corporate citizenship

Burberry Bows to Greenpeace Pressure to Go Toxin-Free

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 31, 2014 01:40 PM

When a research study from Greenpeace turned up hazardous chemicals, or "Little Monsters" as they put it, in children's clothing and shoes from major brands including Disney, Burberry, Adidas, Gap and others, the environmental activists turned up the pressure by urging consumers lobby the brands to clean up their act as part of its bigger #Detox campaign.

This week, Greenpeace scored a victory when Burberry agreed to detox its clothing by Jan. 1, 2020. Initially, its corporate back up against the wall, Burberry balked at the group's allegation that a purple metallic shirt contained hazardous chemicals. The shirt in question, made in Tunisia and worn by Romeo Beckham (aka David & Victoria's son) in a June 2013 campaign, contained a high level of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), manmade chemicals used in detergents, which degrade to nonylphenols (NP), both toxic and hormonally disruptive.

"All Burberry products are safe and fully adhere to international environmental and safety standards," the luxury apparel brand responded in a statement. "We have an active programme dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of our supply chain, working in collaboration with our suppliers and NGOs. Greenpeace is aware of our work, which includes the commitment to eliminate from our supply chain the release of chemicals that have an environmental impact."

Determined to promote change, Greenpeace activated its network of supporters, including parents and fashion influencers to take to social media to encourage Burberry to make a change. The organization even provided participants with a template of tweets and hashtags to use to drive the social conversation across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

Simultaneously, Greenpeace volunteers in six countries visited Burberry shops to “reveal the Little Monsters hiding in their tartan check and called on the brand to stop using toxic monsters in its clothes.”

The social protests worked, and Burberry has announced that it has committed to detox by ridding its clothes and manufacturing process of toxins by 2020. Burberry joins a total of 18 major brands including Uniqlo, Zara, Levi's, Valentino, Victoria’s Secret owner Limited Brands and H&M that have committed to detoxing their products as a result of Greenpeace's activist efforts.

Beyond fashion and retail, Greenpeace also claimed other brand lobby victories this week, taking credit for convincing Shell to scrap Arctic drilling this year and L'Oreal to end its role in deforestation by 2020.

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