September 27, 2011 original date
The Detox Campaign is an excellent example of how corporate social responsibility (CSR) can become a crisis risk. Greenpeace uses H&M’s concern about CSR as leverage in an effort to change the company’s supply chain behavior. The case is an example of how social media are excellent vehicles for creating paracrises by creating challenge crises. Though more reputational than operational, challenges and paracrises still demand attention, analysis, and careful consideration about responses.
In July of 2011, Greenpeace began the Detox Campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to eliminate the toxic chemicals being released into the water by textile manufactures. Once again, the apparel industry was the target because they are purchasing the materials that are creating the toxins. As Greenpeace stated:
“During our recent investigations, Greenpeace identified links between a number of major clothing brands – including the sportswear giants Nike and Adidas and the fast-fashion retailer H&M – and textile factories in China that are releasing hazardous chemicals into our rivers.”
Their publication, “Dirty Laundry 2: Hung Out of Dry,” identified 15 major brands that were linked to the toxin producing textiles. Among the brands specifically identified by name at the Detox web site are Nike, Adidas, and H&M.
Puma was the first to accept the challenge and detox. Here is their announcement:
In line with PUMA’s long-term sustainability program, the Sportlifestyle company PUMA recognizes the urgent need for reducing and eliminating industrial releases of all hazardous chemicals . According to its approach based on prevention and precautionary principles , PUMA is committed to eliminate the discharges of all hazardous chemicals from the whole lifecycle and all production procedures that are associated with the making and using of PUMA products by 2020.
PUMA understands the scope of the commitment to be a longterm vision – with short term practice to be defined in the clarification of actions to follow. To ensure transparency, PUMA will report on the progress of this commitment in its annual PUMA Sustainability Report.
An Action Plan will be set up by PUMA within eight weeks from the time this commitment was made.
All hazardous chemicals means all those that show intrinsically hazardous properties (persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT); very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB); carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction (CMR); endocrine disruptors (ED). This will require establishing – ideally with other industry actors – a corresponding list of the hazardous chemicals concerned that will be regularly reviewed.
This means taking preventive action before waiting for conclusive scientific proof regarding cause and effect between the substance (or activity) and the damage. It is based on the assumption that some hazardous substances cannot be rendered harmless by the receiving environment and that prevention of potentially serious or irreversible damage is required, even in the absence of full scientific certainty.
This means the commitment applies to the environmental practices of the entire company and for the whole product-folio of the company. This includes, as a longterm vision, all its suppliers or facilities horizontally across all owned brands and licensed companies as well as vertically down its supply chain. As a first step – within 18 months – this will cover all Tier 1 and vertical suppliers across the PUMA brand. Through this step PUMA aims to exert power through its Tier 1 suppliers down to Tier 2 suppliers which include wet process.
Once Puma committed in July, Greenpeace upped the pressure on Nike and Adidas by issue a video challenge. The video showed people dancing and stripping in front of Nike and Adidas stores around the world. Nike jointed Puma in August followed a few days later by Adidas. Here is the Adidas statement:
adidas Group’s Commitment to Zero Discharge of hazardous chemicals
Herzogenaurach, August 26, 2011
Since July 2011 Greenpeace International has been campaigning to drive change in our industry. They are calling for the zero discharge of all hazardous and persistent chemicals at all points in global supply chains: from the cotton fields, to the mills and dye houses that make the fabric and the garment production. In China alone, there are an estimated 50,000 textile mills and hundreds of chemicals suppliers. To put this in context, the adidas Group buys fabric from 10 key textile mills and dye houses in China. These materials suppliers follow some of the strictest standards in the industry.
Greenpeace has directed its campaign towards sporting goods companies in the belief that they can act as a catalyst for change for the whole industry. Why? Because sporting goods companies, such as the adidas Group, are already widely recognised for their leadership when it comes to environmental sustainability. The adidas Group has one of the most stringent restricted substances policies of any consumer goods company operating in the apparel sector. We have been working successfully on the reduction and progressive elimination of hazardous chemicals in our supply chain for more than 15 years.
Greenpeace’s Detox campaign has been characterised as a competition among brands. The simple truth, however, is that there can be no “winners” unless the industry acts together. With that objective in mind, the adidas Group has together with other brands been working tirelessly in recent weeks to bring the industry together in a forum to develop a roadmap that will address the “zero discharge” challenge that Greenpeace has posed. That forum is planned to be held at the end of September in Amsterdam.
The following statement is our commitment to deliver change.
Our statement to Greenpeace
The adidas Group1 is committed to the goal of zero discharge2 of hazardous chemicals3 from our supply chain via all pathways, with a 2020 timeline.
The scale and complexity of this endeavour make this a very challenging task, which we will work on through an open and informed dialogue with all stakeholders.
If we are to deliver lasting solutions, our actions need to be guided by transparency, fact-based decision-making and based on a preventative, precautionary4 and integrated approach to chemicals management.
Within seven weeks, we will develop a roadmap specifically for the adidas Group and our entire supply chain, which will include programmes and actions that we commit to, including actions concerning disclosure. In addition, we will develop and disclose a joint roadmap to detail specific programmes and actions that we can take collectively with other brands to drive our industry towards the goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals.
This goal demands the collective action of industry, regulators and other stakeholders. We believe that the elimination of hazardous chemicals needs not only collaboration and partnership with our industry peers, but also a holistic and integrated approach. We will apply value-chain as well as life-cycle thinking and innovation throughout this process and to our approach for Integrated Chemicals Management.
Further, we recognise that to achieve the goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals, mechanisms for disclosure and transparency about the hazardous chemicals used in our global supply chains are important and necessary, in line with the ‘right to know principle’5.
A set of actions to be executed by the adidas Group within the period of these seven weeks will be:
Re-emphasising to our suppliers, T1 and nominated T2, the strict standards of our Environmental Guidelines and our Restricted Substances List (RSL).
Request information from our suppliers in relation to the use of NPEs6 in the manufacturing processes and request that they require of their sub-suppliers to avoid the intentional use of NPEs.
Request information from our T2 suppliers about their chemicals suppliers.
Give renewed notice to our suppliers that they must eliminate and replace hazardous substances that have been banned from use, with a non-hazardous chemical.
Increase the focus on chemicals management and wastewater treatment practices in our regular, comprehensive, environmental audit programme, with specific attention given to the T2 suppliers.
Begin developing a workshop approach for designers and product developers, where the understanding and knowledge of the colour choice consequences will be enhanced, as well as screening support is delivered. This work will be supported by our target-in-progress to reduce the number of colours used.
Continue our dialogue with peers to develop a joint roadmap.
Engage with other brands and associations to increase the leverage of such a joint roadmap.
Furthermore, we foresee that the joint roadmap would contain activities, research and decision milestones related to the following, specific aspects:
Application of a value-chain approach with a set of priorities and a phased approach.
Drive the implementation of a Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.
Develop or apply an approach to structure inventories of hazardous chemicals.
Apply a rigorous and transparent verification procedure.
Develop a joint generic environmental audit approach, with specific attention to, but not narrowly focussed on, chemicals management. The additional purpose will be to begin sharing audit experiences and results between brands with the ultimate aim to improve environmental audit coverage and reduce duplication.
Develop a single standard of good environmental practices for dye houses. This will include sound chemicals management. The development will be done in wide consultation.
Work with chemicals suppliers to develop screening, selection criteria and prioritisation approaches to drive the elimination of hazardous chemicals and the substitution with less harmful chemicals.
Strive to define timelines for the phase-out of the prioritised hazardous substances.
Assess the need for inclusion of additional chemicals to the RSL.
Assess the need for inclusion of additional chemicals on lists of banned (from the manufacturing) chemicals.
Develop mechanisms to transfer experiences with banned, phased-out chemicals from region to region and promote the global implementation of bans that have already been successfully executed in one region.
Enter into a dialogue with scientists and regulators in different regions with the purpose of influencing the pace of regulation of hazardous chemicals and the diffusion of a global approach to regulation.
Many of these activities build on programmes and initiatives which the adidas Group is already committed to, through our existing industry collaborations, such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the OIA (Outdoor Industry Association) Working Group on Toxics and AFIRM.
1adidas Group and its brands: adidas, Reebok, TaylorMade-adidas Golf, Rockport and CCM-Hockey.
2Zero discharge: Means elimination of all releases, via all pathways of release, i.e. discharges, emissions and losses, from our supply chain and our products.
3‘Hazardous chemicals’ means all those that show intrinsically hazardous properties (persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic (PBT); very persistent and very bio-accumulative (vPvB); carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction (CMR); endocrine disruptors (ED); or equivalent concern), not just those that have been regulated or restricted in other regions.
4Precautionary approach: It means that when scientific evidence suggests a substance may harm the environment or human health, but the type or magnitude of harm is not yet known, a preventative approach towards potentially serious or irreversible damage should be taken, recognising the fact that such proof of harm may not be possible. The process of applying the precautionary approach must involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including, where necessary, the development of harmless alternatives where they do not already exist.
5‘Right to know principle’ Is defined as practices that allow members of the public access to environmental information – in this case specifically about the uses and discharges of chemicals based on reported quantities of releases of hazardous chemicals to the environment, facility-by-facility, year-by-year.
Once Greenpeace had the three athletic apparel manufactures onboard, the attention shifted to Swedish-based retailor H&M. In addition to the web site, Greenpeace provide links so that blogs and Tweets could feature H&M and the need to Detox raising the profile of the toxic clothes problem on search engines. People were encouraged to question H&M’s efforts on H&M’s Facebook page, sign a Twitter petition, and, in the real world, activists began placing detox stickers on H&M store windows. The result was meeting between H&M and Greenpeace resulting in H&M detoxing itself. Here is the H&M statement:
H&M engages with Greenpeace
Greenpeace International is calling for zero discharge of all hazardous chemicals in the global textile supply chain. H&M shares this goal with Greenpeace; since 1995 H&M has been working practically to reduce the use and impact of hazardous chemicals using an approach based on the Precautionary Principle. This is a continuous process depending on development of science and technology and revisions will therefore be necessary in future, not limited to the period up to 2020.
Why has Greenpeace targeted a campaign against H&M? As a leading actor with a well reputed Chemicals Management, H&M has the size and ability to act as a catalyst for change in the industry. H&M has also recognized the importance of cooperation; the industry must act together to achieve zero discharge. One example of this is as member of the steering committee of AFIRM (Apparel and Footwear Industry RSL (Restricted Substance List) Management group). The aim of AFIRM group is to reduce the use and impact of hazardous substances in the apparel and footwear supply chain. H&M is also an active member in Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
H&M’s Chemicals Management includes one of the most stringent chemical restrictions in the apparel sector. H&M also makes sure that these restrictions are understood and applied in its supply chain.
H&M’s Commitment to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals
H&M has since more than a decade recognized the urgent need to eliminate Hazardous (i) chemicals and has an approach based on prevention and the precautionary principle (ii).
H&M is committed to continuously eliminate the use of all hazardous chemicals and hence achieve zero discharge (iii) of the same from all production procedures that are associated with the making and using of H&M products (iv), at the latest by 2020 (f1).
We recognize that mechanisms for disclosure and transparency about the hazardous chemicals used in our global supply chains are important and necessary. In line with the right to know principle (v) we will increase the public availability and transparency of our restricted substance list and audit process and will set up public disclosure of discharges of hazardous chemicals in our supply chain. We will promote development of common standards towards this end.
H&M also commits to support systemic (i.e., wider societal and policy) change to achieve zero discharge of hazardous chemicals (associated with supply chains and the lifecycles of products) within one generation (vi) or less.
Due to the scale and complexity of this endeavour, true success can only be achieved by engaging with other companies in the apparel sector and stakeholders such as regulators, NGOs and the chemical industry. H&M will continue its efforts to create awareness and drive more responsible practices within the industry.
H&M is committed to continuously engage with and put demands on the chemical industry in order to spur innovation of safer alternatives to any chemical identified as hazardous. Similarly, H&M is committed to engage with material manufacturers to implement new technologies and safer chemicals as they become available.
H&M understands the scope of the commitment to be a long term vision – with short term practice to be defined in the clarification of actions to follow. An action plan will be set up by H&M within eight weeks from the time this commitment was made that will detail the measures to be taken to implement this commitment including timelines for public disclosure (f2) and for the elimination of the highest priority hazardous chemicals.
In addition, we will develop and implement a joint roadmap to detail specific programmes and actions that we can take collectively with other brands to drive our industry towards the goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals.
Actions already planned for execution by H&M within the period of these eight weeks include:
- H&M’s publicly available list of restricted substances (vii) will be extended with technical information such as restricted limits and test methods 1st week of October. An updated version will be launched before the end of 2011 taking into account the intrinsic hazards approach.
- Initiate investigation into how to increase the focus on chemicals management and wastewater monitoring practices in H&M’s environmental audit program, and how to make results more transparent, with specific attention given to discharges and factories with chemical intensive production processes such as wet processes.
- Request information from our suppliers in relation to the use (e.g. for other brands) of Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) in the manufacturing processes and request that they require from their sub-supplier to not intentionally use and release NPEs. At the same time, we will re-emphasise to our suppliers that they are contractually bound to comply with the strict standards of our Restricted Substances List. As part of this request for information we will immediately provide Greenpeace the identity* of the suppliers responsible for the products tested in the Greenpeace Report, and the quantities of all alkylphenol ethoxylates (APE) discharges, and work with urgency to reinforce the controls on all possible releases of APE from their production.
*Our intent is to reveal this information under a non-disclosure agreement based on discussion with suppliers and the result of this investigation.
- Request information from our suppliers about their chemicals suppliers – specifically on how they control and report on what chemical ingredients they are using.
(f1) We recognize the need for continuous review of the identification process and elimination of hazardous substances based on the intrinsic properties science.
(f2) Note: the first data should be reported to the public by end 2012
(i) Hazardous chemicals means all those that show intrinsically hazardous properties (persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic (PBT); very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB); carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction (CMR); endocrine disruptors (ED); or equivalent concern), not just those that have been regulated or restricted in other regions.
(ii) Precautionary approach: It means that when scientific evidence suggests a substance may harm the environment or human health, but the type or magnitude of harm is not yet known, a preventative approach towards potentially serious or irreversible damage should be taken, recognising the fact that such proof of harm may not be possible. The process of applying the precautionary approach must involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including, where necessary, the development of harmless alternatives where they do not already exist. It is based on the understanding that some hazardous substances cannot be rendered harmless by the receiving environment (i.e. there are no `environmentally acceptable´ use or discharge levels)
(iii) Zero discharge means elimination of all releases, via all pathways of release, i.e. discharges, emissions and losses, from our supply chain and our products.
(iv) This means the commitment applies to the environmental practices of the entire company and for the whole product-folio of the company. This includes, as a long-term vision, all suppliers or facilities horizontally across all owned brands and licensed companies as well as vertically up the entire supply chain (to material suppliers and dyeing/finishing facilities, in particular those which include wet processes). As a first step – within 18 months – this will cover all directly contracted strategic suppliers across the H&M brand, with a focus on chemically intensive processes, including wet processes.
(v) Right to know is defined as practices that allow members of the public access to environmental information – in this case specifically about the uses and discharges of chemicals based on reported quantities of releases of hazardous chemicals to the environment, chemical by chemical, facility-by-facility, year-by-year.
(vi) Regarding societal: One generation is generally regarded as 20-25 years.
(vii) The list of restricted substances is the summary of chemicals with hazardous properties identified as relevant for H&M’s products and processes.
Selected Achievements and Actions in Line With Above
- First Chemical Restriction list published in 1995
- Phase out of PVC in 2002
- Publicly engaging with Greenpeace in 2005 in a lobbying campaign for a stricter chemical legislation in EU
- In 2005 setting up of audit process intended to shift focus from testing final products to chemicals management in factories to ensure restricted substances are controlled and avoided from the very beginning
- In 2006 Screening for potential substances of very high concern (SVHC) relevant for H&M’s products with the goal of eliminating their use
- As member of AFIRM’s (viii) steering committee, working with others to educate suppliers and promote a responsible chemicals management from 2006 and onwards
- H&M was a major contributor to Chemsec’s (ix) first SIN-list in 2008 and engaged in lobbying activities for the same
- From 2008 and onwards, H&M is engaging with the UN to develop global general practice for spreading information on chemicals in products.
- From 2008, H&M has contributed to a bi-annual training programme (x) organized by Swedish Chemicals Agency and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to improve chemical legislation and enforcement policies in developing countries.
- H&M was the first major retailer to ban the use of Nonylphenol ethoxylates in 2009
- H&M initiated in 2009 an industry wide project to develop a harmonized test method for Nonylphenol ethoxylates, finalized in 2010
- H&M was the first major retailer to offer fluorocarbon-free garments with water repellent functional fabrics in 2010
- Engagement in Sustainable Apparel Coalition (xi) from 2010 with the goal of developing a universal index to measure environmental and social performance of apparel products
- In 2010 H&M started cooperation with chemical industry to conduct trials to convert traditional solvent based polyurethane (PU) material into water based PU.
- H&M is the world’s number one buyer of organic cotton in 2010
In just ten weeks, Greenpeace had managed to mover four major apparel-related giants to action on detox.
Coombs, T., & Holladay, S. (2015). CSR as crisis risk: expanding how we conceptualize the relationship. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 20(2), 144-162.
Souto, B. F. F. (2009). Crisis and corporate social responsibility: threat or opportunity?. International Journal of Economic Sciences and Applied Research, (1), 36-50.
Questions to Consider
1. What is a major difference between the Puma and the Adidas announcements about the detox change? Why do you think this difference occurred?
2. Why might it have been important the Detox campaign was using a mix on online and real world actions?
3. What CSR and reputational advantages does Puma gain by being the first to agree to the Detox campaign?
4. How does H&M use the announcement as a means of building its CSR reputation? How effect do you think that might be and why?
5. Why do you think the Detox campaign has been so successful in such a short amount of time?
6. How ethical is Greenpeace’s approach to the Detox campaign and what lead you to that evaluation?