Greenpeace: Textile Industry Can’t Self-Regulate

A new Greenpeace Germany report shows that Detoxing fashion supply chains is a game changer, but without regulation climate damage by the industry continues.

The global fashion industry will not address its destructive impact on the climate without regulation, according to a new report by Greenpeace Germany — “Self regulation: a fashion fairytale.” An assessment of 29 leading brands, including Nike, adidas, H&M, G-Star and Primark, finds that voluntary commitments are nowhere near enough to slow down the growing volumes of textiles and change the destructive trajectory of fast fashion, with most impacts being felt in countries of the Global South, where clothes are made, and also dumped.

“Instead of offering hope to their young customers by taking bold, transparent action to change the fast fashion system, more often than not, fashion brands are marketing “sustainability” initiatives which do not go far enough, or even worse, resorting to greenwashing with claims of recycled and recyclable clothing,” said Viola Woghlemuth, consumption campaigner at Greenpeace Germany.

“This window dressing creates the illusion that something is being done, and encourages guilt-free overconsumption.”

Ten years after Greenpeace launched its Detox My Fashion campaign, securing pledges from 29 leading brands, to eliminate hazardous chemicals and with some also committing to tackle over-production by “slowing the flow and closing the loop,” Greenpeace Germany did an unannounced check to see if brands are still serious about their commitments.

The progress on eliminating hazardous chemicals is mostly positive and is game changing, showing that concerted action and transparency in supply chains is the key to industry transformation, but this success is limited to these brands which are taking action. In contrast, the report finds that examples of slowing the flow of new clothes are thin on the ground, and despite positive signs from some, such as Benneton and Esprit, most efforts are directed at recycling, which remains more of a myth than reality.

Changing the remaining 85% requires legislation

To solve this problem, Greenpeace calls on regulators to build on the model of corporate supply chain responsibility demonstrated by the Detox committed brands and apply it to the entire fashion sector. According to the report, this would not only replicate the Detox hazardous chemical achievements in the remaining 85% of the fashion industry but could also be the basis for tackling other major problems in the sector — including greenhouse gas emissions in the fast fashion supply chain, which are the biggest source of fashion’s considerable impact on the climate, and the 3rd highest, behind food and construction supply chains.[3]

“Corporate supply chain responsibility should not be a “nice to have”, but the cornerstone of EU regulations that aim to bring the impacts of the fashion industry to within environmental boundaries – and prevent catastrophic effects,” added Wohlgemuth.[4] “Without binding regulation, global fashion brands will continue tinkering at the edges of the destructive fast fashion business model while the volumes of clothes being made and consumed continue to increase. We need to change the system. Fast fashion will never be green.”


Check Out the Reports

You can download the Greenpeace Germany reports here:

  • Self regulation: a fashion fairytale – Part 1: Progress of Detox committed brands on hazardous chemicals and slowing the flow/closing the loop
  • Self regulation: a fashion fairytale – Part 2: Evaluation of Detox Committed brands, 2021 – the ten-year milestone.  This document includes further details about the assessment that was done, both on the progress made in implementing Detox Commitments, and on initiatives that have been taken to meet the commitments to slow the flow and close the loop.  These initiatives have been rated and presented graphically for each of the brands.


Photos: Tania Malréchauffé on Unsplash 


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