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ZDHC initiates study to research the Chemical industry and Textile and Leather manufacturers in order to achieve greenhouse gas reduction

June 21, 2022


ZDHC initiates study to research the Chemical industry and Textile and Leather manufacturers in order to achieve greenhouse gas reduction. In support of the commitment statements made by its partners within the apparel alliance - SAC and Textile Exchange - which established a target of 45% reduced GHG emissions from textile fibre and material production by 2030, ZDHC commissioned a study to identify action areas for the industry that can contribute to achieving this target

On behalf of ZDHC, research consultancy Systain, conducted stakeholder interviews and ran a survey within the group of chemical production companies, textile and leather suppliers and business partners of ZDHC. The study will contribute to the creation of a solid infrastructure that ZDHC can align its tools behind.

By identifying the needs and focusing on the relevant impact areas in different processing stages of chemicals, ZDHC’s plan is to evaluate the possible reduction measures and how this can be combined with the existing processes of ZDHC MRSL conformance assessments. 

The study collected information on companies’ GHG strategies, actions taken, targets, and adoption of science-based (SBTi) targets and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). The study considers larger players as well as numerous SME chemical companies from around the world, to form an accurate impression of what might be possible in the chemical industry.  

“This study confirms that, sustainable chemical management will play an important role in reducing the GHG footprint of the fashion industry. Whether it’s the evaluation of the sustainability attributes of bio-based alternatives versus fossil-based chemicals or finding and evaluating more effective and efficient textile wet processes, ZDHC’s tools and guidance will be critical to the effort.“ Scott Echols, Programme Director, ZDHC

The chemical sector is the largest industrial consumer of both oil and gas and it is the third industry subsector in terms of direct CO2 emissions. German environmental agency “Kleiden met Haken” estimates that 5% of worldwide chemical production is used for the production of textile chemicals.

Chemicals used in the production of fashion have a direct and substantial impact at different levels in different processes on the way to GHG reduction. Hence, the GHG impact of chemicals needs to be assessed beyond the production floor e.g. in textile dyeing. The discussion of resource efficiency is a very present one, e.g. less water needs to be heated or at lower application temperatures. It is important to build capacities within production to make sure these efficiency gains can be realised. Nonetheless, if the industry wants to reach the 45% GHG reduction goal, the ecological impacts that chemicals accumulate before arriving at textile and leather mills must be considered.  

The study found that 6-8% of GHG emissions along the production of textiles are related to the production of textile chemicals. The dyeing and finishing stages are the primary driver of GHG emissions along the value chain of a textile. Several studies and publications range between 30-40% along the process chain until the point of sales.

Following the study, a white paper is prepared on the scoping of GHG emissions. As a well-recognised organisation in the textile supply chain, ZDHC will cooperate with other initiatives and business partners towards achieving GHG reduction targets through sustainable chemical management. ZDHC will continue to organise working sessions with the ZDHC Chemical Supplier Advisor Group (CASG) and with manufacturers (and machinery producers).