Chemicals management

Chemicals management

It can take a lot of chemicals to make clothes. However, hazardous chemicals can harm the global environment as well as the health of our customers, employees and workers throughout our value chain. We are therefore working hard to ensure that our products are safe and to eliminate discharges to water, soil and air throughout the life cycle of all of our products.

We define hazardous chemicals according to an intrinsic property approach and consider properties such as persistence, bioaccumulation, toxicity, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity and toxicity to reproduction, endocrine disruption and equivalent concerns when assessing the risks associated with certain substances.

Our chemical restrictions are as a minimum always based on the highest legal standard in any of our sales countries as well as on information from authorities, NGOs and scientific reports. As stated in our Sustainability policy, we apply the precautionary principle – meaning that we preventively restrict chemicals even where there is scientific uncertainty. Accordingly, our requirements usually go further than the law demands.

We ban chemicals considered as hazardous for use in the production process and set limit values for finished products through the H&M chemical restrictions lists,which all suppliers are contractually bound to comply with. The overall strategy is that chemicals identified as hazardous should neither be used during production nor be detectable in products.

Our chemical restrictions list has been continuously updated since 1995. Today, it contains more than 360 substances. We inform all our suppliers in advance of any update and provide support in order to ensure their ability to comply with enforced restrictions.

Implementation

To ensure compliance with our chemical restrictions we perform regular tests, mainly in third party laboratories. Each year, we conduct more than 40,000 such tests. Test procedures follow a risk assessment that is based on factors such as the type of product and production location.

Should H&M find that a product does not comply with our restrictions, we would take immediate action to ensure the best possible solution taking into consideration people’s health and the environment. Any incidence of non-compliance would trigger a thorough root cause analysis and result in a plan for how to avoid any recurrence.

Chemical training & audits

All H&M suppliers receive intensive training on our chemical restrictions and on chemicals management. Based on a systematic risk assessment, factories with chemical intensive operations – such as dyeing mills, printing facilities and tanneries – receive additional training and support. Each of our production offices located close to our suppliers has a quality assurance team. Each of these teams consists of various experts, including chemical experts. They carry out supplier training, support our suppliers and audit their compliance with our chemical requirements. Chemical audits are conducted in addition to regular product tests and include checking for correct documentation, labelling and quality assurance (for example through test reports) of chemicals used in production. Required documentation might include the existence of the correct Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and declarations from chemical suppliers stating that the use of a specific chemical product does not conflict with H&M’s chemical restrictions. All chemical containers must be properly labelled, easy to identify and associated with a particular MSDS.

In addition to these specific audits, our regular Sustainability Commitment assessments include a set of requirements concerning the safety of chemical handling and storage as well as environmental requirements such as the treatment of wastewater and the handling of hazardous waste.

Read more about environmental requirements for suppliers.

 

Following a lifecycle approach, we work to limit the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals as well as working on overall environmental practice upstream in our value chain

A lifecycle approach

Following a lifecycle approach, we work to limit the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals as well as working on overall environmental practice upstream in our value chain. This includes improvements in standards in the production of textile fabrics as well as limiting the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides mainly in cotton cultivation and promoting the recycling of raw materials. Read more about Better Cotton and organic and recycled materials.

Working with others

Working together with regulatory authorities and other brands and engaging with NGOs and consumer organisations is an important part of our efforts to contribute to good chemicals management within the textile industry. H&M also has frequent dialogue with leading chemical suppliers for the apparel industry to ensure they are up to date with H&M’s chemical restrictions and to promote the development of safer and more environmentally friendly chemical products.

H&M is a member of the steering committee of AFIRM, which is a multi-company forum that aims to advance the global management of restricted substances in the apparel and footwear supply chain.

As leather products have a relatively high environmental impact – for instance due to the use of polluting chemicals in the tanning process – we joined the Leather Working Group in 2009.
 

zero discharge of hazardous chemicals

Our road towards Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.

Conscious Actions

Get the full overview of our Conscious Actions, Chemicals Management Water Stewardship strategy etc. 
 

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