Fashion for Good is making an industry-wide call for collaboration to transform the apparel industry at a gathering of innovators, fashion and sustainability thought leaders in Amsterdam.
As a holistic and inclusive open-source initiative, Fashion for Good invites the global fashion industry to reimagine how fashion is designed, made, worn and reused.
Fashion for Good aims to promote the five “Goods” of a new, transformed fashion industry: Good Materials, Good Economy, Good Energy, Good Water, and Good Lives. In pursuit of this goal, Fashion for Good enables the fashion industry to embrace innovation, change its business models and adopt a totally new mindset.
“The Five Goods represent an aspirational framework we can all use to work towards a world in which we do not take, make, dispose, but rather take, make, remake,” said William McDonough of McDonough Innovation. “Fashion for Good is about transforming the industry from serving one generation to serving many generations.”
Leslie Johnston of C&A Foundation said: “Open and inclusive, Fashion for Good will share all knowledge and lessons learned from its activities. In doing so, we want to inspire all stakeholders in the fashion industry to work toward a future in which everyone – farmers, workers, customers, and communities – can flourish.”
Fashion for Good is changing the apparel industry through innovation and new business models. Its innovation platform scouts for, nurtures and funds early-stage ideas and it scales proven technologies and business models for wider adoption by the industry. Its Apparel Acceleration Fund aims to catalyse access to finance and its open-source Good Fashion Guide shares knowledge to help the apparel industry transform. As a convenor for change, Fashion for Good enables conversation and collaboration, bringing together co-locators at its first hub in Amsterdam, as well as visitors to the Fashion for Good Experience to learn more about Good Fashion.
With an initial grant from founding partner C&A Foundation, Fashion for Good inspires brands, producers, retailers, suppliers, non-profit organisations, innovators and funders all working towards a Good Fashion industry and invites industry to join and collaborate.
Fashion for Good has six complementary programmes:
- Early-stage Innovation Accelerator: Fashion for Good works with Plug and Play, a leading Silicon Valley accelerator, to give promising start-up innovators the funding and expertise they need to grow.
- Late-stage Innovation Programme: Fashion for Good finds innovations that have proof of concept and helps them scale by offering bespoke support and access to expertise, customers and capital.
- Apparel Acceleration Fund: IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, is scoping a fund that aims to catalyse access to finance where this is required to shift at scale to more sustainable production methods.
- Good Fashion Guide: This open-source guide proves that Good Fashion is feasible today and shows brands how to embrace it. The online guide provides practical tips, a self-diagnostic tool and a step-by-step guide to production, based on lessons learned while creating the world’s first Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM GOLD cotton t-shirt produced in Asia, at scale, at a value retailer price point.
- launchpad exhibition of the Fashion for Good Experience:Fashion for Good has opened three floors to the public in its historic building in a first step to build a community around the ambition to make all fashion Good. With vibrant displays, thought-provoking messaging, and a call to action, the launchpad will inform and inspire its visitors to be part of this larger movement of Only Good Fashion. In 2018, the launchpad exhibition will evolve into a permanent Experience Centre.
- Circular Apparel Community: Fashion for Good has rented an historic building in the heart of Amsterdam (our first hub) in order to bring likeminded organisations and partners together, including the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) and Made-By. This community will embrace collaboration to create change and build a vibrant eco-system of entrepreneurs and innovators in the name of circular fashion.
About Fashion for Good
Fashion for Good is the global initiative that is here to make all fashion good.
Fashion for Good sparks and scales innovation by offering practical action in the form of support and funding, shares best practice and lessons learned in open-source roadmaps, and fosters sector-wide collaboration for the entire apparel industry to change.
Fashion for Good invites brands, producers, retailers, suppliers, non-profit organisations, innovators and funders to jointly transform the industry.
Guests are invited to learn more about the industry at a newly opened Launchpad exhibition in Amsterdam. Fashion for Good was created with an initial grant from founding partner C&A Foundation, and other partners have joined to help build the foundation of Fashion for Good: C&A, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, IDH the Sustainable Trade Initiative, Impact Hub Amsterdam, Kering, McDonough Innovation, Plug and Play, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC).
*For more information, visit Fashion for Good
Investment in industry-level research and development can give consumers a meaningful metric of sustainability, says former corporate sustainability analyst Mary Hable.
In 2010, fresh out of college with a degree in economics, I began a new job as a corporate sustainability professional at a major apparel retailer. I was hopeful. The apparel industry was full of environmental problems and opportunities for major progress.
At the time, Greenpeace had launched a Detox campaign directly linking textile manufacturing and water pollution, a claim confirmed by the industry’s most influential brands through their organisation of Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals. The Natural Resources Defense Council was building its Clean by Design initiative to collaborate with brands that wanted cost-effective ways to clean up factories in their supply chains. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition was gearing up to foster collaboration among companies, non-governmental organisations, government and academia with the mission of improving the social and environmental performance across the industry. And corporate sustainability departments were being built across the industry.
The problems and opportunities were obvious, but one big thing was missing: Consumers were not clearly rewarding brands for sustainability. Without such an economic payback, brands lacked incentives to develop and deploy systemic sustainability initiatives and so limited themselves to less expensive short-term changes.
As a result, after five years in the field, I’m no longer looking for sustainability solutions to be created within companies. Rather, my view is that the more effective role for brands is to invest in external industry-wide sustainability research and technology aimed at developing those systemic solutions.
To drive investment, industry should track contributions from each company and share the information with consumers. Consumers could then use this information to judge — and reward — brands’ commitment to sustainability. After all, money, unlike environmental impact, is something we already know how to measure well, making sustainability investment a simple metric that can be used to activate consumer choices now.
The bottom line is: Individual apparel industry brands won’t deploy systemic solutions on their own because such solutions are not developed enough to provide either a direct economic payback or an indirect payback through consumer reward for more sustainable choices.
Wanted: Systemic Solutions
On the surface, the sustainability teams I was part of made progress. We found ways to achieve grassroots improvements despite minimal top-down support. At one company, we persuaded executives from design and sourcing to come together to educate each other about sustainability issues and to study what competitors were doing. At another large retailer, management was motivated to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy, saving money that was used to fund other sustainability projects, such as corporate reporting and more internal education.
These successes, unfortunately, were far outweighed by missed opportunities. For years, we cycled through conversations on using recycled, natural and organic fibers without seeing change. We researched and piloted take-back and donation programmes that didn’t gain traction. We developed strict supply chain monitoring programmes, but couldn’t get key decision-makers to sign off on the next step of including sustainability expectations in business agreements. Ultimately, I watched both sustainability teams that I was a part of be downsized.
This wasn’t surprising. An apparel brand’s fundamental purpose is to sell product, not to promote organic agriculture or develop non-toxic fibers and finishes. To be sure, a handful of values-driven apparel companies have experimented with technologies such as greener chemistry, waterless dyeing, and natural and organic fibers. But those companies are the minority, because such changes are either too costly or risk reducing product performance in the eyes of the consumer. Material choices create the products that are the lifeblood of a brand. Any changes need to be made out of confidence, rooted in strong evidence. Currently, brands lack the data needed to make evidence-based changes.
On material recycling, it was also clear that apparel brands acting on their own couldn’t effectively “close the loop” on clothes and shoes at the end of their useful life. A robust take-back and recycling programme turns a store into a hub of reverse logistics, collecting and sending materials back to a facility that sorts, resells or down-cycles material. All of this takes the store’s focus away from the goal of selling product and creates projects that provide little or no economic payback.
The bottom line is: Individual apparel industry brands won’t deploy systemic solutions on their own because such solutions are not developed enough to provide either a direct economic payback or an indirect payback through consumer reward for more sustainable choices.
Investment as a Metric
Brands will make voluntary investments in sustainability only if consumers clearly reward them for doing so. The problem is, even caring consumers do not have the information they need to know what to reward.
Providing consumers with that information is one of the fundamental pursuits of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). Since 2009, the SAC has been developing the Higg Index, essentially a sustainability version of a nutrition label. Over the past three months, the SAC has released two important pieces of the Higg Index: The Design and Development Module and the Materials Sustainability Index. The goal of these tools is to provide consumers and brand designers with information they can use to easily compare varying degrees of environmental impact between products.
To measure and ultimately reduce environmental impact, the Higg Index depends on a vast amount of quantitative data grounded in science. For example, it needs to be able to provide a simple recommendation as to whether a 90 per cent recycled polyester blend or a 50 per cent organic cotton blend is the more sustainable choice. Currently, the Higg Index is not complete enough to make such a recommendation.
For a tool like the Higg Index to reduce environmental impact, the industry needs more sustainable technologies and better ways to measure the benefits they provide. What the industry needs now more than anything is a consistent source of funds to develop those data and technologies, such as research and development leading to new fiber and manufacturing technology. Brands can have a more impactful role in advancing sustainability by contributing to an industry fund that supports these initiatives.
Providing simple information on individual brands’ contributions to the fund as a per cent of revenue can drive consumer choices and, consequently, competition between brands on investments.
The downsizing of corporate sustainability positions that I experienced could be a sign that brands are moving away from investing in internal sustainability initiatives. Given the complexity of the issues, that makes sense. Brands don’t need more people working on sustainability. What is needed is financial investment in systemic solutions related to fiber, chemical, and manufacturing research and technology.
Brands can’t create these systemic solutions on their own, but they can help pay for them on an industry level. Providing information to consumers about brands’ investment in industry-wide sustainability would give consumers a powerful tool for making purchases based on sustainability, which would motivate the apparel industry to take action toward reducing its environmental impact.
Mary Hable is a freelance writer and former corporate sustainability analyst in the apparel and footwear industry. She produced this feature as a participant in the Ensia Mentor Program. Her mentor for the project was Marc Gunther.
*This story first appeared on Ensia.
New research on fashion trends and textile waste, released by Greenpeace on the eve of Black Friday, highlights the serious environmental consequences of overconsumption. Clothing is among the most sold products on the annual shopping day promoted in many countries, which, critics say, encourages impulsive overspending and unnecessary purchases through bargain ’ offers and discount prices .
“It is hard to resist the allure of a good bargain, but fast fashion means we’re consuming and trashing fashion at a higher rate than our planet can handle,” said Kirsten Brodde, head of Greenpeace’s Detox my Fashion campaign.
To counter excessive consumerism, growing numbers of people choose to abstain and observe “Buy Nothing Day” instead. As part of this movement, “trash queens” in dresses upcycled from discarded clothes are visiting shopping centres in three major cities in Asia and Europe to remind customers how many impulse buys of today end up as trash tomorrow.
The research, Timeout for fast fashion, published today by Greenpeace Germany, shows how the fast fashion business is rapidly expanding: Clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014, with sales rising from US$ 1 trillion in 2002 to 1.8 trillion by 2015, and a forecast of 2.1 trillion by 2025. The average person buys 60 per cent more items of clothing every year and keeps them for about half as long as 15 years ago, producing immense volumes of textile waste.
Environmental impacts detailed include chemicals from textile factories polluting rivers and oceans, high levels of energy use and pesticides from cotton growing contaminating agricultural land. One of fast fashion’s biggest costs to the planet comes from the rising use of synthetic fibres, says Greenpeace, in particular polyester that emits nearly three times more CO2 in its lifecycle than cotton. Already present in 60 per cent of clothing, polyester can take decades to degrade, as well as polluting marine environments with plastic microfibres.
As of today, recycling is not a solution. Markets are overloaded with unwanted clothes and technological challenges mean full recycling of clothing into new fibres is still far from commercially viable. “Our research indicates that the second hand clothing system is on the brink of collapse. Fashion brands need to urgently re-think the throwaway business model and produce clothing that’s durable, repairable and fit for re-use. As consumers, we also hold the power. Before buying our next bargain item, we can all ask ‘do I really need this?’,” said Brodde.
Each Kingpins Transformers, the seasonal summit focusing on the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the denim industry, brings attention to the need for industry-wide regulations.
At the most recent seminar titled “Toxic Future: Is the Scary Part of Hazardous Chemicals On the Way?” held in Amsterdam on Monday, speakers from all parts of the supply chain had a turn to voice their concerns about the mounting pressure to create denim without hazardous chemicals and the rising costs that come with safer products.
Speakers agreed on the need for more collaboration and action, though many warned that in the process of fixing one problem, new ones may be created. Here are a few takeaways from the event.
Alberto De Conti, Garmon Chemicals CMO, said the vast volume of chemicals used in the manufacturing process, coupled with the multi-tiered textile supply chain that involved tens of thousands of suppliers worldwide, adds to the complexity of wiping the denim industry clean of hazardous chemicals.
And then there’s the industry’s “regulatory schizophrenia.”
Every time a new molecule is discovered, De Conti said there’s a long process of regulation, which differs from country to country. On top of this, brands have their own initiatives and restricted substance lists. As a chemical company, Garmon has more than 200 brand-driven lists that it must follow.
“It’s excessive,” De Conti said. From 2012 to 2016, Garmon’s overhead costs increased 200 percent and the cost of compliance grew 1,700 percent.
“It’s not sustainable. You have a brand pushed by Greenpeace, they go to their manufacturer and ask for innovation, quality, shorter lead times, on-time delivery and they [want] environmental compliance and lower prices. So what does the manufacturer do? He turns to his suppliers, including chemical companies, but its hard to provide a low price due to previous cost increases. There’s temptation to go out and look for chemicals that are low quality and not checked as much as they should be. So you get retox—all the measures to minimize the problem creates a new problem,” he said.
In the end, De Conti says it’s a game that no one wins. The cost of chemicals go up, control decreases, brand risk goes up and innovation and quality decline.
“Do we need so much complexity? If the potential problem is a common one, why not one common solution?” he asked.
There’s a lot of BS.
From organic cotton’s “toxic” certification process and its high cost in the U.S. compared with Europe, to the impossibility of using natural indigo on a large industrial scale, Alberto Candiani, co-owner and global manager at Candiani Denim, named the “top ten sustainable BS” he hears from the industry.
Candiani encouraged the industry to stop “demonizing” processes until it has all the facts. PP Spray is only bad if it’s not neutralized, and sandblasting can be safe in the proper working conditions, he said. Candiani’s “worst nightmare” is toxic dilution, or lowering the amount of hazardous chemicals by using more water to dilute it.
“Everyone has to commit to reduce the use of chemicals and at the same time water waste and discharge needs to be controlled,” he said
The Case of Aniline
Panelist questioned the fate of aniline, the organic toxic compound that was a precursor to indigo. While Candiani believed aniline is safe unless the indigo sublimes, Miguel Sanchez, Archroma global head business development of denim and casual wear, argued otherwise.
“Indigo and aniline are of so close together,” said Sanchez. “Aniline is a classified B2 carcinogenic, that means it’s potentially carcinogenic.”
“The idea that something that is natural is safe is wrong.”
Sanchez said there’s no advantage in having aniline content in natural indigo. “The idea that something that is natural is safe is wrong.”
“It doesn’t matter if it is coming from natural indigo or synthetic, you have the same risk,” added Christian Dreszig, Bluesign Technologies head of marketing.
Sanchez expects more consumers and safety organizations to take note of the potential risk aniline poses because information is readily accessible online. He said Swedish children’s brand Polarn O. Pyret examined aniline-free denim from different brands and found that the chemical was still present. “And from there other brands have been doing their own work on it. The link between aniline and indigo goes beyond the moment the indigo is on the garment,” he said.
The industry could experience its biggest shake-up if ZHDC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) ever named aniline a banned substance. “It will change your life in the industry because then you cannot use indigo for any blue jeans,” said Dreszig.
*This story first appeared on Rivet and Jeans
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
The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Programme released an update to the Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) to now include leather. The MRSL Version 1.1 was developed by the ZDHC apparel and footwear brands in close collaboration with third-party technical experts and global industry associations.
“The ZDHC MRSL Version 1.1 provides brands and suppliers with a harmonised approach to managing chemicals during raw material processing,” said ZDHC Executive Director Frank Michel. “Collaborating with leading technical experts allowed us to develop this synchronised approach and advance our long-term goal of zero discharge. ZDHC brands will be communicating MRSL Version 1.1 information to their raw material supply chain and factories assembling or manufacturing garments and footwear, and expect them to communicate directly with their chemical suppliers so that the listed substances are not present in chemical formulations above established MRSL limits,” he added.
The ZDHC MRSL Version 1.1 includes chemicals used in facilities that process materials and trim parts for use in apparel and footwear. These chemicals include solvents, cleaners, adhesives, paints, inks, detergents, dyes, colourants, auxiliaries, coatings and finishing agents used during raw material production, wet-processing, maintenance, wastewater treatment, sanitation and pest control.
The MRSL Version 1.1 establishes concentration limits for these substances that are designed to eliminate the possibility of intentional use of listed substances. The list will assist brands, organisations throughout supply chains and the broader industry in phasing out/substituting h
azardous substances potentially used and discharged into the environment during manufacturing and related processes.
To support raw material suppliers, including wet-processing facilities, subcontractors and factories assembling or manufacturing garments and footwear transitioning to this new chemical guidance, the ZDHC Programme is accompanying the release of the MRSL Version 1.1 with supplier guidance, support materials and training.
In 2011, the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Programme formed to catalyse positive change in the discharge of hazardous chemicals across the product life cycle.
In 2015, the ZDHC Foundation was established as a standalone legal entity based in Amsterdam to strengthen the organisation as well as the ZDHC Programme.
The coalition now includes signatory brands – adidas Group, Benetton Group, Burberry Group PLC, C&A, Esprit, F&F, G-Star Raw C.V., Gap Inc., H&M, Inditex, Jack Wolfskin, Levi Strauss & Co., Li Ning, L Brands, M&S, New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc., NIKE, Inc., Primark, PUMA SE and PVH Corp., a growing number of associate including the Association of the German Sporting Goods Industry (BSI), European Outdoor Group (EOG), Everlight Chemical, GermanFashion Modeverband Deutschland e.V, JINTEX Group, PolyOne, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and a diverse group of stakeholders with whom we engage regularly.
For more information on the ZDHC Programme, please visit: www.roadmaptozero.com.
The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Programme today released an update to the Group’s Joint Roadmap. Initially released in 2011, the roadmap included a preliminary work plan to organise and set a path towards addressing the challenge of zero discharge by 2020. Based on lessons learned during implementation, subsequent updates have refined and focused ZDHC efforts to drive momentum towards zero discharge.
Now in its fourth year, the ZDHC Group is 19 brand members and 7 associate members strong and is poised to apply and implement tools developed through the Joint Roadmap. This stage of collaborative evolution moves the group clearly from the development of foundational tools into the territory of tool implementation.
“The updated Joint Roadmap is a clear and strategic effort to tightly focus programme efforts and resources,” said Frank Michel, ZDHC Executive Director. “Transitioning from seven workstreams into four focus areas will support all elements of the supply chain in adopting improved chemical management practices. From technical and organizational perspectives, we have made significant strides in the past year, including releasing the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List and Audit Protocols, establishing a standalone ZDHC legal entity based in Amsterdam and effectively strengthening the organisation as well as the ZDHC Programme. This Joint Roadmap update builds on ZDHC successes to date and defines the path forward for the next five years,” he added.
To achieve zero discharge, four focus areas are identified as critical to moving towards our zero discharge mission. These areas complement and amplify the work of other industry associations and non-governmental organisations and recognise the imperative nature of collaboration to tackle textile industry challenges. These areas are:
- Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) and Implementation Conformity – Includes two primary tracks of work, updates to the MRSL and effective engagement to promote adherence to MRSL chemical use restrictions.
- Research – Actively engages with academia and the industry to encourage research into the development of safer alternatives and to conduct research on priority chemicals.
- Audit Protocol – Works to harmonise audit tool with SAC, finalise the audit conformance process and engage industry groups to promote adoption of the audit tools.
- Wastewater Quality – Intends to minimise chemical pollutants discharged into the environment through good process controls and effective chemicals management by developing wastewater quality guidance (guidelines).
- Data and disclosure and training programmes will support implementation and dissemination of guidance developed across all focus areas and as such are identified as cross cutting themes.
As always, the ZDHC Programme aims to eliminate or substitute priority hazardous chemicals in products and their manufacture; apply a transparent screening process to promote and support safer chemistry; implement common tools, best practices and training that advance chemical stewardship; partner with stakeholders to promote chemical use and discharge transparency; promote scaling of best practices through engagement with key stakeholders.
**This story is a part of the communication outreach by ZDHC group.
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.
Released today, the ZDHC Group’s 2014 Annual Report presents tangible progress towards leading the textile industry to improved environmental responsibility. The Group continued to develop and deploy tools designed to assist dye houses, chemical suppliers, other brands and key stakeholders to adopt ambitious chemical management standards including a landmark Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL) and chemicals management training curriculum for suppliers in Asia.
Highlights of accomplishments in 2014 include:
- Developed and published the ZDHC MRSL for priority chemical phase out.
- Provided MRSL training and developed chemical guidance sheets in six languages to assist mills and suppliers with the phase-out and substitution of substances restricted on the ZDHC MRSL.
- Developed and published a framework for prioritising hazardous chemicals for elimination or substitution and a Research List of substances for which safer alternatives will be sought.
- Prepared and conducted ZDHC Chemicals Management Training for suppliers in China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and India.
- Conducted and summarised key finding from 25 pilot audits across eight countries at wet processing facilities using the Environmental Audit Protocol, Version 1.0, some member brands began implementation using the protocol.
- Formalised a ZDHC workstream specifically focused on the standards for data collection necessary to measure progress against ZDHC goals.
- Continued collaboration with leading industry associations, including the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Outdoor Industry Association, Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), Leather Working Group (LWG), OEKO‑TEX®, bluesign® and Solidaridad to align tools and collaboration.
- Continued engagement with key organisations in Bangladesh, China (including the China Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs [IPE], China Ministry of Environmental Protection [MEP] and the China National Textile and Apparel Council [CNTAC], India, Vietnam and Taiwan (Taiwan Textile Federation).
- Conducted extensive research on chemical disclosure methodologies, issued the 2014 Right-to-Know Chemical Disclosure Methodology Research report and worked closely with the European Union Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR) Commission and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on right to know.
- Developed draft Chemical Management System Manual to assist brands, retailers, Tier 1 and 2 suppliers and chemical suppliers to improve chemical management and assist in moving towards zero discharge.
For more information, please contact Leticia Solaun at +001.352.384.7220 or ZDHCbrands@roadmaptozero.com.
On behalf of ZDHC Group
adidas Group, Benetton Group S.p.A., Burberry Group PLC, C&A, Esprit, G-Star Raw C.V., Gap Inc., H&M, Inditex, Jack Wolfskin, Levi Strauss & Co., Li Ning, L Brands, M&S, New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc., NIKE, Inc., PUMA SE and PVH Corp. in association with Association of the German Sporting Goods Industry (BSI), European Outdoor Group (EOG) GermanFashion Modeverband Deutschland e.V, Everlight Chemical, JINTEX Group and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).