Chemicals are essential to our everyday lives and are used in the manufacturing of clothes, such as washing, dyeing and printing. Good chemical management is crucial to ensure safe use and reuse of materials.

At H&M Group, our vision is to lead the change towards safe products and a safe value chain, guided by our Chemical Roadmap. This includes eliminating any hazardous discharge into water, soil and air.

Chemical roadmap

We will continue to lead the way towards safe chemicals in products and production by:

  • 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

Our 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. We were 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.

In addition, we are 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. On top of this, we have strategically phased out or will phase out some substances such as PFAs and DMF. This is based on precautions or legal standards in the markets we operate. To make sure our products don’t contain chemicals on our restricted list, we perform regular tests, which are mainly carried out by third-party laboratories.

Safe products and a safe value chain

At H&M Group, we have adopted Screened Chemistry to ensure that we choose the best-in-class chemicals. The method is hazard-based and involves a third-party assessment that addresses both 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. We also joined Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3) in 2022 to strengthen our cross-industry collaboration on innovative chemicals and promoting safe chemicals through hazard assessment.

When choosing chemicals, we encourage our suppliers to use the ZDHC Gateway Chemical Module. This is an industry-wide platform that provides information on MRSL compliant chemicals. In 2022, 88% 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 helped establish its programme to secure good chemical management.

We have widely implemented this programme and were regarded as “Aspirational” in the annual assessment of the Brands to Zero leader programme for the second consecutive year in 2022. Out of the 30 ZDHC Contributor Brands, eight achieved this level.

In 2022, 99% of our textile and leather supply chain was enrolled in ZDHC programmes, equaling 619 suppliers. For more detailed information on our 2022 activities on chemicals throughout our value chain, please see our Towards Toxic Free Fashion report.

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 97% ZDHC compliance of input chemical and we will continue our work to reach 100%. 

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Wastewater compliance

In 2023, we reached 99.5% ZDHC MRSL compliance. Please see a more detailed analysis of the wastewater from our supply chain here. At H&M Group, we have root cause analysis routines in place to handle each failure to help us and our suppliers reach 100%. All wastewater results are 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 keeping hazardous chemicals out of products and production presents a challenge. To tackle this, we initiated collaborative study on recycled materials with IKEA to support better knowledge and understanding of the potential risk of hazardous chemicals present in recycled textiles. We are also deepening our understanding of recycled materials by considering the differences of various production countries and recycling methods such as mechanical and chemical recycling.

Please note, we are moving away from the term toxic-free fashion to focus only on safe chemicals and products because our vision is to go beyond restricting hazardous chemicals, and instead working towards securing that all chemicals in our value chain and in our products are safe.

We publish our Sustainability Disclosure annually. In this document, we set out our goals and the progress we’ve made in the previous year. Find the latest version here. More up to date information can be included on this page.