M&S promises to halt toxic chemical release from supply chain

Marks & Spencer has pledged to eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals throughout its supply chain and products by 2020, following pressure from campaign group Greenpeace.

The retailer is the seventh brand to make such a commitment – fellow fashion leader H&M has also responded to Greenpeace’s Detox campaign, which was launched in 2011 to address the issue of toxic waste and water pollution that was arising from textile factories in China.

As part of its pledge, M&S will also phase out all perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) by no later than 1 July 2016, acknowledging that the entire chemical group – which is used in stain and water resistant clothing – is hazardous.

The retailer also plans to conduct a trial with five mills in China to assess the feasibility of publicly disclosing dyehouse chemical discharge data and will launch a training programme for dyehouses on alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs) to help strengthen its APEO ban issued in 1998.

The company’s sustainable raw materials manager Mark Sumner said that the new commitments will push technology boundaries used in the textile industry.

“We’ve worked closely with Greenpeace over the past three months to construct them and both parties agree that they will push us and our partners to new levels of knowledge and research,” he said.

“Processes are now being used in the M&S supply chain that reduce the impact on the environment such as cold batch dyeing, a process that, on average, uses 50% less water and reduces carbon by 30%,” he added.

So far around 1.3 million M&S products have been made using the cold batch dyeing process.

Greenpeace said that this latest pledge from the retailer sets a new benchmark, as the company is a significant user of PFCs.

Detox campaign coordinator Martin Hojsik said: “Fashion brands are responsible for poisoning waterways around the world with hazardous chemicals and treating our public waterways like private sewers.

“We welcome M&S’s commitment to eliminate releases of hazardous chemicals more transparently and will be following the implementation in China closely.”

Earlier this year major clothing brands including H&M were named and shamed by the environmental pressure group as using harmful chemicals in their materials, which when washed by consumers enter rivers, lakes and seas.

The release of the Dirty Laundry: Reloaded report coincided with World Water Day which aims to raise awareness of the potential impact clothing producers are having on water quality and safety.

Maxine Perella

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