Burberry announced on Tuesday its decision to eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals throughout its global supply chain products by 2020. The iconic luxury British design house’s move comes after two weeks of vociferous campaigning—from a three-day “social media storm” on Twitter and Facebook to live demonstrations outside stores in Beijing, Jakarta, the Netherlands, and Mexico—by Greenpeace’s “Detox” initiative. The news also follows recent Greenpeace investigations that revealed the presence of toxic hormone-disrupting substances in an alarming number of children’s clothing and footwear products, including a metallic purple shirt modeled by David and Victoria Beckham’s 11-year-old son, Romeo, in Burberry’s Spring 2013 campaign.
Burberry initially denied Greenpeace’s allegations. “All Burberry products are safe and fully adhere to international environmental and safety standards,” it said in a statement after Greenpeace released its report, A Little Story About the Monsters in Your Closet. “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.”
Still, it appears that the company has shifted its position, even if it hasn’t conceded the point entirely. “Burberry’s commitment to rid us of these hazardous little monsters opens a new chapter in the story of toxic-free fashion,” Ilze Smit, detox campaigner at Greenpeace International, says in a statement. “In taking this landmark step, Burberry has listened to its customers demands, joining the ranks of brands acting on behalf of parents everywhere to give this toxic nightmare the happy ending it deserves.”
Prioritizing apparel, Burberry has pledged to disclose the chemical discharges of its suppliers in the global South no later than the end of June 2014. Beside strengthening its existing ban on phthalates, it has also committed to eliminating all perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals in its supply-chain by July 1, 2016.
“Burberry’s move raises the bar for the luxury sector. With the Fashion Weeks coming up, brands like Gucci, Versace, and Louis Vuitton risk getting left behind,” Smit adds. “From budget to luxury, people have a right to demand our clothes are free from hazardous chemicals and big brands have a responsibility to do something about it.”
Other companies that have made similar pledges Adidas, Benetton, C&A, Esprit, G-Star Raw, H&M, Levi Strauss, Li-Ning, Mango, Nike, Puma, Marks & Spencer, Uniqlo, Victoria’s Secret, and Zara, as well as fellow luxury label Valentino.