What's Needed from Consumers, Governments and Brands

What we ask of clothing companies

To adopt a credible, individual and public commitment to phase out the use and release of all toxic chemicals from their global supply chain and products, by 1 January 2020.

In order to be credible, the commitment needs to be based on three fundamental principles:

Zero discharge of all hazardous chemicals – This means really eliminating all releases: whether via waste water pipe discharges, other production emissions (e.g. air and solid wastes) or later life "losses" from the final product -- recognizing that there are no environmentally safe levels for hazardous substances.

Prevention and Precaution – This means taking preventative action towards the elimination of hazardous chemicals in the face of scientific uncertainty. This should be focused on elimination at source through substitution with sustainable alternatives or even product redesign.

Right to know – This means that brands and their supply chains need to be fully transparent and that they need to publicly disclose information about the hazardous chemicals used and discharged when making their products.

Major Fashion brands need to “walk the talk” by:

Adopting clear and ambitious deadlines by when they will have eliminated all releases of the different types of hazardous substances, with priority chemical groups for elimination including alkylphenols and perfluorinated chemicals. Establishing a comprehensive `blacklist´ of hazardous chemicals for elimination and setting deadlines in the near future that are based on the precautionary principle.

Brands need to require their suppliers to disclose the quantities of hazardous chemicals released, in a fully transparent and accessible way. This needs to begin with facilities in the Global South, in countries such as China.

Publicly demonstrating to others how they are making the transition to non-hazardous chemical use so that their process and steps can be followed.

What we ask of governments

Adopt a political commitment to zero discharge of all hazardous chemicals within one generation. This is to be based on the precautionary principle, and include a preventative approach which avoids the production and use of hazardous chemicals (and thereby prevents exposure).

This commitment must be matched with a comprehensive set of chemicals management policies and regulations that establish:

a. Intermediate short term targets to ban the production and use of well-known hazardous chemicals, based on properties such as carcinogenicity, toxicity for reproduction amongst others,

b. A dynamic list of priority hazardous substances requiring immediate action, based on the substitution principle, so that hazardous chemicals are progressively replaced with safer alternatives, and

c. A publicly available register of data on discharges, emissions and losses of hazardous substances, such as a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR).

What we ask of Consumers

As global citizens and consumers we also have a voice, and this voice is even more powerful when we speak together. Collectively we can:

  • Choose to buy fewer new clothing products, and instead buy second-hand clothes where possible. This can also involve re-purposing and re-using older items to create “new” pieces for our wardrobes, or taking part in clothes swaps with friends;

  • Influence brands to act responsibly on behalf of the planet and its people. The need for companies to make the right choices and protect future generations has never been greater than it is today, and brands need to be challenged on whether they have set a date for the elimination of the use of APEs and other hazardous chemicals in their supply chains; and

  • Demand that governments act to restrict the sales and import of products containing hazardous chemicals.

Together we can demand that governments and brands act NOW to start Detoxing our rivers, Detox our fashion and ultimately, Detox our futures. A post-toxic world is not only desirable, it’s possible. Together we can create it.

More than hazardous chemicals

For the latest news on which companies are being linked to sweatshop use or child labour you can also visit: http://www.cleanclothes.org/ and http://www.laborrights.org/

Alexandra McNair