As expectation builds towards the 2014 World Cup, the Detox campaign this week blew the whistle on a toxic scandal that goes right to the heart of the beautiful game. Greenpeace Germany’s latest investigations revealed how adidas, Nike and Puma are playing dirty, using hazardous chemicals to make some of the most well known models of football boots, gloves and shirts.
Over the next few weeks millions of football fans like me will be caught up in World Cup fever, getting ready for the sport’s greatest moment by buying the latest national shirt or putting on the boots of our national heroes and reinacting the game of champions. Surely alongside the high prices, the latest technology and revolutionary designs, these brands should be ensuring we can play football free from hazardous chemicals?
Many of the dangerous substances found in the products tested can leach out into our rivers and build up in the environment. This toxic cocktail can pose untold risks to people now and generations to come.
But this is not just a scandal on the pitch.
The majority of these products are made in countries from the global south where toxic water pollution is an everyday reality. Indonesia’s once majestic Citarium River is now one of the most polluted waterways in the world and 68% of the industrial facilities on the Upper Citarium are textile producers, many for major global companies. Brand’s like adidas who hold the position at the head of the supply chain have a responsibility to act on behalf of the local communities forced to live with the pollution.
Nobody likes the player that tackles late, plays dirty or keeps getting caught offside but that is exactly what adidas has been doing for three years. Though they started as toxic-free champions they have been off-form for too long. While leaders like Mango play fair, coming clean about the chemicals in their supply chain, adidas refuses to own up. By hiding behind existing legal requirements or paper promises, the brand is shying away from tackling the real problem – toxic pollution is happening now and it needs to end.
We don’t need paper promises, wordy excuses or flimsy attempts to discredit our independent testing methodology, we need action. We need the brand to live up to its own World Cup marketing slogans and ‘go fast or fail’ or ‘all in’. It’s time they showed real commitment to a toxic-free future, setting realistic goals for phasing out dangerous chemicals like PFCs and coming clean about the discharges from its suppliers.
This toxic scandal has been going on for long enough, we can’t afford for it to go into extra time.
Manfred Santen is a supporter of FC St. Pauli, an expert in PFCs and a Detox Campaigner at Greenpeace Germany.
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