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Why Green America Urges Carter’s to ‘Prioritize’ Health of Supply-Chain Workers

While Carter’s has made an effort to reduce the usage of toxic chemicals in its supply chain, Green America is urging the retailer to do more to protect workers.

In 2019, the not-for-profit group dedicated to promoting eco-aware ethical consumerism released the results of an investigation into the textile industry supply chains of several major retailers and brands. In this report, Carter’s was named one of the “laggards” for not implementing sufficiently progressive environmental and labor policies.

Since then, Carter’s has responded by releasing a Restricted Substances List (RSL), which the green industry group described as a “good first step” toward providing a higher level of transparency concerning its energy usage, waste reduction efforts and actions taken to protect human rights in the supply chain.

Green America has requested Carter’s take it one step further by releasing a Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL), which it said would help protect workers and their communities from harmful chemicals.

“A public RSL is a good first step, but without an MRSL, it is a partial solution at best,” Charlotte Tate, manager of labor justice campaigns at Green America, said. “Carter’s must now also prioritize the health of workers in its supply chain and limit their exposure to harmful chemicals through a MRSL.

“We are glad to see Carter’s take steps to protect its customers, but we urge them to take it further and not leave workers out of the solution,” she added.

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In its report, Green America found that textile industry companies are prone to making large commitments without backing them up with concrete metrics or timelines. While it said transparency in the supply chain was improving, praising companies like Gap, Target, VF Corp. and Nike for releasing MRSLs of their own, the organization said transparency was “mostly still lacking.”

“Major industry players are often not transparent about what chemicals are used, and we do not have sufficient understanding of the impacts of the thousands of chemicals used on human and environmental health,” Todd Larsen, executive co-director of consumer and corporate engagement at Green America, said.

For its part, Carter’s has made commitments to support suppliers in their efforts to obtain Oeko-Tex certifications that would limit chemical usage in their raw materials, placing an emphasis on organic cotton instead.

States like Washington, Oregon and Vermont stipulte disclosure requirements for children’s products sold within their borders, Larsen noted.

“In recent years, Carter’s has disclosed using harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, arsenic and arsenic compounds, and cadmium, and that’s why it is good to see Carter’s taking steps to start protecting the children who wear the company’s clothes,” he added.

Organic cotton limits chemical runoff in growing and manufacturing, preventing many of the 8,000 chemicals used in textile manufacturing from entering into community water sources, Green America said. An estimated 20 percent of industrial water pollution is caused by the textile industry, according to the group, which amounts to an estimated 43 million tons of chemical runoff annually.