Clothing, Shoe Makers Plan out Route to Safer Chemicals by 2020

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A Niketown store in downtown San Francisco. Nike has hundreds of suppliers that provide materials to contracted manufacturers that make Nike products. Close

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Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A Niketown store in downtown San Francisco. Nike has hundreds of suppliers that provide materials to contracted manufacturers that make Nike products.

Bloomberg BNA — Global clothing and shoe manufacturers have jointly released an updated “road map” detailing their plans to list chemicals targeted for phaseout, international workforce training programs, and other actions they will take as part of their previously announced effort to encourage use of safer chemicals by 2020.

The Joint Roadmap: Version 2, announced June 14, includes numerous deadlines by which the adidas Group; Esprit; Nike Inc.; and the other global footwear and textile manufacturers that make up the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Group said they will accomplish these goals.

The group, formed in 2011, said its goal is the “elimination of all releases, via all pathways of release, i.e. discharges, emissions and losses, from our supply chains and our products."

“In light of the increasing sophistication of analytical tools and methods, references to ‘elimination’ or ‘zero’ must be understood as ‘not above background concentration’ rather than ‘not detectable,’" the group said in its first road map released November 2011. Participating companies evaluated their progress in 2012.

Priority Chemicals Already Identified

The 2011 road map listed nine classes of chemicals the clothing and shoe manufacturers were focusing on to determine the extent to which they occurred in their products: ortho-phthalates, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, azo dyes, organotin compounds, chlorobenzenes, chlorinated solvents, chlorophenols, short-chained chlorinated paraffins, and heavy metals.

That report also listed two families of chemicals—perfluorinated compounds and alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APEOs), which include nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs)—that the Zero Discharge group would focus on with the goal of elimination.

In 2012, as the Zero Discharge group sought to determine the extent to which these 11 chemical groups were in members' products, they also identified other chemicals of potential concern, the updated Joint Roadmap version 2 said.

Based on this information, along with comments the group received on a draft version of its road map released in March, Zero Discharge's latest road map established tighter deadlines, committed to using existing training materials when possible, and provided more details about how the organization will develop a process to identify hazardous chemicals it will target for phaseout.

August Release of Selection Methodology

The updated road map described the group's general strategy for selecting chemicals for phaseout and researching alternatives where none may currently exist.

By August 2013, the Zero Discharge Group said it will begin to release a methodology to identify and flag priority chemicals. The methodology and hazardous chemicals list will be updated at regular intervals, the new road map said.

By Dec. 31, 2013, the group will identify guidance and other documents in multiple languages that member companies will share with their supply chains to “increase awareness of chemical elimination and substitution,” the updated road map said.

Targeting Countries Where Products Are Made

Regions of the world that produce footwear and textiles that the group has selected to provide near-term chemical management training include Bangladesh, China, and India.

Achieving the group's goal of systemic change and commercialization of new, preferred alternative chemistries will require the collaboration of thousands of organizations, Jessica Wollmuth, Zero Discharge group program manager, said in a statement announcing the updated road map.

“Good progress has been achieved thus far, and the Joint Roadmap: Version 2, lays a firm foundation for creating an apparel and footwear industry that delivers high quality products using safe chemistries,” Wollmuth continued.

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