Earlier this year Greenpeace challenged the largest players in the sporting goods industry to ‘detox’. Greenpeace published two reports called ‘Dirty Laundry 1 and 2’ where the discharge of hazardous chemicals was criticized. Although the concentrations measured in the reports – in waste water and in the final products – were below any standards or legal limit values, Greenpeace argued that these reports show that some of the hazardous chemicals are actually used in the manufacturing processes.
We responded by looking beyond the actual facts of the reports, towards the underlying challenge of managing the input of hazardous chemicals into the supply chain and manufacturing processes (see the detailed announcements and updates here: 18. November, 26. August, 22. July, 14. July). The challenge lies not only directly in the discharge of hazardous chemicals, but also in the input and use of hazardous chemicals.
Why we go for a joint approach
Tackling and achieving the goal of zero discharge is a complex technical and systems challenge – one that one brand or even a small group of brands cannot solve alone. Just an example: imagine one brand selects one screening tool to assess the hazardous properties of a range of chemicals and then uses the results to reduce the use of these chemicals. But what if another brand used another tool, thereby having a different outcome? As a lot of suppliers are used by various brands: How will the supplier factory know how to deal with this? How should it manage to meet all different requirements?
Or imagine the problems with incomplete Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) in many regions of the world. The usage of incomplete MSDSs would result in suppliers not knowing how hazardous the chemical is or how it should be used in a safe way. Therefore, we joined a collaborative effort together with other brands, experts and organisations and together we developed a Joint Roadmap, an action plan.
Focus projects for 2012
In 2012, we will manage several projects focused on:
- screening of chemicals;
- developing general inventories of the chemicals used;
- confirming which chemicals have been phased out and address chemicals we need to phase out or limit the discharge of;
- reporting and disclosure.
The roadmap itself is very ambitious and many of the projects are interlinked. The collaboration with all other brands involved has in a very short period of time been extremely successful in joining efforts, and at the adidas Group we are very satisfied with what we have achieved so far. We hope to further build on this achievement.
The group of brands have thousands and thousands of suppliers and we will need to make sure that we have a concerted approach as we move forward.
We have been engaging not only with other brands, but also with Greenpeace over the past months. We have met with Greenpeace several times throughout this period and exchanged e-mails and comments. We think we are doing a good job in terms of addressing the issue with the present version of the roadmap; but we realise that we might not be able to satisfy all demands of Greenpeace.
Our vision is that the roadmap serves as a benchmark and that many more brands and other stakeholders join us in our efforts. Collaboration is key to success!
The roadmap is very challenging, but also represents a landmark opportunity to contribute to a cleaner environment and to safe and secure conditions for people.
Please let us know what you think and leave a comment.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Clive Mason /Allsport)