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Zara produces 850 million clothing items a year. That is a hell of a lot of clothing and a hell of a lot to be concerned about if, as Greenpeace claims, those items are chock full of toxic chemicals.
Two weeks ago, Greenpeace released a report detailing the hazardous chemicals they found in mass market clothing. The organization tested apparel items from 20 leading brands, including Emporio Armani, Mango, Zara, Gap, Victoria's Secret, Levi's, Calvin Klein, and Benetton.
Among other toxins, they discovered widespread use of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), which break down in the environment to form hormone-disrupting chemicals; perfluorocarbon (PFC) chemicals, which are used to make products water and stain-proof and can alter levels of growth and reproductive hormones in mammals; and phthalates, which are used in artificial leather, rubber, and PVC and can interfere with development of the testes in early life.
Zara's parent company Inditex is one of the world's largest clothing producers, and, following the report's publication, Greenpeace waged a full on social media campaign to get Inditex to detox their manufacturing processes.
"Detox Zara" asked consumers to spread information about the campaign on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. According to Greenpeace, on Twitter alone there were at least 43,800 mentions of Zara and the Detox campaign last week, and many tens of thousands of people emailed and tweeted directly to the company for an ambitious Detox commitment. More than 300,000 people signed up to join the campaign to Detox Zara on the Greenpeace website.
Greenpeace called out Zara's famous two-week turnaround as an example of the company's ability to hustle when it wants to. "The company can apparently design, produce, and deliver a new garment and have it in its stores in just 15 days. We want to see them use their speed to respond to the urgency of the pollution and clean up the fashion industry for good," they said in a blog post.
The pressure worked, and on Friday Inditex posted a detailed detox plan on their website. The company has publicly committed to eliminate all discharge of hazardous chemicals from its supply chain and products by 2020. They've also agreed to begin the eliminate process on some of the worst chemicals, including PFCs, immediately. They are imposing a ban on certain PFCs beginning January 2013 and have committed to "the total elimination of all PFC use in manufacturing and in products" by the end of 2015.
Zara follows in the footsteps of fast-fashion competitor H&M, which has already committed to phase out PFCs by January 1, 2013. Also, according to the company's global sustainability report, H&M has upped it's organic cotton use by 20%, made plans for a recycled fashion initiative, and joined the Fair Wage Network, which audits companies to ensure they're providing decent working conditions.
· Trend Forecasters Calling for 'Fast Fashion Fatigue' [Racked]
· Are Zara's Sizes Too Small for Americans? [Racked]
· Zara Commits To Go Toxic Free [Greenpeace]