“By committing to ‘detox' its supply chain, H&M sends a clear message to other brands that using toxic chemicals to make our clothing is no longer in vogue”, said Marietta Harjono, Toxic Campaigner at Greenpeace International in a statement.
The decision comes after a week of activists in 12 countries urging the company to come clean by attaching “Detox our future!” stickers to the chain's shop-windows, and online activists globally calling on the brand to commit to a non-toxic future.
H&M, the world's second biggest clothing retailer after Spanish chain Zara, now joins leading sportswear manufacturers Nike, Adidas and Puma in meeting Greenpeace's criteria for “detoxing” their supply chains.
“At H&M, we always want to improve and we share Greenpeace's ambition to eliminate hazardous chemicals throughout the entire textile production,” Head of Corporate Responsibility at H&M, Helena Helmersson, wrote on her blog last week.
According to Greenpeace, the “Detox” campaign was initiated when the organisation's investigations revealed links between major fashion brands, including H&M, and factories that were found to be discharging a range of hazardous chemicals into rivers in China.
Further research showed that branded clothing from 14 international companies, including H&M, contained substances that break down into the toxic, persistent and hormone disrupting nonylphenol.
As part of its commitment, H&M said it would address the principle of the "right to know" by ensuring public disclosure of all chemicals being released from its suppliers' factories releasing the first data by the end of 2012, according to Greenpeace.
“In countries like China where we have hundreds of thousands of people living near factories, not knowing what toxic and often invisible chemicals are being discharged into local water supplies, H&M's commitment to publicly disclose pollution information is the start of something truly important,” commented Yifang Li, Toxic campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia.
Both H&M and the sports brands are now preparing individual Detox Action Plans to show how they will concretely put the commitment into practice to bring about real change in the clothing industry.
According to Greenpeace, the organisation plans to continue to work with the companies to ensure they live up to their promises and continue their efforts to encourage others brands to follow suit.
Recently, other Scandinavian clothes manufacturers such as Inwear and Cottonfield have been forced to recall some of their lines due to the discovery of high levels of hazardous chemicals in the clothes.