Group asks sportswear makers to clean China’s rivers; firms deny they’re polluters

BEIJING (MindaNews/15 July) – Environment group Greenpeace International urged leading sportswear manufacturers such as Adidas, Nike, and Li Ning to take its challenge to rid major rivers in China of pollutants.

The challenge came on Thursday after the Greenpeace released its investigation report titled “Dirty Laundry” showing that Chinese factories that supply at least 13 international clothing and apparel brands were found to have released poisonous chemicals into China’s already-polluted Yangtze and Pearl River deltas.

“We turned up at your stores in Beijing today with the results of a year-long investigation into toxic water pollution from the textile industry in China. It doesn’t look good for you. But we, along with millions of supporters worldwide, are hoping that you two, like any athlete that’s had a bad lap or a stumble, are simply going to pick yourself up and try harder — especially if your fans are cheering you on,” the Greenpeace said in its letters to the companies, which are mostly

“Our tests of the wastewater found toxic chemicals that have no place in our natural environment,” said Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner Li Yifang.

“As the world’s factory, China is the production base for many global and domestic fashion brands. Now we have scientific evidence confirming that hazardous chemicals are being released into China’s rivers to make clothes worn by people around the globe,” Li added.

Among the brands cited in the report were Adidas, Nike, Puma, Gap, Lacoste, Abercrombie & Fitch, H&M, Peerless, American Eagles, Metersbonwe, Bauer Hockey, Li Ning, and Youngor.

Greenpeace said they are challenging these clothing brands to eliminate the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals from their supply chain and products.

“We are calling on trendsetting brands that have major influence on their supply chains, such as Adidas, Nike and Li Ning, to take the lead,” Li said, adding, “these brands have the ability and responsibility to work with their suppliers to provide products that do not irrevocably damage the environment and public health.”

The report said laboratory testing found a cocktail of hazardous chemicals, including nonylphenols, which are a subset of alkylphenols, and perfluorinated chemicals, in wastewater samples from the Youngor Textile Complex on the Yangtze River Delta and Well Dyeing Factory on the Pearl River Delta.

“Alkylphenols and PFCs have hormone-disrupting properties and can be hazardous even at low levels. They are persistent in the environment, can move up through the food chain, and can travel great distances via air and water currents. Because of this, alkylphenols and some PFCs
are restricted by the EU and international conventions. Nevertheless, they are still widely used by the textiles industry in developing countries such as China, where they have yet to be restricted,” the report said.

“Currently many of the highlighted brands take a ‘not in my product’ approach towards hazardous chemicals, only restricting some of them in their final products. This is unacceptable,” Li said.

“Such policies essentially give suppliers the green light to discharge hazardous wastewater 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 chain to ensure that they do not end up in China’s rivers or the products themselves.”

In their responses the companies involved denied Greenpeace’s allegations.

Nike Inc. said they are currently sourcing their supplies 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 in your letter. In addition, neither factory sources materials from the Youngor Dye House. Both factories feed only sanitary wastewater into the water treatment facility,” said Hannah Jones, Nike’s vice president for sustainable business and innovation.

Other companies said they have called the attention of their supplies to re-check their waste water facilities.

“Though Lacoste only accounts for a very small part of Youngor Group Co Ltd business, we have asked them to check the facts and to make any and all appropriate tests in order for them to provide you with clear and appropriate answers. As you may know, Youngor is one of the major textile companies in China with a strong reputation. Not only they signed our code of conduct in relation to environmental protection but they also provided us with evidence of their due diligence to respect local laws and regulations as for the protection of the water from pollution and toxical chemicals along with further evidence of various certifications,” Christophe Chenut, chief executive officer of Lacoste SA.

Greenpeace report said 70% of China’s rivers and lakes are already polluted.

Volunteers of Greenpeace have earlier put up several banners with the sign “Detox” across Beijing’s major malls, particularly those that sell the brands named in the report. (Darwin Wally T. Wee/MindaNews)