to make our clothing is no longer in vogue.'

NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate) is a toxic chemical that when broken down into NP (nonylphenol) is known to change the gender of fish and cause hormone disruptions in humans who consume contaminated fish and water.  It is banned in the EU but has few restrictions on it in China and Asia which means it is still widely used in the dyeing process.


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