Nike, Adidas, Puma 'Using Suppliers Pouring Toxic Chemicals into China's Rivers'
Some of the world's most famous clothing brands, including Nike, Adidas Puma, and H&M are using suppliers that pour toxic chemicals into China's rivers, the environmental pressure group Greenpeace has claimed.
In a year-long investigation, undercover activists collected water samples from discharge pipes at factories belonging to two of China's largest textile manufacturers which tested positive for dangerous chemicals, including hormone-disrupting alkylphenols that are banned in Europe.
The organisation named a host of international brands in a 115-page report titled "Dirty Laundry", including Abercrombie & Fitch, Converse, Lacoste, Calvin Klein and Chinese sports giant Li Ning, as having business links with the two textile processing plants.
More than 70 per cent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted as a result of China's three decades of economic boom, and Greenpeace campaigners called on major brands to use their influence to force the industry to clean up its act.
"Currently many of the highlighted brands take a 'not in my product' approach towards hazardous chemicals, only restricting them in their final products," said Li Yifang, the group's Toxics Campaigner.
"Such policies essentially give suppliers the green light to discharge hazardous waste water as long as the chemicals are not found in the products. We are asking brands to take a more comprehensive approach and eliminate all hazardous chemicals throughout their supply chains." Photographs and video showed campaigners in biohazard suits creeping in at night to take samples from the Youngor Textile Complex on a Yangtze River tributary in Ningbo, near Shanghai and the Well Dyeing Factory in the Pearl River Delta near Hong Kong.
The samples of filthy water were sent for testing in Exeter and the Netherlands which found a cocktail of chemicals, including hormone-distruptors, heavy metals and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) that are heavily restricted in Europe.
Greenpeace said the brands named in the report had confirmed they did have business relationships with one or other of the two investigated suppliers, but said they made no use of the "wet" processes which had caused the pollution.
"To the best of our knowledge we are not contributing to pollution of the Yangtze Delta through our factory partners," said a statement from Nike, "NIKE, Inc. currently sources from two factories in the Youngor Group Co, Ningbo Youngor Knitting and Underwear and Ningbo Youngor Sportswear in Zhejiang Province.
"These factories are cut and sew facilities; they do not have manufacturing processes that include use of the chemicals called out by Greenpeace. Both factories feed only sanitary wastewater into the Water Treatment Facility."
Puma said that while it "acknowledges and shares" Greenpeace's concerns over the use of chemicals in the textile industry, it also did not have direct dealings with Youngor's textile dying or manufacturing plants.
"To our best knowledge and according to the information from our audit reports, Youngor Knitting operates as a ready-made garments factory which only engages in cutting, sewing and finishing of apparel products," a statement said.
"Therefore, we conclude that Youngor Knitting is not engaged in any industrial wet processes and does not directly discharge any waste water into the river Fenghua. Youngor Knitting is also not using any fabrics of the Youngor Group for the production of PUMA goods." H&M also said that its relationship with Youngor was restricted to cutting and sewing of a "small quantity" of blazers and trousers and that it also shared Greenpeace's concerns about chemical discharges by the textile industry.
"That is why we work to limit and eliminate hazardous chemicals and improve overall environmental standards throughout our value chain and the entire industry," a spokesman added, "We will continue our close dialogue with Greenpeace in this regard."
Greenpeace, which launched its report by staging a demonstration outside Adidas's flagship store in Beijing, plastering the front with big stickers saying "Toxic" and parading signs, said that it wanted the industry's big names to take a wider view of the industry's pollution problems.
Sabrina Cheung, director of corporate communications at Adidas, said the group had already investigated the claims, adding that its business relationship with Youngor was restricted to the cutting and sewing of garments.
"The Adidas Group does not source fabrics from Youngor Group, which would involve the use of dyestuffs, chemicals and their associated water treatment processes," she said in an email to the Reuters news agency.
Li Ning, the Chinese sportswear giant hoping to make inroads into overseas markets, said: "We have asked them to investigate their pollutant discharge immediately and report back to us.
"We take the problem which Greenpeace raised seriously and we will work with Greenpeace to find a solution."