Water shortages and pollution trouble China, with two thirds of over 600 cities lacking sufficient clean water. Industrial use and wastewater discharge are major causes for water shortages and heavy pollution with the textile industry the biggest source of both. In November 2011 Greenpeace published Dirty Laundry – Unraveling the corporate connections to toxic water pollution in China, and then in April, a group of respected environmental NGOs in China, Friends of Nature (FON), the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), the Darwin Institute of Environment, Green Stone, and EnviroFriends, published the report Clean up for Fashion – Green Choice Textile Brand Supply Chain Pollution.
According to these reports, many textile factories are responsible for serious environmental violations in China, causing severe water pollution.
More than a few violators are suppliers for famous international textile brands and clothing retailers. To make these international companies aware of the unethical performance of their suppliers and to encourage their action to improve their supply chain’s environmental practices, the 5 environmental groups sent letters to the CEOs of 48 international companies in March 2012.
Some companies, such as Nike, Esquel, Levi’s and Burberry started to investigate suppliers and look for solutions; some replied, refusing to give any information. Remarkably Zara replied, “We regret that we cannot respond to individual requests for information from schools, universities and professionals regarding our business model.” More chose to ignore the request for information, and by the time the Clean up for Fashion report was published, 32 companies still had not replied. To date, 23 companies have replied, while the other 25 still keep silent.
So who are these companies who fashionably damage the environment to produce our clothes? The logos shown below identify the 48 companies who received letters, including many top brands.
Why should we care, if the Chinese care about their environment let them do a better job protecting it? The stark reality is that much of the damage is done by companies cutting corners to provide us with low cost fashion. Let’s look forward to the day… soon… When Wal-Mart changes its slogan from “Save money, live better “ to Save the environment, live better” and we quit making our consumer choices simply based on price and take into account the environmental, health, and labour practices of the companies we support or avoid.
The 48 companies are: