The manufacture of fabrics requires the use of chemicals, especially to dye and print threads and fabrics. Certain chemicals can be harmful to people that come into contact with them or for the environment, such as through emissions in production or from the consumer’s washing.
Our target is that no so-called Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) will be prevalent in our end products. Another target we have set is that by 2019, at least 40% of products developed will be produced using better production processes for water or chemicals. A specific target for 2017, as a first step in moving towards the long-term target, is to start mapping current dyeing and printing methods in our supply chain, to be equipped to set an improvement plan on more sustainable options.
What we are doing to achieve our target
We have a thorough Chemical Management Program to ensure that our products do not contain harmful substances. We apply a Restricted Substances List (so called RSL) that all suppliers must sign off and adhere to. The list sets the maximum content levels for certain chemicals in products. The list we apply is based on the Swedish Textile Importers Association’s chemical guide and ultimately on the REACH regulation adopted within the EU. Our requirements are stricter than the REACH regulation, including a full ban on Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs), which are considered as grey zone chemicals that could potentially be harmful, but are not yet proven to be so. Examples of chemicals we place extra attention on are phthalates, fluorocarbons and alkylphenol ethoxylates (including nonylphenol ethoxylate),
Compliance to our Chemical Management Program is verified through testing at least once per collection and supplier. The chemical testing is conducted by experienced external partners.
We also require our third party factories to maintain safety routines with respect to protective clothing and the storage and use of chemicals in production facilities. Through regular visits we can also conduct our own audits, and workplace safety, including chemicals management, is also addressed in our code of conduct on working conditions in factories and in audits under that code.
Björn Borg is member of the Swerea IVF Chemical Group for Textile companies, along with a number of other Swedish clothing companies. Our product development and sourcing teams sometimes participate in training in the chemical area, to maintain an updated knowledge and understanding about chemicals used in textile processing and new research on what chemicals can be harmful to people and the environment.
Our licensees in footwear and bags also work actively with chemical management in a similar way as we do. In 2016 we participated in a STWI project at a subcontractor of one of our Chinese factories, addressing chemical efficiency specifically. Because of the project, this particular production unit was able to accomplish a 10,5 percent saving of chemicals in its operations. At the end of the project, our production partner was even awarded STWI’s Best Chemical Reduction Award. This project is an example on how we can work hands-on with our production partners, helping them identify ways to improve operations by cutting down on and optimizing chemical use. Learnings, and best practices, from this project can be passed on to other production partners. Because chemicals are also expensive, chemical reductions help our production partners cut costs, which is also a good argument to persuade production partners to join these initiatives.
In 2017 we will increasingly focus on process chemicals, to get a more in-depth understanding about what processes are used in our supply chain for pre-treatment, dyeing and printing of textiles. Based on such insights, we will set an Action Plan on improvements, to reach our long-term target of having 40 percent of the range carry more sustainable processes for chemicals or water use.
A focus for 2017 is also to keep building the capacity of our team, mainly in the product development and sourcing department, to have sufficient knowledge and understanding about process chemicals and the implications of different options available.