What are fashion brands doing to eliminate toxic chemicals from their supply chain?

November 2, 2016


By Jose R. Suarez, Founder and CEO, Impactiva


This is from Sourcing Journal July 5th: “Our assessment shows that the textile industry as a whole is not doing enough to go toxic-free. Sixteen out of the 19 brands assessed are stumbling over transparency issues or failing to eliminate toxic chemicals; with only three years left they must speed up now if they’re to meet their 2020 deadlines,” Greenpeace Germany’s head of the Detox My Fashion campaign, Kirsten Brodde, said.

Three years is still enough to put Restricted Substances under control, specialists ratify. But the brands need to put this project in motion right away. Companies taking a passive approach are prone to serious liabilities, from regulatory penalties and recalls to a damaged reputation and loss of market share.


Inspection and testing alone will not ensure restricted substances compliance. There are too many regulations, requirements change rapidly and differ by country. Further, testing sizes are too small, as there are components, works-in-process and final products to test.


The Best Approach: Implement a Quality Management System (QMS)
To prevent hazardous substances from entering the product, the best approach is to establish a QMS that takes all variables into account. The first step is to assess industrial partners in order to determine the current state. Then set the goals and design a plan to implement a Quality Management System to progressively reduce the contaminated product until its complete elimination. Products must be analyzed to identify high-risk areas. Inspection and testing methods must be customized according to each particular situation (product, manufacturing roadmap, final destination of the products, etc). Last, but not least, a monitoring system must be created in order to sustain the achievements.

This is a process that requires full support from the management, and a firm commitment to create a culture of accountability, internal data transparency and discipline. It is essential that all the stakeholders understand that in order for the change to be sustainable in time, the new processes in place must be relentlessly followed and challenged from time to time with a continuous improvement mentality. Every time a new style is produced, the same protocols must be followed. New materials are constantly arriving at the factories, new product is being made every day, and therefore controls can never relax.

To establish a rigorous Quality Management System for Restricted Substances is a significant step toward supply chain transparency and environmental responsibility, and it will guarantee compliance.