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Global fashion brands Levi Strauss & Co and Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) deserve plenty of credit for banning sandblasting in their supply chains altogether – a move that leaves nothing to chance.

Delivering their joint statement today (8 September) you’d be mistaken for thinking they were close allies rather than competitors. But it is just this kind of ‘co-opetition’ that a cleaner supply chain rests on.

The companies are urging other rivals to join them in ending the finishing technique, which is potentially harmful, in all of their future product lines – a stance applauded by the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR).

A question that remains is why the ban has taken so long, but it seems Levi’s and H&M can’t monitor suppliers closely enough when it comes to this matter.

In June this year, it emerged that textile workers in Turkey wanted compensation after contracting silicosis, a potentially fatal lung disease, in sandblasting units. Demonstrations followed, although sandblasting had been banned by Turkey since March.

The technique, outlawed in the EU for the past 40 years, is only harmful when proper safegaurds are not taken, but Levi’s and H&M are no longer willing to take that chance for a worn-look pair of jeans.

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That is not to say that compliant sandblasting units won’t be disappointed with today’s announcement, which affects business with the world’s largest denim brand, let’s not forget. But the Levi’s decision is based on the greater good and a realisation it cannot look over every factory’s shoulder.

“The best way to help ensure no worker – in any garment factory – faces the risks associated with exposure to crystalline silica is to move to end sandblasting industry-wide,” Levi’s supply chain boss says.

It is also, of course, in the best interests of both brands to avoid association with any manufacturers that do not apply the correct safeguards.

Whether more denim brands will follow suit remains to be seen, but today’s news shows that eliminating a problem is sometimes easier than trying to manage it.
Click here to read further details on the Levi’s and H&M sandblasting ban.