The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) group has updated its Joint Roadmap to focus on four key areas as it moves from the development of foundational tools into the implementation phase.

Now in its fourth year, the group, whose members include Adidas and Gap Inc, says the four areas it has identified are “critical” to moving towards its zero discharge mission, and will “complement and amplify” the work of other industry associations and non-governmental organisations.

The group will focus on implementing the Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL), engaging with academia and the industry to encourage research into the development of safer alternatives and to conduct research on priority chemicals, harmonising the ZDHC audit tool with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and developing wastewater quality guidelines to minimise chemical pollutant discharges.

Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL)

The ZDHC MRSL was first published in 2014, with the aim of restricting the use of harmful substances in the textile industry supply chain. It comprises a list of chemical substances banned from intentional use in facilities that process textile materials and trim parts for apparel and footwear.

Updates to the new version will be published as additional products become available that can be used as substitutions for chemical substances currently listed on the Research List, for which there are no currently available alternatives. The target is to have the ZDHC MRSL and conformity process guidance serve as the adopted textile and apparel industry standard by 2020.

Research

The development of the ZDHC Research List was borne out of collaborative work with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), and serves to identify high priority chemicals and apply actions to them.

The group says that as concentration limits in formulations were being decided upon, it became clear there were some substances for which there was no feasible alternative, making phase-out difficult, if not impossible.

Working with key collaborators from the chemical industry, academic researchers and governmental agencies, the group is hoping to encourage research into the development of safer alternatives for substances on the ZDHC Research List so brands can make informed substitutions and conduct research on priority chemicals for which options do not currently exist. It is targeting a standardised process for continuous research and evaluation by 2020.

Audit protocol

The audit protocol, which was established with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), OIA and the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), was put into place to ensure consistency in environmental auditing across the supply chain and the sharing of audit findings, while ensuring compliance with anti-trust regulations.

Success in this focus area will be measured by widespread industry adoption of the ZDHC Audit Protocol as the apparel and footwear industry standard by 2020, and widespread use of the audit tool by all tiers of the supply chain.

Wastewater quality

This is a new area of focus for the group, and will work towards the design of properly functioning wastewater treatment plants, good process controls and effective chemical management in minimising chemical pollutants discharged into the environment.

Working with key collaborators, the group hopes to reduce or eliminate the release of chemicals through the development of wastewater quality guidance, adopting this as the apparel and footwear industry standard, again by 2020.

Work in this area will centre on assessing effluent discharge improvements, and the sharing of consistent data to avoid duplication and confusion in the supply chain.

Training programmes are expected to be provided to support implementation and dissemination of the guidance across all focus areas.

“The updated Joint Roadmap is a clear and strategic effort to tightly focus programme efforts and resources,” said Frank Michel, ZDHC executive director. “Transitioning from seven workstreams into four focus areas will support all elements of the supply chain in adopting improved chemical management practices.”

Over the past year, the group has released the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List and Audit Protocols, and established a standalone ZDHC legal entity based in Amsterdam.

“This Joint Roadmap update builds on ZDHC successes to date and defines the path forward for the next five years,” Michel added.