Company’s Screened Chemistry Programme will establish ‘best-in-class’ chemicals
31 March 2016 / North America, Textiles & apparel, Alternatives assessment & substitution, Global, Restricted substance lists
Clothing company Levi Strauss is developing a list of ‘preferred substances’ – those safer for the environment and human health – for its suppliers.
The list will be a result of the company’s Screened Chemistry Programme, which assesses the environmental and human health impact of chemicals used in the finishing process of its products.
The programme uses chemical screening tool GreenScreen, and the US EPA’s Safer Choices Programme, to determine which substances are better to use.
Both methodologies are based on chemical hazard assessment and look at a variety of human health and environmental endpoints.
“Our goal was to create a framework for screening chemicals against human health and environmental toxicity hazard endpoints, to identify best-in-class chemicals or better alternatives,” said Bart Sights, vice president of technical innovation.
Mr Sights told Chemical Watch that the two methodologies provide “visibility” of the chemical substances used by its suppliers and help to identify both approved and restricted chemicals for use in textiles finishing and raw materials.
“It allows us to make better choices on the chemicals used to make our products and have a dialogue with our chemical supplier on where improvements can be made,” he added.
Once the company’s screening programme is fully operational, it is intended that Levi’s suppliers will switch to using the preferred chemical list.
The company aims to encourage industry-wide uptake of chemical screening, by working with the ZDHC group, an industry initiative made up of apparel and retailer brands to achieve the goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.
It has also committed to Greenpeace’s Detox campaign to eliminate all release of hazardous chemicals, throughout its supply chain, by 2020. Levi’s phased out perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), announcing its achievement in January.
Greenpeace’s Kirsten Brodde, project lead of the Detox My Fashion campaign, told Chemical Watch that Levi’s is among many brands working on screening programmes and “green chemistry” lists.
Another example is Nike, which in 2010 introduced a Sustainable Chemistry Guidance (SCG) section to its Restricted Substances List (RSL) that highlights “positive” chemistries. And Adidas is using Switzerland-based certification company, Bluesign’s chemical data management system, Bluefinder. With this, it says, suppliers select “best-in-class” chemicals included in the database.
Ms Brodde said: “We clearly acknowledge Levi’s work, as a Detox committed company, on the precaution and substitution of hazardous chemicals such as the entirety of PFCs.”
*This story first appeared on Chemical Watch
Levi Strauss & Co. was one of the first companies in the industry to establish a Restricted Substances List that identifies chemicals they will not permit in products or in the production process due to their potential impact on consumers, workers and the environment. Bart leads and manages the Company’s Eureka Lab, the regional development centers, and the Innovation Team.
Clean Production Action: What is Levi’s Eureka Innovation Lab?
Bart Sights: We like to say that our Eureka Lab works at the intersection of art and science. We research technologies and then collaborate with our design partners to decide what is right for our brands and our products — then we execute rapid prototypes. We’re a small factory setting. We have everything in this building that it takes to make all of our products. We want to touch, wear, and feel, to see what that product experience is like, and then we test it for durability and to make sure that it meets our standards. When all of that is done and it’s adopted into the line, we work with factories and vendors around the world to scale that into production.
CPA: How is chemistry incorporated into what you do?
Bart: We research at a component level fiber, fabric, fit and finish. At all of those levels — except fit — a certain amount of chemistry is involved. Chemistry is imbedded in what we do.
CPA: When did green chemistry become a priority for the company?
Bart: LS&Co. has a long record of being a pioneer in sustainable practices, but we got really serious about sustainable chemistry in 2012 around the time our new CEO, Chip Bergh, came to the company.
CPA: What’s the biggest obstacle that you face in trying to get manufacturers to give you information about what chemicals they’re using?
Bart: The biggest challenge with chemicals is to understand their raw material components in relationship to their hazard and risk profile but without compromising chemical supplier’s intellectual property (IP). In order to make better or safer chemical choices in the development process and for our supply chain, this information is critical. To solve this, we’ve developed a framework using a third party assessor that will provide the information we need to make decisions but safeguard the IP of our suppliers.
CPA: What tools do you use to identify hazardous chemicals and find safe alternatives?
Bart: We are primarily using two methodologies – GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals and the EPA’s Safer Choice program. Both are based on chemical hazard assessment, looking at a variety of human health and environmental end points. These programs provide us visibility into the safety of the substances used to formulate the chemicals used by our vendors to create garment finish effects. It also allows us to make better choices in the chemicals we use and have a dialogue with our chemical supplier where improvements can be made.
CPA: How difficult is it for suppliers to comply with your standards?
Bart: At first there was a great deal of reluctance by our suppliers and not only due to the sensitivity of sharing proprietary information. There was also the traditional perspective of risk management that was a barrier. The industry is use to managing risk at the end of the pipeline, through Restricted Substance Lists and compliance enforcement. This is a totally different approach that identifies and removes hazards up front in a proactive and precautionary manner. But once our suppliers went through the process with us, they recognized the benefits in the framework we created which protects their IP but allows transparency for collaboration and innovation. To date, we’ve piloted our framework with 3 garment manufacturing vendors and approximately 8 chemical suppliers. The feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive.
CPA: Are you sharing any of this information with other companies?
Bart: We did a series of peer reviews in March after we completed our first pilot and we received a lot of good, constructive feedback. Our garment manufacturer and three chemical suppliers also participated in the review process – it was a good collaboration. We have also started conversations with other brands to let them know what we’re doing. We’ve gotten some good feedback from them as well, and some questions that have lead us to make adjustments, but overall it has been very positive.
CPA: Why do you feel that it’s important to participate in the upcoming BizNGO Conference?
Bart: Levi’s is doing something that it is pioneering. We’re proud of it and want to share it. It’s hazard assessment, and so far it’s contributing to a positive list of chemistry, which really hasn’t been done before. With BizNGO it gets beyond just textiles — it’s building products, retail, electronics, consumer products, healthcare, and more. We want to share our systemic thinking, but also get feedback and learn from other industries.
CPA: Does thinking about green chemistry change the fundamental way you design products?
Bart: Absolutely. As sort of as a poster child for this initiative we decided that, even when we were in the pilot stage, that we would only develop products in Eureka with screened chemicals that have gone through the hazard assessment process, and now our lab is 100% based on screened chemistry. We have lots of tools to achieve certain looks, and that constraint drives even more innovation and creativity – we find alternatives and ways around it. So it affects our process and how we approach it, but in a positive way.
*This story first appeared on BizNGO.
Since 2013, Greenpeace’s “Detox” campaign against apparel companies successfully has catalyzed new approaches to eliminate hazardous chemicals from products and supply chains. It’s not just activist pressure, but also the desire within the industry to do good, that is driving the reduction of hazards in everything from children’s clothing to sportswear.
Efforts to reduce hazardous chemicals and environmental pollution in the manufacturing supply chain include the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index, the Outdoor Industry Association’s Chemicals Management Module and the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals’ Roadmap to Zero.
Traditionally, such efforts have centered around Restricted Substance Lists, which have been used in the textile industry since the late 1990s. They contain restricted chemicals that are usually, but not always regulated. These chemicals can be used in manufacturing and be present in consumer products, as long as the amount is not greater than the allowable limit.
The RSL is a tool to help brands meet regulatory compliance requirements and is typically implemented in three steps:
1. Establish the allowable limit in the product.
2. Train and educate manufacturers to implement the RSL.
3. Verify through product testing.
Because restricted chemicals may be used in manufacturing, there is always the possibility that hazardous chemicals may end up in discharge water.
A fundamental shift to ‘input chemistry’
Today, however, a sea change is placing greater emphasis on managing input chemistry rather than treating effluent. Hazardous chemicals are eliminated at the beginning of the supply chain before they enter the manufacturing facility. This prevents the need to clean up waste water and toxic pollution.
Some tools, such as bluesign, have been available for several years, while others are just being introduced, and some chemical companies are seizing the opportunity to lead in the marketplace.
The initiatives below are gaining wider acceptance and use:
The bluesign system is a standard for environmental health and safety in the manufacture of textiles. It was developed in Switzerland 15 years ago and is gaining momentum with chemical suppliers, manufacturers and brands.
Bluesign works with chemical suppliers to ensure their formulations meet strict requirements. Production sites are audited and a set of guidelines must be met prior to a chemical supplier selling “bluesign certified” formulations. Approved bluesign partners regularly report their continuous improvement and progress in energy, water and chemical usage, and are subject to on-site audits. Many large global chemical suppliers including Huntsman, Archroma, CHT and Dyestar are bluesign partners and produce bluesign-compliant formulations.
Bluesign chemicals are available for all stages of textile production, from spinning to garment manufacturing. This enables brands and manufacturing facilities to make smarter and safer choices.
Bluesign assesses and assigns chemicals to one of three categories:
1. Blue: safe to use
2. Gray: special handling required
3. Black: forbidden
The bluesign system helps factories manage “gray” chemicals and replace “black” chemicals with safer alternatives.
Manufacturing Restricted Substance List
An MRSL differs from a Restricted Substance List (RSL) because it restricts hazardous substances potentially used and discharged into the environment during manufacturing, not just those substances that could be present in finished products. The MRSL addresses any chemical used within the four walls of a manufacturing plant, including those used to make products and clean equipment and facilities.
The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals group developed and published an MRSL with input from key stakeholders including brands and chemical companies. ZDHC developed one MRSL for the apparel industry. This benefits brands, manufacturers and chemical companies because they only have to adhere to a single set of criteria with the same chemical restrictions, limits and test methods.
Chemical companies are in the process of developing a list of MRSL-compliant formulations that adhere to the strict limits placed on a given chemical formulation rather than the finished product.
CHEM-IQ is a chemical management tool released by the VF Corporation. Developed in collaboration with third-party experts, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, CHEM-IQ provides a proactive, cost-effective method for identifying and eliminating potentially harmful chemicals before they enter manufacturing.
Samples from chemical formulations are tested in a lab for the presence of about 400 hazardous chemicals. If any are present above a certain limit, VF works with its supply chain to determine an action plan to move towards safer alternatives.
In addition to the tools and certification systems described above, two small textile chemical formulators, Garmon Chemicals and Beyond Surface Technologies, are also adopting a “front of the pipe” approach.
Garmon’s conscious chemistry
Innovative Italian chemical company Garmon Chemicals has taken an interesting approach in how it assesses, manages and chooses chemical ingredients in its formulations. It recently announced a partnership with Turkish mill Orta denim and Clean Production Action’s GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals.
Garmon incorporates GreenScreens into its raw materials assessment. GreenScreen chemical assessments are based on the hazard profile of a chemical rather than the risk profile. All intentionally added ingredients are screened and assigned a GreenScreen score. Chemicals scored as “Benchmark 1” (to avoid as a chemical of high concern) are not accepted in any formulation. This approach helps Garmon prioritize efforts to find safer alternatives.
The company has developed a range of specialty chemicals called “environmentally conscious chemistry” using GreenScreen as an inspiration for innovation. Garmon has positioned GreenScreen as a platform to develop products for the eco-conscious consumer who demands transparency.
Particularly impressive, Garmon has eliminated potassium permanganate and sodium hypochlorite, two cheap commodity chemicals used to bleach indigo denim. It replaced them with their Avol Oxy White, which provides a similar visual effect.
The advantages of environmentally conscious chemistry include the capability to:
1. Establish long-term partnerships across industries and co-create new capabilities.
2. Drive science and design, with the goal of developing new aesthetics.
3. Trigger healthy changes throughout the manufacturing supply chain that injects “premium” and “sustainable” and “quality” and “integrity” as operational guiding principles in the garment industry.
Beyond Surface Technologies
BST, a small and innovative chemical company, has a different approach to assessing its raw materials. It selects raw materials with either the highest possible content of bio-based carbon (PDF) or materials approved for use in the personal care or food industry, so that it does not need to worry about contaminants and impurities. If it is safe enough to eat or put on your skin, it is safe enough to be used in apparel.
As these examples indicate, the textile industry is making progress in reducing environmental pollution in the textile supply chain by focusing on the management of input chemistry. Stronger partnerships among brands, manufacturers and chemicals companies; a more rigorous approach towards the elimination of hazardous chemicals; and innovating to find safer alternatives to chemicals of concern are moving the needle towards safer consumer products within cleaner supply chains.
** This article first appeared on GreenBiz.com here.
Orta Anadolu is on the road to make denim greener. The Turkish denim mill has partnered with Garmon Chemicals to apply GreenScreen chemical hazard screening methodology on denim fabrics. Together, the companies plan to develop a new breed of highly eco-conscious denim materials. GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals is a publicly available and transparent chemical hazard screening method purely based on toxicology developed by the NGO “Clean Production Action” (CPA) to help companies move toward the use of greener and safer chemicals. By implementing GreenScreen, industries, governments and NGOs can identify safer chemicals in their materials procurement and product design and development. Garmon Chemicals has obtained GreenScreen certification on a large portion of its chemicals, making it a leader in the garment industry. Orta Anadolu said it has decided to adopt Garmon GreenScreen certified chemicals to lead the development of three “radical denim fabric advancements.” GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals is currently used by Nike, Hewlett-Packard and Staples, as well as the state governments of Washington and Maine.