I feel like a lot of people disregard large global companies as companies that would never have the capacity or the incentive to be environmentally friendly. And that may be true. A lot of companies do solely care about profits. But it is the responsibility of companies of all sizes to care about the environmental impact they are making. And it’s even more important for large, already established companies to lead the way and set an example for smaller companies. That’s why I was happy to hear about a number of large sportswear brands have come to the spotlight as leaders in the sustainability initiative.
Just last month, Greenpeace initiated the Dirty Water Campaign – it released an investigative report focused on textile facilities in China that were found to be dischanrging hazardous and persistent chemicals into Chinese rivers. Not only does this pose serious threats to our ecosystems, but to human health as well. Greenpeace found that many global brands do business with these factories, such as Converse and H&M, but focused its campaign on Nike, Puma, and Adidas, three of the largest and most visible global sportswear brands.
At first, all three companies’ responses were the same: deny, deny, deny. They said that they used those factories just for knitting and sewing, and not wet processing like dyeing or printing, where the majority of chemical use in textile finishing processes occur. So that means they’re off the hook, right? Wrong. It’s unacceptable that such large and visible companies are not being proactive green business leaders!
And good thing some of them are recognizing this and doing something about it. In late July, Puma released a statement that said that it is committed to ”eliminate the discharge of hazardous chemicals from the whole lifecycle and all production procedures that are associated with the making and using of PUMA products by 2020″. And just last week, Nike followed suit. Nike released a press release stating that it is “committed to the goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020″. Within the next two months, Nike will detail out a plan to eliminate hazardous chemicals within its supply chain addressing transparency, chemical management, and a timeline of the elimination of the highest priority hazardous chemicals.
What about Adidas? Well, it was pretty much in the dark. And Adidas didn’t step up until today. Today, Greenpeace released a second report of its Dirty Laundry campaign that reported the presence of nonylphenol ethxylates (NPEs) in clothing bought in Europe bearing labels from high profile brands such as Adidas and Abercrombie & Fitch. It was this that sparked Adidas to finally release a statement that it is planning to collaborate with other brands to develop supply chain standards. Not a bad start, but I think Adidas should still come up with an individual plan, as Nike has agreed to do.
As much as I think Greenpeace tactics may be at times extreme, this just shows me how important it is that organizations like Greenpeace exist. Otherwise, these three companies would have done nothing to clean up their supply chains. This is another huge win for Greenpeace and environmentalists all over the world. It’s so important for business leaders to lead us all down the path of corporate social responsibility. It’s a long road ahead, but Nike, Puma, and Adidas have shown me that they are taking a step in the right direction. And hopefully others will follow in their footsteps.