Famous clothing brands condemned for pollution
Oct 16, 2012

A new report by a number of environmental protection organizations has uncovered serious pollution problems with suppliers of branded clothing enterprises.

Among 49 clothing brands investigated, 47 were linked to suppliers with environmental contamination problems, said Wang Jingjing, deputy head of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), adding that only Esquel and Burberry were not involved.

According to the report, carried in Monday’s Securities Daily, 30 brand owners have communicated with the Green Choice Union (GCU) since April, when it enquired of the 49 enterprises whether they knew about their suppliers’ environmental performance.

Environmental NGOs of GCU revealed that 17 brand owners have acted positively, including H&M, Nike, Esquel, Wal-Mart, Levis, Adidas, Burberry and Gap.

The union wrote again to the 49 enterprises on September 25, looking forward to explanations on suppliers management, and by October 7 it had replies from a total of 17 of the bunch, among which only Nike, Esquel, Adidas, H&M, Levis and Burberry have implemented environmental regulations on dyeing suppliers.

Nineteen brands gave no response, including Disney, Polo Ralph Lauren, 361 Degrees, Kappa, Macy’s, Armani, Calvin Klein and Carrefour, according to the organizations.

The five Chinese NGOs members of the GCU, carried out a nine-month investigation last year on more than 6,000 dyeing enterprises violating environmental regulations, and traced polluters supplying 49 celebrated brands.

Marks & Spencer, the largest international retail group in Britain, once claimed to have verified all the “probable concerns.”

However, research from environmental organizations later registered the contamination problem of Qing Mao Textile and Dyeing, Marks & Spencer’s suspected supplier.

“It smells everyday,” said a villager in Tangshui Town, a village near Qing Mao. “Many children have nose bleeds and dizziness because of the strong smell.”

A member of staff from a local environmental organization told the Securities Daily that factories in nearby villages, which still operate under household production modes, often discharge polluted water directly into the river.

Wang Jingjing said that currently no rectifications have been carried out by polluting suppliers due to a lack of momentum, which should be urged by their brand owners.

“Kai Da Textile, Nike’s supplier charged with environmental contamination, has been partly reformed because of Nike’s supervision,” said Wang.

“However, Kai Da was also a supplier of 361 Degrees, which was not so positive as Nike and has not yet replied to environmental organizations,” added Wang.

In recent years, capital-intensive industries in China like dyeing and finishing plants have boomed since water and energy resources seem to be inexpensive, said Ma Jun, head of the IPE.

The report showed that among the four procedures of clothes making, the dyeing part consumes 85 percent of water resources, 80 percent of energy and 65 percent of chemicals.

Weak environmental regulation and relatively low water price in China leaves enterprises no motivation to reuse energy or lessen emissions, according to Ma.

Environmental organizations have urged China to enhance its environmental regulation, but pointed out that it is also of great significance for the noted brands to better manage their suppliers and lessen environmental and social damage.