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The ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme is focussed on responsible manufacturing through the use of safer and sustainable chemicals -Prasad Pant, Director- South Asia at ZDHC Foundation

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Prasad Pant, Director- South Asia at ZDHC Foundation

The ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme outlines activities into the future. It provides a clear path to the safer outputs we all want to see. Key stakeholders helped to create this roadmap, so we know we are on the right track. ZDHC mission is to enable brands and retailers in the textile, apparel, and footwear industries to implement sustainable chemical management best practice across the value chain. Through collaborative engagement, standard setting, and implementation, we will advance towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals. Mr. Prasad Pant is the Director- South Asia at ZDHC Foundation – Roadmap to Zero Programme. As South Asia Director, Prasad is responsible for the representation, promotion and implementation of the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme in India (primarily) and also Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Mr. Prasad focuses on stakeholder engagement to increase awareness on ZDHC approaches, workshops and roadshows on the ZDHC tools and standards as well as tailored implementation support. Special focus is on the large chemical industry in India as well as textile dyeing & finishing mills, garment laundries, tanneries and industry associations to accelerate their commitment and participation in the ZDHC Programme. Prasad has a degree in Textile Chemistry and 28 years of experience in textile processing, dyes & auxiliaries manufacturing & marketing and chemical management systems implementation. Recently Textile Focus technical team had a conversation with Mr. Prasad regarding ZDHC recent activities during this pandemic. Key points of the discussion are mentions below for our readers.

Textile Focus: What are the recent activities at ZDHC ?

Prasad Pant: The years 2020 and 2021 have been challenging to us, just like to all other organisations, due to the impact of the Covid pandemic. Severe restrictions and lockdowns affected the activities of textile and leather industry around the globe. But surprisingly, the adoption of ZDHC deliverables by facilities has not slowed down, nor have the internal activities at ZDHC!

In April 2020, we launched the MMCF (Man Made Cellulosic Fibres) Guidelines, that included the Responsible Fibres Production, Interim Wastewater Guidelines and Interim Air Emissions Guidelines. In May 2020, we published the ZDHC CMS Framework document that aimed to standardise the minimum requirements for a chemical management system at a manufacturing facility and align the expectations of Brands from their suppliers for chemical management.

In June 2020, we launched our pilot Supplier to Zero Platform- Foundational level, which is the Leader Programme for manufacturing facilities. The Supplier to Zero is a self- evaluation and improvement platform for facilities for their chemical management systems. The Progressive Level of the Supplier to Zero will be launched in August 2021.

In Dec 2020, we published the Performance InCheck Report guidelines document to bring clarity on different aspects of the Performance InCheck that is used by Suppliers to evaluate input chemicals for ZDHC MRSL conformance through the ZDHC Gateway database.

For 2021, the priority was implementation of the ZDHC MRSL V2,0, with a target deadline of 1st April 2021 for adoption by chemical companies and October 2021 by manufacturing facilities. Many chemical companies have upgraded their products in the ZDHC Gateway to the ZDHC MRSL v 2.0.

In Jan 2021, the new Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP) for testing laboratories was published and the Electronic Data Reporting (EDR) of wastewater test results  by laboratories into the ZDHC Gateway was established. The MRSL Wastewater Council was also formed from our Contributor base and this Council will now develop the updates to the Wastewater & Sludge Guidelines V 2.0 that is expected to be published in Nov 2021.

In the same month, we published the Leather Wastewater Guidelines Addendum that will help leather tanneries to test their wastewater discharge to a standard that aligns with the leather processes. Additionally, a Position Paper on Air Emissions was published that will help the industry to prepare for a ZDHC guideline on air emissions in the near future.

In Feb 2021, we published the Wastewater Treatment Operators Minimum Qualifications guidelines that will help the textile and leather industry to qualify their Effluent Treatment Plant operators.

In May 2021, we published the new MRSL Update Principles & Procedures as a guidance document for the forthcoming ZDHC MRSL V 3,0 that will be published in 2022. In the same month, we published a very important guidance document, the ZDHC CMS Technical Industry Guide (TIG) that will serve as an industry standard for implementation of a chemical management system in textile and leather factories. The CMS TIG also contains the ZDHC CIL (Chemical Inventory List) template that aims to harmonise the brand requirements from their suppliers on how to maintain a chemical inventory.

Our ZDHC Academy has also been active in refining the current modules on chemical management and also launched the training on the ZDHC CMS TIG in May 2021 through our Accredited Training Providers. Online modules on ETP Operators training were launched last month, which will help the industry to have qualified ETP Operators.

We also conducted a global virtual event called “Impact Day” when we released the ZDHC Impact Report for 2020 and also launched our vision of embedding the ZDHC Programme in 4 “buzzwords” of sustainability: climate change, water stewardship, biodiversity and circularity. Various other virtual events were conducted in the 3 Regions through our Virtual Environment that has been built by ZDHC in collaboration with a software company in Europe.

The ZDHC Team is also growing rapidly and we have several new employees on board at the Amsterdam office as well as in the regional offices. In South Asia office, Saket Kulkarni has joined as Implementation Manager and Vidhesh Kadam joined as Textile Material Specialist.

Textile Focus: In this pandemic situation how is ZDHC supporting the industry for maintaining sustainability ? 

Prasad Pant: The ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme is focused on responsible manufacturing through the use of safer and sustainable chemicals that do not impact human health and the environment. The Covid pandemic has in fact highlighted the need to ensure this! However, there is no doubt that the pandemic has also impacted economic activity and the endangered the survival of factories. ZDHC empathises with the dire situation that the pandemic created that has resulted in less orders, lay-offs, unpredictable production schedules, carry over stocks and loss of profits.

In 2020, we waived off the second cycle of wastewater testing by facilities to help them save costs. We launched the Supplier to Zero platform as a free entry for Suppliers. The MRSL implementation deadline of Dec 2020 was extended to April 2021. We also used the digital technology to avoid travel and social distancing by allowing virtual audits for ZDHC MRSL Level 3 conformance by certifiers and online training through webinars by our ATPs. The certificate fees for training modules was also cut by half. The Contributorship model for brands also underwent a change in 2021. The Performance InCheck Report fee was also reduced by routing the same through third- party solution providers. We also conducted virtual events for our stakeholders to reduce travel.

Textile Focus: How do you see the Bangladesh Textile industry for ZDHC’s activities ?

Prasad Pant: Bangladesh’s industry is dominated by textile and apparel manufacturing and hence it is our focus country for acceleration of the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme. The suppliers from Bangladesh have been very receptive about all the ZDHC deliverables and adopt and implement them. The number of  Supplier facilities who are registered on the ZDHC Gateway has grown from 376 in 2019 to 511 suppliers today. Almost 82% of these have generated the ClearStream Report based on wastewater testing to the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines. Although the chemical industry in not huge in Bangladesh, here also we see a steady rise of formulators engaging in the ZDHC Gateway. From 14 formulators in 2019, we now have 27 local formulators, who have published products in the Gateway database.

In Feb 2020, we had conducted our Regional Conference in Radisson Blu at Dhaka, which was a huge success and attended by more than 500 delegates.

We already have 118 textile facilities from Bangladesh that have participated in our Supplier to Zero -Foundational Level. There are two organisations – Envoy Textiles and Denim Experts – who are ZDHC Contributors in the Textile Value Chain segment. We also engage regularly with the Bangladesh regional brand representatives to chalk out activities in their supply chain for ZDHC. We had successfully implemented a ZDHC project at Hams Garments in Dhaka in collaboration with Next Retail in Jan 2020. The ZDHC South Asia office continuously engages with all key stakeholders in Bangladesh and offers support to textile facilities for implementing ZDHC deliverables.

Textile Focus: According to textile mills, chemical price is increasing but product price decrease, how ZDHC support to industry in this regard ?

Prasad Pant: ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme is all about safer chemistry and we do not comment on chemical pricing or product margins. People always talk about the cost of conformance, but as a counter I always ask “what is the cost of non-conformance”? The Covid pandemic showed that if we are not controlling the impact of our activities on human health and the environment, we can have unforeseen and disastrous consequences! Today there are more than 400 substances that can be used in textile and leather formulations, which are known to cause severe harm to human health and environment. Should we continue to use them and mortage our planet and our future generations just because they are cheap?

I also feel that it is a myth that sustainable chemistry results in higher costs. Through my years of experience in the textile and chemical industry, I can confidently say that investing in sustainable chemistry in fact results in lowering of costs in the long run. If one buys standardised colorants and chemicals, there is less re-work and rejections. Chemicals that seemingly appear costlier at the receipe stage can give savings through right first time dyeing as well as resource efficiency in terms of water, energy and productivity. One must look at ‘total cost’ rather than the optical price of a chemical and never compromise on product, worker and environmental safety! Because manufacturing responsibly is not only our duty, it is the very need of the hour.

Textile Focus: What are the future plans of ZDHC ?

Prasad Pant: As we have said in our Impact Report for 2020, there is still a lot of do! While the immediate actions are for working on the updates to the ZDHC MRSL and Wastewater Guidelines, one key focus area is the Supplier to Zero Programme. We want manufacturing facilities to do the Foundational level and be ready for the Progressive Level that we will launch by the end of this year. The InCheck Report Solutions will be expanded to have two more types: Performance InCheck Verification and Baseline InCheck Report. We are working on Sludge and Air Emissions guidelines for implementation by supplier facilities in 2022.

A Leader Programme for chemical formulators called ‘Formulators to Zero’ is being developed, which will include a Sustainable Chemicals Framework. This framework will not only include ZDHC MRSL conformance, but also include criteria on product in use and other sustainability parameters such as resource efficiency. It will help to differentiate chemical formulators as Foundational, Progressive and Aspirational levels.

ZDHC also believes in collaboration and has announced an alliance of resources with other organisations such as SAC, Apparel Impact Institute and Textile

Exchange to accelerate impact and drive new efficiencies for the textile and leather industry. Based on their core competencies, these organisations will seek to connect complementary frameworks (like the Higg FEM and ZDHC’s Supplier to Zero Programme, and the Higg Brand and Retailer Module and TE’s Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark), coordinate subject matter governance in the relevant content areas, and engage the industry together much more efficiently. We are also working on a Vision 2030, where our future activities will connect chemical management to impact areas such as Climate Change, Water Stewardship, Biodiversity and Circularity.

ZDHC is planning to engage deeper into the Fibres segment and develop the MMCF guidelines for the Viscose industry even further, while also looking at other fibres. ZDHC recently joined The Microfibre Consortium as a Research Member and will work together with them to address the engagement needs of the industry to gain an understanding of microfibres released in wastewater from production facilities and textile finishing facilities. So, you can see, ZDHC has a lot of plans lined up for the future and we are going full steam ahead with our roadmap to zero!