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AMSTERDAM – Ralph Lauren’s 2025 target date for eliminating potentially hazardous chemicals from its textile supply chains has been branded as “ridiculously inadequate,” by Greenpeace. The NGO told Apparel Insider the US luxury brand is “eight years too late” in getting started on this issue, a point reinforced by the fact that many of the world’s leading brands have been addressing hazardous chemicals with great purpose since the Greenpeace Detox campaign began in 2012, as well as via their work with the ZDHC.

The situation with Ralph Lauren for us raises the question of whether the global apparel industry is becoming increasingly polarised between those who are leading on sustainability issues and laggards – and, perhaps more pertinently, whether the general public is capable of distinguishing between the two camps.

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“Ralph Lauren needs a more ambitious commitment on hazardous chemicals which looks to the best practice that the sector has already achieved on Detox, and takes a hazard-based, ambitious approach,” a Greenpeace spokesperson told us.

Greenpeace also suggested that, without Detox, brands would not have addressed the issue of hazardous chemicals. They told us: “Brands would definitely not have addressed the issue of hazardous chemicals use and discharges in the supply chain in the same way without the Detox campaign. In 2011, the main focus of brands was on the final product and compliance with product regulatory restrictions on hazardous chemicals. Testing of wastewater for hazardous chemicals was not the standard practice, and when it was done, the reporting limits used were unambitious and did not reveal the extent of the problem. Because the use of hazardous chemicals was endemic in the supply chain it would have been difficult for any brand working on its own to tackle this issue with the urgency, pace of change and collaboration that the Greenpeace campaign demanded.”

Asked whether the ZDHC would have been established without Detox, Greenpeace told us: “It is also unlikely that a body such as the ZDHC, set up in order to focus on this issue to respond to the Detox campaign, would exist without the Greenpeace campaign. Since its launch in 2011, the ZDHC has evolved towards a more progressive position, for example, through new wastewater guidelines which endorse the so called ‘safety net approach’. Greenpeace gives the ZDHC credit for this progress and ZDHC itself also acknowledges Greenpeace’s role and impact, as quoted in Destination Zero (p.42): ‘since the Detox campaign and over the past 5-7 years ZDHC has observed a paradigm shift in the industry on chemicals management’.”

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