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The First ZDHC Impact Report is Launched

November 21, 2019

Marking Almost a Decade of Growth

Amsterdam, November 20th

ZDHC has released its first Impact Report, which highlights the impact of its work over the past decade. Launched at the 5th ZDHC Annual Meeting, this report outlines a series of achievements, all of which support the transformation of the fashion, apparel and footwear industry.

A New Paradigm in the Industry

One of the most striking results highlighted in the Impact Report is a change in the industry mindset. ZDHC, with the support of its stakeholders, has shifted the focus from products and RSL testing, to managing input chemistry through ZDHC’s Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (ZDHC MRSL). Such an approach helps to eliminate hazardous chemicals before they enter the value chain.

This mindshift has built a firm foundation for the industry to advance towards the phase-out of hazardous chemicals, as noted by Scott Echols, Programme Director at ZDHC.

“We’ve laid the groundwork for eliminating all hazardous chemicals, due to an important mind shift. We’ve demonstrated the feasibility of reaching our goal. By expanding the focus of chemical management from outputs to inputs – from product safety to production safety, we are detoxing the value chain.

Tangible Improvements in Chemical Management

For almost a decade, ZDHC has created solutions and guidelines that support safer chemical management throughout the value chain. These include the ZDHC Gateway - Chemical and Wastewater Modules, the ZDHC Academy, the ZDHC MRSL, the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines and CheckTools. Alongside continuously improving these solutions, ZDHC continues to accelerate its use throughout the industry.

These solutions have had an impact. The results of wastewater testing show significant reductions has been achieved with the discharge of hazardous chemicals into the environment. Over 98% of hazardous chemicals are no longer intentionally used, with the remaining 2% possibly due to factors like industrial cross-contamination or chemical impurities.  

Another benefit has been the ability to leverage the purchasing power of big brands. This helps to reduce the cost of safer alternatives and make innovations in process and performance chemicals more viable, supporting an increased diversity of fabrics and products made using safer chemistry. Examples include non-toxic stain-resistant fabrics or waterproof fabrics.

"In the beginning, few brands were asking the chemicals industry for alternative formulations. But to make their development economically viable, we needed a larger share of the market demanding these products. That’s where ZDHC made a big difference by significantly increasing the demand as their community grew. "

Dr. Volker Schröder – TEGEWA

Capacity Building

Capacity building is another important focus for ZDHC. This is done via publicly available guidelines and by helping to educate the industry. The ZDHC Academy makes chemical management accessible to more parts of the global value chain. A range of online and in-person trainings, certifications and workshops support suppliers and communities that would not otherwise have access to such training.

ZDHC’s focus has also expanded to cover neighbouring value chains. Educating these supply chains helps to reduce cross-contamination from their products into the apparel and footwear sector.

The Work Will Continue

ZDHC has always taken a holistic, collaborative approach. Its work stretches across three focus areas; chemical inputs, production processes, and residue found in outputs such as wastewater, sludge, or air emissions. In this way, ZDHC covers the entire product journey and all of its implications for people and the environment.

All of this work is made possible by the support of fashion brands and other important stakeholders. The ZDHC Community has grown rapidly, from 6 inaugural brands to over 150 Contributors, Signatory Brands, Value Chain Affiliates and Associates. Some figures highlighted in the impact report include a 185% growth in the number of associates, a 500% increase in textile/footwear affiliates, and a 700% growth in solution providers.

ZDHC will continue driving sustainable chemistry further into the apparel and footwear value chain. Focus areas for ZDHC over the next 10 years have already been identified. The next milestones on the roadmap are about to be decided, as ZDHC continues to support the evolution of the industry.

Read the first ZDHC Impact Report here.