Greenpeace’s longstanding global Detox My Fashion campaign challenged 80 brands and suppliers to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their production and discharges into wastewater. The global tools and standards that were developed as a result meant that Greenpeace could create its own Standard for textiles procurement, enabling us to sell high quality, organic cotton clothing which is verified free from hazardous chemical inputs and discharges.
Greenpeace UK is now sourcing textile products from two suppliers that meet this Standard, meaning Greenpeace UK will now be able to sell clothing that complies fully with the standards we campaigned for:
- The clothing manufacturer Earth Positive (a brand of Continental Clothing), which is providing products to supporters as part of Greenpeace UK’s programme. You can find further information on the measures already implemented by Earth Positive here.
- UK T-shirt printer Teemill, which is providing print-to-order textile products on Greenpeace’s Teemill store: find out more about how the products are printed here.
What is Greenpeace doing and why are we doing it this way?
The global fashion industry is a huge polluter, and most clothes worldwide are made at great detriment to the environment and workers’ rights. Many clothes are made by using and releasing unnecessary contaminants into the environment when factories wash, dye and print garments – something Greenpeace has been campaigning to fix.
For years, through our global Detox My Fashion campaign Greenpeace has challenged the fashion industry to make clothing without using or releasing hazardous chemicals into the environment.
After a decade of campaigning for better standards in textile and clothing production, Greenpeace has created a Standard for its own textiles, in partnership with OEKO-TEX® – the world’s market leader for non-hazardous textiles standards. DETOX TO ZERO by OEKO-TEX® is a verification system which aims to implement the criteria of the Greenpeace Detox Campaign within production facilities, and its Standard 100 (Annex 6) verifies the final printed product.
Thanks to this, and other standards such as the GOTS organic cotton certification, Greenpeace UK is able to now sell T-shirts that meet the most stringent standards in environmentally friendly clothing production.
How did Greenpeace’s Detox my Fashion campaign enable us to create our Standard for our own textiles procurement?
In 2011 Greenpeace challenged the textile industry to make clothing that is both affordable and free from the use or release of hazardous chemicals. At that time, the textile industry was a long way off this goal.
Since then, 80 clothing companies (29 brands and more than 50 suppliers) have committed to detoxing their fashion by eliminating the use of hazardous chemicals and their release to waterways by 2020.
In our 2018 report, Destination Zero, we showed how significant progress has been made towards increased transparency and the elimination of hazardous chemicals in supply chains. This progress has been confirmed in a new report by Greenpeace Germany — Self regulation: a fashion fairytale, (November 2021). This has triggered all kinds of new initiatives across the industry, and has influenced standards across the sector. In 2018 we started a pilot project to show that it is possible to produce textiles in keeping with our ambitious Detox requirements.
These developments meant that from April 2019 Greenpeace began trialling our new Standard, to start making t-shirts, bags and other merchandise. It reflects the best overall practice in the market for detecting and eliminating the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals, resulting from the Detox campaign. It uses the best third party tools and standards that are now available for textiles manufacturing facilities to address hazardous chemicals and ensures full supply chain transparency.
Greenpeace offices have now begun using selected suppliers who meet the new standard for merchandising, which includes Swiss organic cotton company Remei, the global brand Earth Positive (a brand of Continental Clothing) and UK printer Teemill.
You can read more about the standards Greenpeace UK’s T-shirts meet below, as they relate to each of these suppliers.
How does Teemill meet Greenpeace’s clothing production and procurement standards?
To comply with the Greenpeace standard, Teemill’s printer on the Isle of Wight has recently obtained OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification. This verifies the practices used at the production site and that the printing inks and final products are free from hazardous chemicals, according to the most stringent testing available on the market – and means they are suitable for baby clothing.
Teemill is also certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard – the global accreditation standard for the supply of organic cotton in the textile industry), and its factory uses renewable energy.
The Global Organic Textile Standard is a globally used and recognised processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres. It defines environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria as well. We are requiring that natural fibre raw materials are GOTS label grade “organic” (at least 95% certified organic fibre) or equivalent.
Additionally, T-shirts are digitally printed to order in the UK, so there’s no waste from over-stocked designs and sizes. Teemill’s packaging is 100% plastic free, and at the end of your T-shirt’s life, Teemill will give you an incentive to send it back for reuse, recycling or remanufacturing.
This commitment to producer responsibility is the crucial first step towards a more circular economy that is good for people and the planet.
Do these high standards apply across the supply chain?
These products are made for Greenpeace UK by Teemill using a supply chain which complies fully with Greenpeace’s Textile Procurement Standard, which requires up-to-date auditing and independent certification to the following global standards:
- GOTS certificates – Teemill, UK, and supply chain in India, organic cotton (and social audit).
- OEKO-TEX®: the supply chain auditing and certifications by OEKO-TEX are confirmed by the OEKO-TEX® Letter of Compliance to Teemill and include:
- OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 Annex 6, product certificate – Teemill, hazardous chemicals testing.
- OEKO-TEX® DETOX to ZERO audit, Standard 100 Annex 6 product certification – supply chain in India, hazardous chemical inputs, discharges and final product.
These standards cover stringent environmental and social requirements, and certificates are only awarded following independent third party validation. Greenpeace is provided with copies of all up-to-date certificates and verification by OEKO-TEX of hazardous chemical compliance, as they are renewed.
In addition, all of the factories in India and the UK that make and then print and distribute the T-shirts are powered by renewable energy, wind and solar.
I heard that growing and processing cotton is water intensive and polluting. Can you tell me more about the cotton being used?
Greenpeace UK’s T-shirts meet the most stringent standards for organic cotton (GOTS). The raw organic cotton is predominantly grown in the wetter area of Northern India using water from reservoirs supplied by monsoon rain.
The dyes and chemicals used in the wet processing (washing, dyeing) are checked by OEKO-TEX to ensure that hazardous chemicals are not used. Wastewater is analysed to check that hazardous chemicals are not present above very stringent limits, so that hazardous residues from the processes are not released into the environment as far as possible.
A closed-loop water system is used in the washing, dyeing and finishing processes, where the used water is purified and reused again and again, minimising water use and eliminating wastewater discharges.
What are people paid in Teemill’s factories? And what are the standards for workers’ conditions?
Teemill’s UK factory has created more jobs and paid higher wages every year for the last five years. Nobody is paid less than the living wage. The company has a partial shared-ownership model, where many of our employees own share options in the company.
Teemill has also created dozens of full time jobs for unemployed people including through vocational training and modern apprenticeships, and trainees and apprentices are paid above the minimum. There are no zero-hour contracts.
In India, Teemill can prove that pay is fair based on independent audit reports and in-person inspections. The workers in this factory are paid in line with the living wage as defined by the Global Living Wage Coalition.
The strict standards outlined above (such as the GOTS v6.0) also include requirements that all products are manufactured from organic cotton and with strict controls to eliminate hazardous chemicals in any part of the process. As well as eliminating danger to workers, these standards require that there are good working conditions and health and safety rules, fair working hours and remuneration of staff, the right to join trade unions, no child workers, and no discrimination, bullying or harassment.
Earth Positive FAQs
What can you tell me about the products made by EarthPositive® for Greenpeace’s 50th anniversary?
EarthPositive® has made textile products (T-shirts, hoodies and bags) for 17 of Greenpeace’s National and Regional organisations which have been delivered to our local offices in 34 countries, including Greenpeace UK.
Greenpeace turned 50 in 2021 and to help us mark the occasion we invited artists and creative folks from around the world to participate in a design contest. The two winning designs have been printed on the textile products made by Earth Positive. For more information about the winning designs, see this story about the winning designs.
Where are the EarthPositive® products made? Where are they printed?
All the products have been made in India, by EarthPositive® ‘s supply chain, from organic cotton, which is grown in Rajasthan in the North of India.
The fabrics are made, dyed, printed and sewn in the supply chain factories in Tamil Nadu, South India.
What more can you tell me about the Earth Positive® supply chain?
EarthPositive® is providing full supply chain transparency for the production of the Greenpeace products, to implement the Greenpeace’s Standard, which reflects the best overall practice in the market for detecting and eliminating the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals, resulting from the Detox campaign. It uses the best third party tools and standards that are now available for textiles manufacturing facilities to address hazardous chemicals. The key issues in the supply chain steps are:
- Organic cotton is grown in the North of India, and is rain-fed, with no use of hazardous pesticides or fertilizers, certified by GOTS
- In manufacturing, the washing, dyeing and printing avoid the use of hazardous chemicals.
- No wastewater is discharged, effluent is filtered and reused in the process.
- This manufacturing process and the yarn spinning, which are the most energy intensive steps, use renewable energy.
- For all the supply chain steps, Earth Positive adheres to social responsibility for workers and their conditions, which is checked through its GOTS certification and its Fair Wear audit.
How do you check that the Earth Positive® products are made the right way?
EarthPositive® and its supplier have worked with Greenpeace to adopt the Detox approach and provide supply chain transparency. The factory in India is the first manufacturer outside Europe to implement Greenpeace’s Standard which is verified by third party auditors. This adds to the measures already implemented by Earth Positive and its supply chain which are also audited and checked, such as: the use of rain-fed organic cotton; renewable energy in the energy intensive wet process; its zero-discharge dyehouse, where all the water is recycled in a closed-loop system; and its adherence to social responsibility.
The products and the supply chain have third party certification and verification throughout. All EarthPositive® products are certified as 100% organic by GOTS, from the farm to the final product, ensuring that the inputs and processes at every stage, including those used during printing, meet the same organic standards and that the complete operation meets strict environmental and social criteria.
The supply chain wet processes are also checked by OEKO-TEX® using its DETOX TO ZERO tool, and verified that they comply with the requirements of Greenpeace’s own Textiles Procurement Standard. The energy used in this process and for the yarn spinning is renewable energy. The products are also certified by OEKO-TEX® to Standard 100 Annex 6, meaning that they are tested for harmful chemicals using the most stringent standard currently on the market. Social audits are completed to ensure that working conditions and pay are fair, as standard.
These independent and globally recognised certifications and audits are repeated at regular intervals – every year for both Organic status and OEKO-TEX®, and Earth Positive conducts regular site visits. See “what can you tell me about the supply chain” for more information.
Doesn’t cotton use a lot of water?
The organic cotton is grown in the North of India where monsoon rains provide the water needed to grow the crop. Organic farms also have the advantage of maintaining a soil quality high enough to grow other crops, including food, in the dry season which reduces pressure on the water table when it is traditionally most stressed.
Also, at the factory in India where EarthPositive®’s fabrics are washed, dyed and printed, the water is recovered, cleaned and used again. All wastewater is filtered until it is completely clean and no wastewater is discharged into local waterways.
Doesn’t textile production use large amounts of energy and release a lot of greenhouse gases?
Yes, as Greenpeace Germany’s 2021 report Self regulation: a fashion fairytale shows, greenhouse gas emissions in the fast fashion supply chain are the biggest source of fashion’s considerable impact on the climate. Fashion supply chains are the 3rd highest for supply chain greenhouse gas emissions, behind food and construction supply chains.
Continental Clothing, the owner of the EarthPositive® brand, states the following about its EarthPositive® products: “We have reduced the carbon footprint of EarthPositive® products by around 90% through a combination of innovative product design, low impact organic agriculture, efficiency in manufacturing, and by replacing standard grid electricity with renewable wind power. We do not use carbon offsets and our footprint calculations were certified by the Carbon Trust Certifications in the U.K. between 2007-2009.
It has been calculated that a single EarthPositive® T-shirt saves around 7 kilograms of CO2e compared to a conventional T-shirt, whereas a hooded sweatshirt saves up to 28 kgs.
Having taken the greenhouse gas emissions to pre-industrial levels, all the EarthPositive® products carry the registered mark “Climate Neutral”.”
What is the print made from?
The garments are screen printed using inks that conform to the Global Organic Textiles Standard, and OEKO-TEX®: all the ink ingredients are tested to OEKO-TEX®® Standard 100 Annex 6, currently the best standard that implements the demands of Greenpeace’s Detox My Fashion campaign, which means they are checked for harmful chemicals.
Won’t these products just end up as waste?
The products are made to last and we encourage you to care for them properly and use them for as long as possible. Please follow the care label instructions, and wash at a low temperature.
The biggest source of waste in the fashion industry is from low quality products that are made to be virtually disposable. Greenpeace’s Detox My Fashion Campaign has warned that brands are failing to recognise that the overproduction and overconsumption of textiles is the larger problem that must be tackled. Recently, the destruction of unsold goods – including textiles in perfectly good condition – has been revealed as one of the most shocking consequences of the fast fashion business model. The whole of the fashion and clothing sector therefore needs to make fundamental changes through slowing the flow of materials – as a priority – and planning for ultimately closing the loop.
These products made for Greenpeace take the opposite approach. Production in the supply chain is slowed down by using the best standards – preventing the use of hazardous chemicals means less water is wasted and less energy is used. The organic cotton is rain fed, with no pesticides or fertilizers, benefitting and regenerating the soil. This is all checked and verified by independent certification bodies which also cover the conditions for workers. Some of these processes – including the most energy intensive yarn spinning and wet processing – are powered by renewable energy. The natural materials are biodegradable – but can potentially be recovered and recycled, at least in part, although “circularity” in the textiles industry is still a long way off.
What about the packaging, that must be plastic?
The products have been shipped to each Greenpeace office with the minimum packaging – with up to 100 items in a carton in a single poly bag, which is reusable.
Each local Greenpeace organisation will avoid single use plastic for sending to supporters.
What about the shipping, doesn’t that lead to a lot of greenhouse gas emissions?
Shipping is a relatively small proportion of the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions for textiles. The highest greenhouse gas emissions come from the most energy intensive textiles processes, the yarn spinning and wet processing. Earth Positive products are made using renewable energy for these steps (see answer to Question “Doesn’t textile production use large amounts of energy and release a lot of greenhouse gases?”).
What about the pay and working conditions?
Workers’ conditions at every stage in the process are covered by the (GOTS) VERSION 6.0 social standards required to meet organic status. These standards are the minimum level required and include fair wages, fair working hours, rights to join trade unions, health and safety, no child workers, no discrimination, bullying or harassment. Employees are paid in line with the living wage as defined by the Global Living Wage Coalition, as standard.
EarthPositive® is a brand of Continental Clothing which has been a member of the Fair Wear Foundation since 2006, meaning that all the Company’s manufacturing facilities are regularly audited for social compliance and are running active monitoring programmes in accordance with standards advocated by the International Labour Organisation, the Ethical Trading Initiative and other international bodies. In its most recent annual brand performance check, Fair Wear summarises its findings for Continental Clothing as follows: “a benchmarking score of 79 means that Fair Wear has again awarded Continental the ‘Leader’ status”.