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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Burberry Commits to Phasing Out Toxic Chemicals from Supply Chain


The luxury brand Burberry Group PLC announced its commitment this week to removing all hazardous chemicals from its supply chain by Jan. 1, 2020. To achieve this goal, Burberry will set up "mechanisms for disclosure and transparency" for the hazardous chemicals used in its supply chain, as stated in a press release.

The company will start to prioritize its apparel by the end of June 2014. By July 1, 2016, Burberry will start to disclose the chemical discharges of its suppliers in the global South, and will remove all perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals from its supply chain.

Burberry’s announcement comes just two weeks after Greenpeace’s Detox campaign targeted the company and moved people to urge it to detox its supply chain via social media. Greenpeace volunteers in six countries held protests at stores around the globe, "from Beijing to Mexico City," as the environmental group puts it.

A Greenpeace blog refers to Burberry’s announcement as a "another people powered victory on the runway to a toxic-free future." Thousands of people took part of the online campaign, which included a "three day social media storm," or protested in person. Greenpeace supporters sent Burberry messages, including more than 10,000 tweets. They also flooded the company’s Facebook page and used Instagram to "spell out the message to the brand in pictures." There are 18 other big-name brands that have committed to removing hazardous chemicals from their supply chains, including Zara, Valentino and H&M.

"Burberry has listened to its customers' demands, joining the ranks of brands acting on behalf of parents everywhere to give this toxic nightmare the happy ending it deserves,” said Ilze Smit, Detox campaigner at Greenpeace International. "Burberry's move raises the bar for the luxury sector. With the Fashion Weeks coming up, brands like Gucci, Versace and Louis Vuitton risk getting left behind."

Greenpeace conducted an investigation into hazardous chemicals in children’s clothing and footwear - the results of which were published earlier this month. As part of the investigation, the group examined 82 children’s clothing and footwear items purchased in May and June 2013 in 25 countries around the world, and manufactured in 12 different countries. Burberry was one of the clothing lines purchased. Other brands included American Apparel, C&A, Disney, GAP, H&M, Primark, Uniqlo, Adidas, LiNing, Nike, and Puma.

Greenpeace sent products to the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter in the U.K., and from there they were sent to independent accredited laboratories. All of the products were tested for the presence of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), and certain products were tested for phthalates, organotins, per/poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs), or antimony. All of the chemicals tested for were detected in the sampled products.

An overview of just a few of the chemicals mentioned above indicates why Greenpeace supporters pressured Burberry and other companies to commit to phasing them out of their supply chains. Take nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), which is described by Toxipedia.org as a "non-ionic surfactant" used in "large volumes." Studies show that they interfere with hormones in animals and may interfere with an animal’s development and reproductive systems. They are listed as an endocrine disruptor by the EU. Or take phthalates, which are used to soften plastic in a wide variety of products. Studies on animals have found numerous problems, including abnormal sexual differentiation.

Image credit: foeoc kannilc

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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