March 4, 2019
As with discarded New Year’s resolutions, some brands set themselves up for failure when it comes to delivering on their sustainable chemistry commitments. Their intentions are good but acting upon them can be difficult.
That’s why organizations that provide third-party services, such as UL, help brands and retailers follow through on their Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemical (ZDHC) Program commitments. An accredited, ZDHC training provider, UL organizes sessions around the world to teach sustainable chemical management to key stakeholders along the supply chain.
“The idea behind ZDHC is that since many brands share the same supply chain—meaning that one manufacturer produces products for many brands—there may be a more efficient decrease of hazardous chemical use through consistent, sustainability demands from brands and retailers,” said Elisa Gavazza, a global lead for chemical management, UL.
By stating sustainability goals and setting clear intentions with suppliers, companies can create a path to chemical reduction.
“To be successful, supply chain factory managers need to understand what is being asked of them and trained in how to successfully comply with brand demand,” Gavazza said.
UL routinely offers ZDHC trainings around the world, such as the one held July 2018 in Cairo, Egypt under the framework of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s (UNIDO) “The Egyptian Cotton Project.” Around 30 participants from regional production processing companies and local government representatives attended the two-day workshop to learn more about chemical use and how to implement a well-managed system, including developing a systematic approach to the procurement, storage, use and disposal of chemicals within a facility.
Production processing occurs whenever water is mixed with chemicals, i.e., coloring, bleaching and so forth.
Gavazza led the workshop in English, the official technical language, along with Foued Mellouli, who speaks Arabic. Offering events in English and the language of the host country allows participants to fully understand difficult concepts.
“We train in a way that allows participants to share their experiences and to ask interactive questions,” Gavazza said. “The idea is to be local, with a limited number of people to guarantee interaction and to focus on the issues most important to the host country.”
Brand collections going green
Chemical management offers many benefits to production processing companies and retail manufacturers, such as protecting employee health and safety plus reducing toxins released as wastewater into waterways. But, another benefit exists, one that is becoming increasingly important—brand reputation.
“If you look on the websites of many brands and companies, you will find sections related to sustainability, with many brands now producing collections with low-environmental impact,” Gavazza said. “People care more about the environment and they know what’s going on in the green space.”
Chemical sustainability, part of a greater movement
ZDHC commitment is growing, with a collaboration of 24 brands, 59 value chain affiliates and 15 associates working to support safer chemical management practices.
“It’s an even bigger movement if you consider the detox campaign from Greenpeace,” said Ilaria Colombo, a marketer with UL Consumer & Retail Services division. “Additionally, many others have taken their own path to detox.”
Brands are contacting us directly to organize private ZDHC trainings for their suppliers and producers,” Colombo said.
Proof that while it’s easy to sign on to an initiative or to independently commit to change, it takes adjustments at the agricultural, processing and production level for a brand to make good on its promise.
Gavazza offered this advice to brands and retailers:
Step 1: Determine the goals of your detox program, including establishing a clear list of chemicals to phase out with ambitious deadlines.
Step 2: Communicate your intentions to your supply chain and discuss how you and the suppliers can work together to achieve your goals.
Step 3: Train your supply chain factory managers. Ask them to attend a ZDHC or another chemical management workshop.
Step 4: Stick to your deadlines and commitments.
“We recognize that reaching your detox goal will not be easy. Great effort and energy will be required. So, adopt a risk approach. Choose the highest-risk factory to start with. Once you’ve gained experience with the key suppliers, you can use it to involve your global supply chain more and more,” Gavazza said.
Click here to learn more about how UL organizes private ZDHC training sessions for you and your suppliers.