In December 2012, Esprit signed a commitment with the Greenpeace Detox Campaign to eliminate eleven classes of chemicals from the textile supply chain.
To help realize this commitment, we became an active member of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Group (ZDHC), working alongside other brands to develop the tools and protocols to empower the entire supply chain to achieve the long-term aim of the ZDHC Group’s ‘Roadmap to Zero’: Zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020. In January 2017 and September 2017 we published reviews of our Detox Commitment, which gives an overview of what has already been achieved and outlines our targets for the future.
To fulfil our Detox Commitment, the first thing Esprit had to do was to map out our Tier 2 and we process supply chain. We do not place orders directly with these factories, and in the past we were not aware of the Tier 2 supply chain. That needed to change. In July 2016 we mapped for the first time the actual supply chain and established a process to update the mapping in an ongoing way, we are committed to publishing a new version on our website every six months. Find our most updated supplier list here.
We then began a series of one day audits at these wet-processes facilities, where the finishing processes of our products take place. These finishing processes have the biggest environmental impact during the production. In our capacity assessment we cover Environmental Sustainability Management, Chemical Management and Process Quality Control. In FY 16/17 our Fabric Management team audited 154 factories and work continuously with the factories on improvements. Learn more about our capacity assessments and the findings within the last two years in our case study.
What we discovered in the audits so far, was that while some factories manage chemicals and waste water in a way that allows them to fully support Esprit’s Detox Commitment, many factories had gaps in their systems. In a next step our team starts follow-up audits to check if corrective actions have taken place in the factories.
The first step to fulfill the Detox Commitment is the adoption of a Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) which each supplier has been required to follow since 2013. At that time, we merged the MRSL together with our existing Restricted Substances List (RSL). The RSL defines the international requirements as well as our own standards beyond legal requirements that finished products and packaging must meet with regard to chemicals. Whereas the RSL focuses on the amount of restricted chemicals in the final Esprit product, the MRSL focuses on hazardous chemicals that have to be phased out from chemical formulations used during the manufacture of Esprit products. In July 2018, we adopted the AFIRM Packaging Restriced Substances List.
For an ongoing update of our RSL & MRSL beyond the ZDHC scope, we developed a methodology to evaluate chemicals that are used for the fabrication of our products. Our RSL & MRSL Supplier Guideline supports our suppliers in understanding and implementing the requirements.
Another important step happened in December 2014: Since then, we have eliminated poly- and perfluorinated carbons (PFCs) in the manufacturing process of our water-repellent products. PFCs are used for producing water-repellent surfaces on garments and decompose very slowly. They damage the environment and the health of people and animals. With ongoing testing we seek to ensure that the manufacturing process of all Esprit products remains free of PFC chemicals.
In addition to PFC-free products, we are also working on the introduction of chrome-free tanned leather. Tanning with chromium (III) is currently the most commonly used tanning process in the industry and is around 85-90%. This is mainly due to the fact that chromium (III) can be optimally incorporated into the collagen structure of leather. However, if the tanning process is not carried out properly, chromium (III) may, in certain circumstances, give rise to chromium (VI). Chromium (VI) may cause allergic reactions and should not exceed certain limits. To minimize the risk of chromium (VI) formation, we have taken various measures. On the one hand, we have developed guidelines for the prevention of chromium (VI) for our suppliers. In addition, we conducted a study on alternative tanning processes. The results can be found here.
Beside leather, Esprit offers also synthetic leather-like products which are generally polyurethane-based and without material derived from animals. However, the challenge is that the manufacture of conventional polyurethane (PU) requires a solvent called DMF, which can be hazardous for workers and can pollute the environment. We are working to shift our production from conventional polyurethane to water-based polyurethane that does not use DMF. Our target is to switch all synthetic leather to water-based polyurethane by 2025. To learn more about our research work on DMF-free synthetic leather, please read our case study.
Control of waste water
Esprit adopted the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines in February 2016. The ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines have been adopted by most leading brands in the industry. By adopting those guidelines, rather than developing our own, Esprit is able to take advantage of experience across the industry and to allow our factories to work on one standard instead of a separate standard for each of their customers.
Based on the guideline, we require our suppliers with wet processes to have their waste water tested twice per year and to upload testing data on the IPE or ZDHC platforms. The first round of waste water testing was finished October 31st , 2017 and second round of testing was completed by April 30th, 2018. We established an Esprit Wastewater Case Study based on the findings from the first and second testing rounds. To support our suppliers, we are cooperating with our partners to improve the quality of waste water by offering trainings to manage chemicals and waste water treatment appropriately, and to have waste water testing done in compliance with the adopted Wastewater Testing Guideline by the ZDHC.