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Chemical Producers Call for More Sustainable Textile Processing

Textile dye and chemical producers are making moves to remove hazardous chemicals from textile supply chains and elevate sustainable textile processing.

On Tuesday, a group of textile chemical and dye producers signed an open letter to the Stichting ZDHC Foundation, a multi-stakeholder chemical management collaboration established by Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) in 2014. In the letter, signatories such as Archroma and DyStar demanded a more universal approach for chemical manufacturing, compliance and the recognition of key industry players that are working to make textile chemicals and dyes more sustainable. With the letter, the group aims to make textile processing more eco-friendly and streamline costs for the global textile supply chain.

“The signatories do not represent any specific region but have a global approach and footprint—to varying degrees—and thus also have a global approach toward compliance and sustainability advancement,” the letter stated. “All agreed that the way forward would be to align behind one industry standard based upon achievable limits resulting from best chemical manufacturing techniques, as this would accelerate implementation and avoid complexity and confusion for textile mills and their suppliers. It would also be the most cost-effective approach for the textile value chain.”

Why the textile industry needs a uniform approach now

According to the letter, the signatories recognized that the ZDHC Foundation is the most logical platform for the textile industry to create a more harmonized approach for chemical manufacturing and compliance.

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Despite this recognition, the signatories said that a few concerns need to be addressed before they can become Value Chain Affiliates of the ZDHC, including the ability to collectively form initiatives that remove hazardous chemicals from textile supply chains and greater recognition for companies that aim to remedy environmental issues within the textile sector.

“The signatories agree that, at this point of time, it does not make sense to form a new industry association to positively influence the sustainable manufacturing behavior in the textile supply chain worldwide,” the letter said. “However, a collective approach to address common industry concerns is viewed as appropriate and necessary to try to guide the ZDHC, brands and other stakeholders in a direction which is workable and effective for the textile industry.”

Signatories’ expectations for the ZDHC Foundation

To contribute to the ZDHC Foundation and form a universal approach to sustainable textile processing, the signatories defined ZDHC expectations and principles that require further clarification and commitment.

Signatories issued three concerns with the ZDHC Gateway-Chemical Module, an advanced search engine for formulations that conform to ZDHC’s Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL).

First, the harmonizing of standards/screening/testing methodologies is supported with a comparative rating (Levels 0-3), and the signatories said it is important that all signatory brands agree to this approach and accept that a “higher level of confidence supersedes the need for a lower level of compliance.”

Second, signatories said the “entry level” (Level Zero) of the ZDHC “pyramid approach” should not be misused to legitimize non-compliant suppliers for marketing purposes. Last, the signatories said they would like a mechanism that ensures textile chemical and dye suppliers can effectively move their products up the levels of the ZDHC “pyramid” approach as well as have brands understand the true value of “Level 3” partners that practice the highest level of chemical compliance.

The signatories said they would like the ZDHC MRSL edited for two main reasons: concern over the dilution of MRSL standards and support for the current ZDHC MRSL v1.1 as a starting point for improvement. To prevent the weakening of MRSL standards, the signatories request that safeguards be put in place for brands that try to create their own versions of the MRSL. As a building block, the ZDHC MRSL v1.1 could use additional input from the group’s textile chemical and dye manufacturers within the ZDHC MRSL Advisory Group to ensure that the textile industry can collectively meet expectations of chemical compliance and sustainability.

Remedying the ZDHC Foundation contributor status was another goal for the signatories. Signatories said select organizations, including larger manufacturers of textile chemicals and dyes, have a greater ability to enforce “clean chemistry” across the industry and that they should be encouraged to participate in the ZDHC Foundation. Signatories would also like a mechanism that ensures products have already been invested with a third-party validation at ZDHC’s highest level of compliance (Level 3) and are not recharged for an entry into the ZDHC Gateway-Chemical Module.

“The signatories would like to confirm a willingness to actively engage with the ZDHC Foundation, in particular with the ZDHC Gateway Chemical Module and also as a ZDHC Contributor. If we come to a common understanding regarding our expectations, our proposal is that as of September 1, the signatories would join on a trial basis for a period of 12 months,” the letter said. “At the end of this trial period, we will review the progress made by ZDHC toward driving the necessary change and harmonization of the industry toward the objective of ‘zero discharge of hazardous chemicals.’”