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Detoxing fashion industry

Greenpeace launched its Detox campaign seven years ago. Here’s how the industry has changed since then.

In an age in which activism is so much part of the zeitgeist1 that rallies are appearing as backdrops2 in ad campaigns for the likes of Gucci and catwalks are staged to look like marches, it can be easy to wonder what’s actually being accomplished. Does our urge3 to use fashion to #resist actually translate to real change, or is it more about making us feel good rather than actually doing good?

Not all resistance-fueled actions are created equal, of course, but a brand-new report from Greenpeace suggests that the right kind of fashion-related activism actually can make a difference. In the seven years since the environmental advocacy4group first launched its Detox campaign, aimed at encouraging fashion and retail companies to phase out5 hazardous chemicals in the supply chain, a real dent6 has been made in changing awareness, attitudes and practices in the industry.

“The launch of the Detox Campaign in 2011 was a clear wake-up call for the whole industry,” head of corporate sustainability for Puma Stefan Seidel shared in the introduction to the report.

Since the Detox campaign’s launch, Greenpeace has used a multi-pronged7 approach to its anti-hazardous-chemical activism. It has conducted original research by testing water near manufacturing sites to prove their contamination and link them to specific companies that were previously unwilling to admit culpability. It has launched creative campaigns to raise awareness of the effects of fashion industryrelated chemical pollutants. It has created petitions to prove consumer support for protective legislation.

And this multifaceted strategy has worked. Since its inception, 80 brands — including H&M, Inditex and Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing — have committed to detoxing their supply chains. Almost all of the Detox-committed brands now implement regular wastewater testing. Legislation has begun to change, too, as Greenpeace research showed that some chemicals banned in the EU were still ending up in EU waterways because they were embedded8 in the clothing that EU nations had manufactured overseas. And awareness of the importance of supply chain ethics and transparency has begun to take a real foothold9 both inside the industry and out.

“The Detox Commitment gave us input10 to define challenging goals that go beyond single regulations and foster11 the involvement of the whole supply12 chain,” said head of product compliance and sustainability at Valentino, Riccardo De Pol.

That’s not to say that the Detox campaign has been perfect. There are still plenty of challenges facing the industry before it can become truly non-toxic, and the fact that global supply chains are huge, complex and hard to properly track beyond the first or second tier is part of that. That so few luxury brands signed onto the Detox commitment is also frustrating, as high-end labels have the potential to spark13 great change when they do decide to take action.

Still, that the Detox campaign has accomplished as much as it has is a reminder that fashion activism that’s undertaken14 with strategic planning, commitment and persistence really does have the potential to overturn15 the status quo.

As the report itself stated, “none of these developments would have happened without the engagement of Detox supporters and activists from around the globe, via creative protests, petitioning and advocacy.”

“Does Fashion Activism Actually work?”,, by Whitney Bauck, 2018.

1. the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history 2. serving as a background 3. strong desire or impulse 4. public support 5. stop production 6. appreciable effect 7. having several aspects 8. part of 9. strong position 10. a way 11. encourage 12. make available 13. start, provoke 14. do 15. abolish


Voir les réponses

a) What is the theme of the article?

b) Has Greenpeace had an impact on the fashion industry?

c) What famous campaign is referred to? What do you know about it?

d) What did Greenpeace do to prove their point? Can you guess what the risk for people were?

e) Who is concerned?

f) What improvements have been made?

g) What difficulties still remain?

h) Do most luxury brands comply?

i) What is “the status quo”?

j) What did supporters do to help the cause?


Greenpeace advert against chemicals in clothes, 2012.

Culture note

Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over 39 countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam. Greenpeace was founded by Irving Stowe and Dorothy Stowe, Canadian and US expat environmental activists in 1971. It states its goal is to «ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity» and focuses its campaigning on worldwide issues such as climate change, deforestation, overfishing, commercial whaling, genetic engineering, and anti-nuclear issues. It uses direct action, lobbying, research to achieve its goals. The global organization does not accept funding from governments, corporations, or political parties, relying on 2.9 million individual supporters and foundation grants.

Your time to shine! organises a writing competition. You decide to participate. Choose one category and write between 150 and 180 words about this topic.

What impact does fashion have on society?

Essay writing: discuss the statement. Do you agree with this?

Creative writing: adress this issue in any style you want. You can write a speech, an open-letter, a tale…


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