Fashion retail giant Marks & Spencer (M&S) today (24 October) pledged to eliminate all hazardous chemicals from its entire textile and clothing supply chain by 2020, in a move that also paves the way for the development of new ways to produce its products.

The retailer has spent the past three months hammering out a new set of chemical commitments in conjunction with environmental pressure group Greenpeace, whose 'Detox' campaign last year prompted a number of leading apparel brands to invest in a toxic-free future.

As part of its plans, M&S will phase out all Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) by 1 July 2016, acknowledging that the entire chemical group - which is used in stain and water resistant clothing - is hazardous.

The move has been praised by Martin Hojsik, Detox campaign coordinator at Greenpeace International, who says: "This commitment from M&S sets a new benchmark and they join H&M in showing real leadership on the issue of toxic water pollution.

"As a significant user of PFCs, M&S's move to eliminate this chemical group entirely sends a clear message to the textile industry that it is time to phase out this hazardous and hormone disrupting group of chemicals and replace it with safe alternatives."

M&S will also launch a training and education programme for dye-houses on APEOs (alkylphenol ethoxylate) to help strengthen a ban issued in 1998. And it will improve transparency by conducting a trial with five mills in China to assess the feasibility of publicly disclosing dyehouse chemical discharge data.

"These new commitments push the boundaries of the technology used in the textile industry," adds Mark Sumner, sustainable raw materials manager at M&S.

"We are constantly working with universities, chemical manufacturers, machine builders and dyehouses to develop innovative ways to produce our products.

"As a result, processes are now being used in the M&S supply chain that reduce the impact on the environment such as cold batch dyeing, a process that, on average, uses 50% less water and reduces carbon by 30%." 1.3m M&S products have now been made using this process.

M&S is the seventh brand to commit to eliminate releases of all hazardous chemicals throughout the supply chain and products, along with H&M, Adidas, C&A, Li Ning, Nikeand Puma.

In 2011, Greenpeace identified links between a number of major clothing brands and textile factories in China that were releasing hazardous chemicals into rivers.