Campaigner Q&A - Greenpeace wants brands to eliminate the use of PFCs when making clothes - and setting 2020 targets is not ambitious enough, says Mirjam Kopp, project leader of the Detox Outdoor campaign.
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Ultimately, you are calling for outdoor
brands to eliminate the use of PFCs. How
can they work with suppliers to do this?
This is certainly a challenge. One difficulty is
transparency. We are asking brands to work
with their suppliers to publish discharge data
from their factories. This is an important first
step. From the work we’ve done on our Detox
Fashion campaign, we have seen that it’s
possible; we have more than 30 brands who are
implementing a Detox commitment and part of
this is to publish discharge data.
It’s also important to ensure that the
criteria brands are asking of their suppliers
is being implemented. This means not only
testing the discharge water, but also the
formulations of the chemicals being used and
the product itself.
The Detox Fashion campaign has been
running since 2011. Now you are taking it
outdoors, challenging outdoor clothing
brands to eliminate toxic chemicals from
their supply chains. What chemicals are we
talking about, and why the urgency?
PFC contamination is highest during
the manufacturing process, when
the compounds are released to the
environment. Can factories take any
measures here to contain their release?
The problem is that these PFCs can’t be
completely removed even with the most
modern wastewater treatment plants. You
really have to eliminate them from the
production process. Once they are in the
environment, it’s difficult to deal with them.
Some brands have set elimination dates for
the use of PFCs in their products by 2020.
This is positive, isn’t it?
It’s a good first step in the right direction. Most
of the major brands are saying they want to
eliminate PFCs at some stage in the future,
but they haven’t set a timeline. However, the
urgency of the situation requires action right
now – we think 2020 is not ambitious enough,
especially considering there are PFC-free
alternatives already on the market.
Others argue that PFC-free alternatives
just aren’t good enough in terms of
We don’t agree. There are smaller brands out
there using these alternatives and we have
tested them ourselves. Some major brands
claim these alternatives aren’t durable enough,
but none of them have made reference to any
studies showing this. We do agree durability
is an important issue, but there are examples
of smaller brands using PFC-free clothing in a
closed loop recycling process.
How do the cost-benefits of detoxing weigh
against the risks of not doing so?
A brand risks being associated with using
hazardous chemicals for their products. It’s
foreseeable that more PFC substances will
be regulated by governments. If a brand is
switching from long-chain to short-chain
PFCs now, instead of switching to PFC-free
alternatives, they risk having to switch again
in a few years, when short-chain PFCs get
regulated as well. It’s more cost-effective to do
only one switch to PFC-free alternatives. ★
• Accentuate the positive. NGO campaigns
scrutinise, but the revelations help assess
and manage supply chain risk.
• Enforce policy through evidence gathering.
Demand data and spot-check suppliers.
• Be proactive, not reactive. Think first-
mover advantage. It pays to be ahead of
Greenpeace wants brands to eliminate the use of PFCs when making clothes – and setting 2020 targets is not
ambitious enough, says Mirjam Kopp, project leader of the Detox Outdoor campaign
Don't risk being associated
with hazardous chemicals
in your products.
now implementing a
Greenpeace wants brands
to work with suppliers to
publish discharge data from
NGOS AND CAMPAIGNSSUPPLY CHAIN RISK & INNOVATION