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ZDHC: An Overview and its Implementation in Bangladesh Textile Industry

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SK Mohammad Raafi

Introduction

Modern consumers are extra-careful about the environmental impact of their buying practices and are shifting their choice towards eco-friendly and sustainable fashion. Therefore, global apparel and footwear brands are more conscious about their purchasing and manufacturing decisions. The most fundamental and holistic strategy behind this establishment of sustainable supply chains and products is nothing but the ‘ZDHC’ (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) which was emerged as a sequel of ‘Detox’ campaign to keep up the momentum and accelerate the implementation of its sustainable chemical management framework through collaborative engagement, standard setting, and implementation of innovative projects.

Background

In the ‘Detox’ campaign, raised in July 2011 by an NGO named Greenpeace, some well-known brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma and H&M were criticized to force their suppliers to exclude hazardous chemicals like carcinogenic azo dyes, alkylphenols or chlorinated solvents etc. In order to protect the brand image, Nike, Puma, H&M and C&A showed loyalty, followed by many others including Marks & Spencer, Zara and Adidas. Six signatory brands then committed to a joint roadmap that would transform their value chains and launched ZDHC in November 2011.‘ZDHC Foundation’ appeared in 2015 as a legal entity in the Netherlands with updated Roadmap strategy.

ZDHC Input Management

More than 25% of globally produced chemicals are used somehow at any stage of textile production. Countless of these chemicals have harmful impact on human health and the environment. But manufacturers are still unaware of this serious issue due to lack of knowledge, lack of regulation and enforcement. ZDHC has come forward to mitigate this issue for the sake of whole supply chain let alone for formulators.

Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL)

Before the formation of ZDHC, brands usually managed product safety through Restricted Substance List (RSL), which only addressed chemicals that may be present on finished products. But ZDHC introduced Manufacturing Restricted Substances List, to identify harmful substances (including cleaners, adhesives, paints, inks, detergents, dyes, colorants, auxiliaries, coatings and finishing agents and many more) that should be prevented before entering processing of textile materials, leather, rubber, foam, adhesives and trim parts in textiles, apparel and footwear. It has established acceptable concentration limits for substances in chemical formulations used within manufacturing facilities. Thus, clean & sound finished products along with balanced environment have been ensured.

Since its launching in 2014, this guideline is regularly updated with new chemicals and processes that should be phased out of the supply chain. Also, people can suggest new substances or a processs that should be added to the MRSL, quickly and easily through ‘Submission Portal’ channel.

To achieve the trust of its clients, a chemical formulator has to measure and prove the conformance of its products to MRSL. A chemical product can earn four different conformance levels. The higher the level, the more clear will be its manufacturing history.

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Some of the currently accepted certification standards in Bangladesh and the level of ZDHC MRSL conformance they can indicate are- TÜV SÜD, MTS, Intertek, Bureau Veritas as Level 1 indicator; TÜV Rheinland (V1.1), Hohenstein Global under OEKO-TEX as Level 1, 2 and 3 indicator and Bluesign® Bluefinder as Level 3 indicator. Besides, SGS Bangladesh is one of the ZDHC accepted provisional labs, capable of testing MRSL. Products certified by such standards are directly verified and officially ranked within the ZDHC Gateway – Chemical Module.

 Chemical Module

The ZDHC Gateway- Chemical Module is like an online search engine that helps with registering and finding secured, pure chemicals that conform to the ZDHC MRSL. It engages brands, suppliers and chemical companies to exchange and communicate their requirements for safer chemistry.

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Brands use this database to get visibility, to report to multiple stakeholders, to educate their suppliers on more sustainable procurement options and strengthen relationships along the supply chain on single online store.

ZDHC Process Management

Safer inputs can be utilized to deliver cleaner outputs when good procedures and best practice are in place.

Fiber Manufacturing Process

Exploration of fibers production processes (especially Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers) and their raw materials is a rational initial step for ZDHC to look down into processes since viscose, modal, lyocell are produced from natural feedstock like wood or plants, using hazardous chemicals and the by-products also pollute the environment.

In a roundtable, hosted by ZDHC in March 2018, representatives of about 80% of the global MMCF production chain realized the necessity of developing a framework of guidelines for wastewater, sludge, waste and air emissions specific to MMCF production and expectations for process by-product recovery rates and by 2019 they drafted significant guidelines.

Chemical Management System (CMS)

CMS is an effective outline for improving overall chemical and environmental performance of a facility. It helps facilities to ensure that RSL compliant materials are being produced. Minimization of excessive or duplicative chemical purchase is a key benefit of CMS.

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A systematic CMS promotes responsible usage, pollution prevention, traceability and chemical handling, assists purchasing decisions and helps to control future disposal costs. Thus a resource efficient company can dominate in the global market.

ZDHC Output Management

Depending on the measurement of wastewater, sludge, air quality generated from chemical inputs and processes, the degree of safety of output water and air is determined.

Wastewater Guidelines

Wastewater Guidelines standardize wastewater testing requirements and define discharge and sludge quality in the global supply chain to reduce threat to the environment. This strategy offers a harmonized set of wastewater and sludge parameters, limit values and test methods. They help brands and suppliers work to the same set of expectations. Sampling and Analysis Plan provides a detailed framework to ZDHC Accepted Laboratories with a set of requirements as they sample and test to determine the concentration of parameters in wastewater and sludge.

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Wastewater Treatment Technologies

To trim down the knowledge gap among decision-makers and managers at wet processing facilities, this purely informational document provides a technical overview of wastewater treatment processes. Since treatment technologies are complex and may differ from plant-to-plant, so tailor-made guidance and resources like regional training programs are necessary. 

Electronic Data Reporting System (EDR)

The EDR is a resource effective way of commanding ZDHC Accepted Laboratories the standardized way in which data should be submitted to the Gateway platform. Already there are more than 87 laboratories in 23 locations. Backed by a data validation mechanism, this system increases the consistency and comparability of test data uploaded onto the Gateway.

Wastewater Module

Brands need visibility on environmental impacts across their entire value chain towards providing safer products. Suppliers/ manufacturing facilities always face burden of answering requests for test results to different brands. The Gateway Wastewater Module is a global web-based platform for sharing verified data on wastewater and sludge testing. Suppliers are assessed against uniform standards like the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines. To make the buyers confident about the validity of wastewater data presented by suppliers, this server is co-operating the both the retailers and suppliers a lot.

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Laboratories are helped also by having an efficient place to rapidly manage and publish test results with enhance customer interactions via this online tool.

ZDHC ClearStream®

ClearStream is the globally-accepted wastewater quality report, tested by ZDHC accredited laboratories in the context of the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines, which gives suppliers an easy way to understand and communicate their laboratory’s wastewater test results. Besides acquiring motivated leadership in environmental protection, suppliers can also demonstrate their wastewater performance to their serving brands. This report is digitally signed by ZDHC, proving authenticity and transparency with reliable, verified wastewater data and is accessible directly by the brands on the ZDHC Gateway.

Public Disclosure Portal

This portal provides a global depiction of performance with regard to the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines. A map highlights where manufacturing facilities meet the requirements of the Wastewater Guidelines. Where requirements are not met, it shows if corrective action has been put in place. There are two types of data (verified and unverified) within it.

Verified data are directly uploaded by ZDHC Accepted Laboratories under the ZDHC wastewater and sludge testing program; unverified data are provided by third parties where ZDHC has not necessarily reviewed their testing capability or quality assurance program.

Comprehensive Capital Creation
ZDHC Academy

In order to build knowledge, boost up skills and create awareness on the implementation of sustainable chemical management & ZDHC tools across the textile-apparel-footwear-leather industry, this global training platform (first launched in 2016) is offering four fundamental courses titled- Chemical Management, Chemical Management for Leather Tanneries, Top 10 Issues of Chemical Management, Wastewater Management. According to the demand of target participants, tailor made training sessions are available in local languages in all of the world’s key sourcing and retail regions.

ZDHC Implementation HUB

To accelerate large-scale uptake of chemical and environmental management best practices across the value chain, the ZDHC Implementation HUB has arrived with holistic and tailored offerings for the concerned in the areas of baselining, strategic planning and implementation. It is aimed to foster piloting environment for scalable innovation scenarios. Maintaining the highest level of competency and quality, these services are conducted by ZDHC-accredited experts. The implementation specific services will be deeply anchored in the respective country context to assure the strongest impact in supply chains.

Success & New Focus Set

ZDHC’s chemicals strategy, known popularly as ‘roadmap’ was targeted to achieve within this year (2020). Now, this program is an alliance of 30 signatory brands, 101 value chain affiliates and 19 associates- all organizations that are active in the textile, apparel, leather and footwear industry. However, ZDHC has already broaden its focus areas for the next 10 years to drive even better chemical management, more deeply into the supply chain.

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Bangladeshi Contributors

The present scenario of our industries to fully compliance to ZDHC roadmap is quite heartbreaking. Only three (3) factories have been recognized by ZDHC till this time. ACS Textiles and Towels Bangladesh Ltd is a composite manufacturing facility in Borpa under British investment. It is the first industry in Bangladesh to abide by ZDHC standards, tools, guidance and training. Denim Expert Limited (DEL) has set a benchmark in Bangladeshi denim manufacturing & washing sector for high quality, precious denim products and achieved 2nd position by ZDHC. Envoy Textiles Limited (ETL) is a renowned and leading denim factory of our country. This 1st LEED Platinum Certified denim factory in the world is third from Bangladesh to ZDHC contribution.

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Bangladeshi Contributors

The present scenario of our industries to fully compliance to ZDHC roadmap is quite heartbreaking. Only three (3) factories have been recognized by ZDHC till this time. ACS Textiles and Towels Bangladesh Ltd is a composite manufacturing facility in Borpa under British investment. It is the first industry in Bangladesh to abide by ZDHC standards, tools, guidance and training. Denim Expert Limited (DEL) has set a benchmark in Bangladeshi denim manufacturing & washing sector for high quality, precious denim products and achieved 2nd position by ZDHC. Envoy Textiles Limited (ETL) is a renowned and leading denim factory of our country. This 1st LEED Platinum Certified denim factory in the world is third from Bangladesh to ZDHC contribution.      .

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Opportunities

The pushing pressure for green textiles from consumers to brands to suppliers to chemical formulators has not only resulted in cost increases but has created golden opportunities for innovative companies to enlarge their market share and to pick up their profitability.

Bangladesh textile industry always remains under high pressure from giant retailers and renowned brands to strictly meet their products’ quality with low processing and transport times. The buyers increasingly impose strong demands on the use of safer chemicals during the entire production process. Companies that will not realize conformity with ZDHC will lose their clients. Adopting ZDHC is going to be the minimum standard for market access tomorrow.

References

  1. roadmaptozero.com
  2. textiletoday.com.bd
  3. denimexpert.com
  4. dhakatribune.com
  5. theapparelnews.com
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