Chemicals are essential to our everyday lives as well as the processes used to make clothes, such as washing, dyeing and printing. Good chemical management is crucial to ensure safe use and reuse of materials.
H&M Group is working to ensure that all our products are safe to produce and wear. This includes eliminating any hazardous discharge into water, soil and air. Our vision is to lead the change towards safe products and toxic-free fashion, guided by our Chemical Roadmap.
This is how H&M Group will continue to lead the way towards our overarching goal: toxic-free fashion by 2030.
- Traceability – of the input of chemicals used in H&M Group production for commercial goods by 2030.
- Policy engagement – push legislation and support public policies promoting progressive chemical management.
- Transparency – share information about chemicals with customers, including full public disclosure of wastewater discharge test data.
- Best available chemistries – promote innovation and the development of better chemicals and technologies throughout the supply chain.
- Zero discharge – no discharge of prioritised hazardous chemicals in the supply chain.
- 100% circular – reach our goal to use 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 in terms of chemicals (materials and processes).
- Collaboration – clean factories that use common tools such as the Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL).
Leading the Change
H&M Group’s chemical requirements for suppliers usually exceed existing regulations and we promote progressive chemical management. Hazardous chemicals shouldn’t be used in production or found in any of our products. H&M Group was one of the first in the industry to establish a Chemical Restrictions List in 1995, which has been constantly updated. Our suppliers are contractually bound to comply with the list.
H&M Group is a member of a brand-driven collaboration to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in the apparel and footwear supply chain called the Apparel and Footwear RSL Management (AFIRM). We are also signatory members of Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC). Our chemical restrictions for textiles are aligned with both the AFIRM Restricted Substances List and the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substance List. In addition, there are some substances that H&M Group has strategically phased out or will phase out. This is based on precaution or legal standards in the markets we operate. To ensure compliance with our restricted list we perform regular tests on our products, mainly performed by third-party laboratories.
H&M Group has adopted Screened Chemistry, a method to assure that we choose the best in class chemicals. The method is hazard-based and involves a third-party assessment that addresses environmental and human health hazards. It enables us to avoid hazardous substances in production. We define hazardous as persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic to reproduction or endocrine disruption.
When choosing chemicals, we encourage our suppliers to use the ZDHC Gateway Chemical Module. This is a web-based industry-wide platform providing information on MRSL compliant chemicals. In 2021, 81% of the chemicals used within our textile and leather supply chains were assured to meet ZDHC requirements via the ZDHC Gateway.
In 2011, H&M Group and many other brands signed a commitment to phase out hazardous chemicals in the textile and leather supply chains by 2020. We collaborated to form the ZDHC and its programme to secure good chemical management.
We have widely implemented this programme and were awarded ‘aspirational level’ in the annual assessment of the Brands to Zero leader programme. Out of the 30 ZDHC Contributor Brands, five achieved this level. In 2021, 95% of our textile and leather supply chain was enrolled in the ZDHC programmes, equalling 609 suppliers.
Our Sustainability Commitment, which all suppliers must sign, includes a set of requirements concerning the safety of chemical handling and storage, as well as environmental requirements such as the treatment of wastewater and the handling of hazardous waste.
How we control ZDHC MRSL compliance
The ZDHC programme enables us to measure how we are performing on our journey towards toxic-free fashion. We have now achieved 95% ZDHC compliance of input chemical and we will continue our work to reach 100%.
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- Transparent & compliant
Our supply chain’ wastewater is getting cleaner. In 2021 we reached 99.9% ZDHC MRSL compliance. At H&M Group we have root cause analysis routines in place to handle each failure to help us and our suppliers reach 100%. By sharing our results, we encourage transparency. All wastewater results are also published on the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) platform as well as in ZDHC’s platform, DetoxLive.
- % of suppliers that are ZDHC MRSL compliant
Recycled materials and chemicals
Recycled materials are a key element in the circular economy. But increasing their use while staying toxic-free presents a challenge. To tackle this we initiated a collaborative study on recycled materials with IKEA to support better knowledge and understanding of the potential risk of hazardous chemicals present in recycled textiles.