Commitment to Safer Chemical Management Strengthens Across Asia

On November 8, at the 4th ZDHC - CNTAC joint conference, over 500 suppliers from across Asia were exposed to the latest developments in hazardous chemical control and sustainable manufacturing.

Awareness of Responsible Chemical Management Grows

At the opening of the event, ZDHC’s Executive Director Frank Michel reflected on the ZDHC's journey starting in 2011 with six signatory brands and today, sitting at over 40 contributors.

“This industry has experienced dramatic change and responsible chemical management is a core pillar of sustainability,” he said.

The ZDHC Chemical Gateway

One of ZDHC’s key tools is its Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL), a list of chemical substances banned from intentional use in facilities that process textile materials and trim parts in apparel and footwear.

ZDHC’s goal is for the entire industry to adopt this standard, however as Michel said:

“We know that to really encourage the textile and footwear industry to comply to this standard, we have to take a more innovative approach than simply publishing a “ban” list.”

During the event, the ZDHC Chemical Gateway was showcased and its ability to provide a “shopping list” of safer chemicals was highlighted. The ZDHC Gateway is set to launch in early 2017 and is poised to become world’s largest database of safer chemistry for this industry.

The ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines

Another key achievement is the development of the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines, set for release within the week. These have been developed with input from brands, NGOs, manufacturers, and suppliers, and over 300 comments were submitted from the public following a period of open comment.

“The ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines will provide the next steps in ensuring the elimination of hazardous chemicals” said ZDHC’s Technical Director Scott Echols.

However, he also emphasised that these need to be used in conjunction with the ZDHC MRSL and encouraged suppliers to take a holistic approach to chemical management.

“It’s not enough to simply use one standard or tool. The issue of hazardous chemical control is complex, and demands a holistic approach.”

“While the ZDHC MRSL works to prevent restricted chemical substances from being used in facilities, the Wastewater Guidelines will help to ensure wastewater leaving those facilities is properly treated. Both are required to prevent water contamination.”

ZDHC & CNTAC Strengthen Collaboration

During this event, ZDHC and the China National Textile & Apparel Council (CNTAC) signed a formal collaboration agreement.

CNTAC, an industry federation which represents all textile related industries in China, also reflected on the work it’s doing towards its Chemicals Stewardship Initiative 2020, a cross-industry policy framework for the textile industry aimed at minimising adverse effects of chemicals on human health and the environment.

Brands' Perspectives

Frank Henke, Vice President Social & Environmental Affairs, adidas Group, and Charles Dickinson, Environmental Sustainability Controller at Primark offered a brand perspective on expectations of suppliers within the value chain.

Both emphasised that brands expect suppliers to commit to the same environmental standards, and to be fully aware of their obligations.“We believe in shared responsibility,” said Dickinson.

“For us, this means we also expect our suppliers to adhere to the ZDHC MRSL. Why? Because by doing so, we can be assured that the wastewater is cleaner, the air quality standard improved, and that health and safety of workers protected.”

Both brands ended with a strong call to action for all; if businesses want to survive, they have to be fit for the future. For Dickinson that means, it’s necessary for all actors within the textile and footwear sector to go well beyond legislation.

"Simply adhering to minimum legal standards is not good enough!”

Empowering All Actors to Take Control

The day also featured an open panel debate in which participants were invited to ask a range of questions and perspectives were offered from the China Textile Information Centre (CTIC), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC).

“Our hope” said Sun Ruizhe, CNTAC President, “is that suppliers left today’s event with a greater understanding of the challenges of hazardous chemical control and gained practical insights on how to overcome these.”

“We believe ZDHC is an important force in sustainable development and hope that together, we can work to eliminate hazardous chemicals within the value chain.”

To receive the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines, due for release later this week, subscribe here.