Carter’s, the leading retailer of baby and children’s clothing in the US is not transparent about the toxins and other chemicals used to manufacture its clothing. In response, Green America has launched a new campaign to urge Carter’s to adopt a strong and transparent chemical management policy, starting by implementing a public Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) and issuing public updates as the company phases out the most dangerous chemicals.
Carter’s, the owner of OshKosh B’gosh and Skip Hop, currently provides very little information to its customers and the public regarding the chemicals used to produce its clothing. Green America reached out to Carter’s in 2018 and 2019 to ask for details about its chemical management policies, but the company declined. Common chemicals used in the industry can affect the health of workers, worker communities, the environment and consumers. For instance, azo dyes, banned in the EU, are still one of the most commonly used dyes sold in clothing in the US, and can produce a known carcinogen.
In June, Green America will release a comprehensive textile industry report ranking major US clothing and textile companies on toxin use and worker treatment. Carter’s has emerged as a clear problem company within the report.
“Parents want to know that the clothing they are purchasing for their babies and children is free from harmful chemicals,” said Green America’s Social Justice Campaign Manager, Caroline Chen. “Non-toxic clothes should be readily accessible to all, and not just available to those who can afford to pay a premium. As the largest retailer of baby clothes, Carter’s needs to come clean about toxins in its supply chain and its plans to reduce those toxins and protect workers, customers, and communities in the US and around the world.”
“The fashion industry’s use of toxic chemicals has, for too long, placed workers, the environment, and consumers health in serious risk,” said Alexandra McNair, CEO/Founder of Fashion FWD. “It is critical for Carter’s to adopt a transparent comprehensive chemical management policy so we can move forward into a healthier and safer future for everyone.”
Carter’s has an internal restricted chemical list but does not provide any information to its customers or the public about which chemicals are prohibited. Carter’s is less transparent than several other clothing companies, including Gap and Target, about the factories it uses to manufacture its clothing and the protections for workers at those factories.
Carter’s also has one Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic line of clothing, which demonstrates the company’s ability to manufacture clothing free of harmful chemicals, but this is a drop in the bucket compared to its overall clothing production, and the company should extend these certified practices to all of its clothing lines to better protect consumers and those impacted along the supply chain. Carter’s does not publish a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, which would help the company to measure and communicate its performance on environmental, social, and governance measures.
The textile industry is one of the most polluting industries on Earth, with over 8,000 chemicals in use. Many of these chemicals are harmful, resulting in devastating consequences for workers and communities. Some of the most commonly used dyes contain known carcinogens and an estimated 20% of industrial water pollution is attributed to the textile manufacturing industry. Leaders in the industry are adopting publicly available MRSLs and RSLs that limit toxic exposure at the factory level and protect consumers.