Let me share a wonderful article appeared last July on guardian.co.uk, talking about a Greenpeance report. Learn how many luxury and consumer brands help China to be more polluted and dirty.
A Chinese conglomerate supplying Nike, Adidas, Puma, Lacoste, H&M and other leading brands has discharged hormone-disrupting chemicals and other toxins into the country's major water systems, according to a new Greenpeace investigation that raises questions about corporate responsibility for the firms they do business with.
The environmental pressure group has also linked hazardous textile plants in the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas to Lacoste, H&M and half a dozen other international fashion brands despite many of those companies' claims to set high environmental standards in their supply chains.
The allegations follow a series of high-profile pollution scandals at Chinese firms that provide materials for multinational corporations. Chinese environmental activists say these cases highlight the hypocrisy of western outsourcers who promise high safety standards for rich consumers at home even as they trade with firms that benefit from lax environmental regulations overseas.
In their one-year investigation into China's textile industry – the world's largest, with 50,000 mills – Greenpeace campaigners collected samples from factory discharge pipes and sent them for analysis at laboratories at Exeter University and in the Netherlands. They discovered a range of persistent pollutants in the wastewater from two major plants.
The Youngor facility in Ningbo, near Shanghai, was found to have discharged nonylphenol, an endocrine disruptor that builds up in the food chain, perfluorinated chemicals, which can have an adverse effect on the liver and sperm counts, as well as a cocktail of other toxins.
These chemicals were detected in small quantities, but they are hard to break down so they tend to accumulate in nature to dangerous levels. Many were found in fish during an earlier study of toxins in the Yangtze food chain. Although the chemicals are not yet illegal in China, they are banned in the EU and many developed nations.
Youngor is China's biggest integrated textile firm and boasts some of the country's most advanced technology for dyeing, weaving and printing. Its Ningbo plant is also home to an in-house research centre and a Japanese-made sewage treatment system.
Greenpeace says Nike, Adidas, Puma, H&M and Lacoste have confirmed a business relationship with Youngor though all denied making use of the plant's wet processes, which are likely to be responsible for the pollution discharges into the Fenghua river.
Adidas said its only relationship with the Youngor is for the cutting and sewing of fabrics. "Adidas does not source fabrics from Youngor Group, which would involve the use of dyestuffs, chemicals and their associated water treatment processes," the company said in a statement. "We continue to engage with Greenpeace and have offered our full support and cooperation.
In response to questions from the Guardian, Puma also said its involvement was limited to a non-polluting subsidiary that it regularly audited. "Our relationship to Youngor Group is, according to our information, restricted to the ready-made garments factory Youngor Knitting, which is not involved in any discharges into the Fenghua and does not operate any industrial wet processes. We are currently in contact and discussion with Greenpeace and open for further cooperation on our chemicals policies."
H&M said its business partner, Ningbo Youngor Yingchen Uniform, was a discrete legal entity within the Younger International Garment City complex that did not contribute to discharges into the Fenghua river. The company said its code of conduct only applied at suppliers with which it had a business relationship.
"However, we share the general concern about discharges of hazardous chemicals into the environment," H&M said. "That is why we run a set of activities and procedures to limit and eliminate hazardous chemicals and improve overall environmental standards throughout our value chain and the entire industry."
Greenpeace says the foreign firms need to insist upon higher standards throughout their supply chains. In addition, the group says the brands have a moral obligation to phase out hazardous chemicals not just in the final product sold to first-world consumers but also in the industrial process that affect workers and the environment in developing nations.
"These companies are doing business with a polluter. We are not accusing them of being evil, we are challenging them to take the lead on eliminating toxins," said Li Yifang, who headed the investigation at the Greenpeace China office. "There is no safety limit for these chemicals because they accumulate. So we ask Nike and the others to help phase them out over a reasonable time frame. That would send a signal to the whole industry."
The other polluter accused in the report was Well Dyeing Factory in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province, which is said to have discharged a range of heavy metals, including chromium and copper, in addition to alkylphenols, nonylphenols and other organic chemicals.
Greenpeace noted the factory released hazardous effluent into the Shiji River at night – a common practice by factories in China that want to avoid scrutiny from governmental inspectors.
Many other factories are likely to be guilty of even worse pollution but their activities go undetected because they bury their discharge pipes or mix their emissions with the effluent from other industrial plants. Greenpeace says it has approached both Chinese firms with its findings. Youngor has reportedly agreed to work with the environmental group to eliminate toxic chemicals, while Well Dyeing has denied it has a problem.
China has been the world's biggest exporter of textiles since 1995, but other industries have made a big impact on the economy and environment. Last year, a coalition of Chinese environmental groups traced a link between lead and cadmium contamination scandals and the production of materials for mobile phone batteries and computer circuit boards for foreign technology companies. In a follow-up study earlier this year, the activists reporteddischarge violations at several Chinese firms that are thought to be part of Apple's supply chain.
Many foreign firms privately complain that environmental groups hold them to higher standards than their Chinese counterparts, which undermines their competitiveness. The campaigners respond that the big companies profit from their brand reputation and thus have a greater responsibility to set a positive example.]]>
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