Zero discharge programme in textile industry moving to version 2

Zero discharge programme in textile industry moving to version 2

The roadmap to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals (ZDHC) programme, which was inspired by the Greenpeace detox campaign, a project initiated by Greenpeace in 2011, is aimed at setting a new standard in environmental performance for the global apparel and footwear industry.

Members of the programme include famous apparel and fashion companies[i], namely adidas, C&A, H&M, Li Ning, Nike, Puma, founding members in November 2011, later joined by Esprit, Levi Strauss, G-Star, Jack Wolfskin, Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Coop, Valentino, Limited Brands (Victoria´s Secret and La Senza), Benetton and Uniqlo.

The ZDHC project team has now completed a draft joint roadmap, Version 2, which describes the group´s  approach to the ZDHC programme over the coming years. At present, the project team is collecting feedback from stakeholders.

The new roadmap (version 2)[ii,iii] suggests six individual work streams:

  1. environmental management system (EMS)
  2. risk evaluation, based on a chemical inventory – prioritization (chemical list), including hazardous chemicals beyond the 9+2 chemicals of the benchmark studies
  3. training – joint training and knowledge transfer programme
  4. disclosure – encourage suppliers to disclose environmental information, including water quality
  5. auditing, aligning of audit protocols
  6. stakeholder engagement and partnering, active communication with stakeholders
Greenpeace zero discharge campaign
Greenpeace zero discharge campaign

In many aspects, we think the work streams are plausible. We appreciate the more conceptual approach, although it took a long time to reach this stage, the timelines could have been made more ambitious, and not all the critical issues have been addressed yet.

Moreover, it is suggested to go beyond the original aim of eliminating the discharge of potentially hazardous chemicals, looking instead more generally at improving the overall environmental performance impacted by textile and apparel production.

The ZDHC project team also intends to move the conversation away from ‘zero discharge’, possibly re-branding the group, to reflect a more holistic approach , to effect ‘systemic transformation of our industry’ by 2020.

The ZDHC group, in their latest annual report[iv], concluded “2013 holds enormous promise. Good progress has been achieved thus far……a new version of the joint roadmap.. …incorporates conclusions and lessons learned from 2012 and outlines approaches to the next years of the ZDHC programme”.

However, Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, has already criticized some proposed changes to the roadmap, as outlined in the latest draft of the roadmap [v,vi]. Greenpeace complained that the group of leading apparel brands involved in the initiative are using “delaying tactics” and engineering a “greenwash” in an attempt to avoid taking decisive action on the issue.

We are not totally surprised by this judgment. The Greenpeace feedback is in line with some of our earlier observations[vii,viii]. Going into the third year of the ZDHC programme, we are surprised how much effort at this stage has been put into designing a rather bureaucratic management system, whereas specific progress on the key issues is not yet transparent. A benchmarking project on chemicals identified as particularly critical has been carried out in 2012 out at processing houses in Bangladesh, India, China, Taiwan and Vietnam. The report of the benchmarking project is announced for spring 2013.

Further, the group intends to expand to 30 signatory brand members by 2014. With so many world famous brands on board, pressure is increasing for the remaining brands. Nobody can afford not to participate. This is good. However, it remains to be seen how serious the implementation will be.

Christian Schumacher

Dr. Christian Schumacher is the founder and managing director of StepChange Innovations GmbH, a technology development and consulting firm based in Germany. He has more than 20 years of experience in the chemical industry with global players such as Hoechst AG and DyStar Textilfarben GmbH as head of R&D, senior regional business manager Asia Pacific, head of e-commerce, head of marketing services, new product development manager and R&D chemist.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Gwen Hedger

    Physically, clothing serves many purposes: it can serve as protection from the elements, and can enhance safety during hazardous activities such as hiking and cooking. It protects the wearer from rough surfaces, rash-causing plants, insect bites, splinters, thorns and prickles by providing a barrier between the skin and the environment. Clothes can insulate against cold or hot conditions. Further, they can provide a hygienic barrier, keeping infectious and toxic materials away from the body. Clothing also provides protection from harmful UV radiation.`

    My personal online site

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