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JTC explosion: wakeup call in the textile chemical manufacturing sector

On March 21, 2019, a major explosion occurred at the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Co., Ltd. (JTC) in the Xiangshui Chemical Industrial Park, Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province, China. The enormous explosion, which triggered an earthquake, caused 78 deaths and injured more than 600 people.

Jisngsu Tianjiaya Chemical
Figure: It appears that the JTC situation is not at all unique; many other chemical factories
located in the Xiangshui Chemical Industrial Park also have extensive documented environmental violations. Courtesy: Reuters

This incident is seeing as a wakeup call for the Chinese and global textile dyes and intermediates sector.

The Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) is a non-profit environmental research organization, in an effort to avert this hazardous situation – which is more or less same in the whole textile dyes and intermediates sector – raised its voice to prevent further future catastrophes in the Chinese chemical industry.

In this turbulent times it became apparent that due to murky and secretive nature of the supply chain, the global chemical giants in top of the supply chain already washed their hands from any link with the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Co.

All the companies have disputed its association with the JTC accident, rejecting its association outright or disavowing responsibility on the grounds that the factory was not a ‘direct’ supplier.

JTC clients

The IPE report emphasized, “The corporations that buy the chemicals manufactured at JTC and similar suppliers have been oddly silent. In this case, records indicate that at least four of the world’s global chemical giants – DuPont, Merck, BASF and Clariant – may count JTC in their supply chain.”

“Yet these companies have kept their heads down about the urgent need to put their own shoulders to the wheel and join government and stakeholder efforts to prevent similar incidents from happening again.”

“If the brands continue only wanting to buy from the cheapest, then they become part of the problem,” Ma Jun, IPE’s Director said to Textile Today.

There is a serious flaw in the scope of supply chain policies of many corporations; codes of conduct are often applied only to the ‘direct supplier’ at the very top of the supply chain, rather than throughout the entire supply chain where higher risks may be found, IPE report stated.

The recent incident at Xiangshui County proves that these codes of conduct fall far short of what is necessary to ensure responsible operations.

Ma Jun said China’s economic slowdown had encouraged local authorities to allow non-compliant firms like Tianjiayi to resume operations, but improving enforcement wasn’t the only issue. Data and information exist to allow multinational firms to make informed decisions about suppliers rather than focusing only on costs.

If the brands continue only wanting to buy from the cheapest, then they become part of the problem.”

Ma Jun,Director, IPE

“We all recognize the real problem is not about someone being immoral, and more a dynamic that basically rewards those who cut corners,” Ma said.

“Those who have gained the most from globalized outsourcing practices are basically taking advantage of a loophole instead of joining efforts to solve the problem,” he added.

While the JTC explosion should serve as a call to action for chemical giants to join forces for improvement, no company has stepped forward to announce initiatives to strengthen the obvious poor oversight of suppliers in response to outreach by IPE.

IPE calls upon the chemical manufacturing industry to stop dodging responsibilities and to immediately step up and put reinvigorated action behind their words of commitment.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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