Towards zero discharge

Towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals

H&M’s chemical management vision is to ensure safe products made in a healthy workplace while protecting the environment. Our main focus is controlling the chemical input in the manufacturing process. We are committed to eliminate the use, and hence achieve zero discharge, of hazardous chemicals in any production procedure by 2020. To achieve this goal, we work together with our industry and a broad array of other stakeholders.

Where are we today?

Since the early 1990s, we have applied the Precautionary Principle in our chemical management towards safe products, a safe working environment for workers in our supply chain and limiting environmental impacts. To ensure zero discharge of hazardous chemicals across our value chain, we have developed concrete milestones and actions plans that build on our existing leading chemicals management programme.

We continue to work with other stakeholders and the chemical industry to eliminate the use, and hence discharge, of hazardous chemicals. We promote industry change by engaging with government and chemical associations to advocate for policy changes in chemical management and disclosure policy. 

Actions taken so far

In our work towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals we have a significant track record. And since November 2011 we have been working with a series of additional specific actions. In each box below you can read more about the individual actions by clicking "show further information".  


  • We regularly update our publicly available list of restricted substances (RSL) and Manufacturing restricted substances list (MRSL) with technical information such as restricted limits and test methods, taking the intrinsic hazards approach into account based on precautionary principle.
  • H&M made a detailed APEO investigation to assess the presence and source of APEO in the supply chain.
  • Together with other leading brands (the ZDHC brands group), we jointly communicated the mission of ZDHC to all suppliers. H&M also engaged all suppliers on our requirement on APEO.

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  • H&M has been working closely with the ZDHC brands group to collaboratively deliver actions for the joint roadmap.
  • ZDHC members are creating industry standard policies and protocols to give the global supply chain consistent direction, requirements and training.
  • H&M joined 17 other brands in organizing two CNTAC ZDHC conferences in China in August 2013 and October 2014 with over 300 participants at each event. The purpose was to facilitate industry dialogue, promote industry collaboration, support from industry associations and engage with textile supply chains in China. Attendees included (garment, fabric, dyeing & finishing and chemical) suppliers, industry associations, service providers, academic/research institutes, NGOs including the IPE and Greenpeace and government representatives from the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Sessions of the conferences focused on chemicals management, the MRSL, disclosure, Pollution Release Transfer Register (PRTR). H&M presented our "PRTR" approach to the industry in promoting a better disclosure methodology to enable disclosure.
  • The ZDHC Group continued to strengthen engagement and discussion around disclosure with IPE. Through direct, face-to-face meetings and also discussions at key events including the October 2014 CNTAC meeting.
  • H&M and the ZDHC brands strengthened engagement with Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) to discuss pollution disclosure in China in April 2014.
  • Released the ZDHC MRSL June 2014 – the first standardized restricted substances list across the industry which completely restricts the intentional use of alkylphenols, phthalates and long-chain PFCs in chemical formulations used in manufacturing processes.
  • The ZDHC MRSL is continuously reviewed. The latest version which includes leather products was published in early 2015.
  • ZDHC is creating standard testing (collection, sampling, analysis) and reporting methods to provide consistent direction to the supply chain, where tremendous crossover between brands exists.
  • H&M organised a stakeholder engagement event in Bangladesh 2014 to drive country specific restricted substances lists and green chemicals import into the country with market incentives.
  • H&M advocated towards the EU commission to strengthen regulatory requirements for hormone disrupting chemicals to get a harmonized and horizontal classification of those substances in the EU.
  • H&M assisted the Swedish Government to push for tougher EU regulations on chemicals in textiles.  

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  • Together with C&A and G-Star, we carried out a pilot benchmark study during 2012 to verify the use and discharge of 11 priority chemicals, including APEO. The pilot study verified that five out of 11 chemicals were still present in the wastewater after discharge. All findings were in traces and showed no indication of intentional use of hazardous chemicals. Based on comparable data, all discharge data met local wastewater legislations. Some chemicals also met drinking water legislations and the World Health Organization’s recommendation for tolerable daily intake. Nonetheless, we acknowledged our chemical management requires further improvements, and the work towards zero discharge continues.
  • H&M scaled up the benchmark study in 2013 with all strategic suppliers with wet processes. In total, chemical audits and verification tests were completed at 30+ factories across Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia and India.
  • In 2014, a MoU was signed between the Sustainability Apparel Coalition (SAC) and the ZDHC group to further align a chemical management module and ZDHC audit protocol.
  • The chemical management module in HIGG 3.0 was strengthened by aligning the HIGG Index tool and ZDHC audit protocol.

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  • To secure H&M’s ambition towards ZDHC, we ensured that all relevant colleagues internally are well informed about the ZDHC commitment through MRSL training.
  • We trained our suppliers on chemical management knowledge, including H&M MRSL training.
  • We also conducted pilot ZDHC trainings in key production regions China, Bangladesh, India and Vietnam. Introductory ZDHC materials were developed together with the ZDHC brands group, available on and also published on H&M’s supplier portal.
  • By the end of 2013, we communicated the ambition towards the goal of ZDHC by 2020 to all suppliers.
  • We launched the BMI (Better Mill Initiative) project in China with Solidaridad  and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) In 2014, - 12 suppliers finished onsite chemical training.
  • To further raise awareness and promote dialogue, we also conducted internal workshops for suppliers and chemical suppliers in our production offices.
  • Best Chemical Management Practice (BCMP) guideline published in our supplier portal to provide guidance for our suppliers to develop and implement correct management practice in their units, and hence minimize the use of hazardous chemicals.
  • We continued our work on securing our suppliers’ capability on chemical management. In 2015, we partnered with SGS, a global leader in Testing, Inspection and Certifi­cation (TIC) to develop Hazardous Substance Control (HSC) training. This training is designed for factory professionals to secure the foundational knowledge and know-how on chemical management. In the training, key management concepts with supporting toolkits are illustrated.

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  • In line with the right-to-know principle in our ZDHC commitment, we have been working with suppliers to disclose environmental data.
  • In 2013, 37 suppliers disclosed the 9+2 chemicals pollutants data through the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs' (IPE) platform from China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Cambodia. We continuously encourage our supplier to publicly disclose their performance.
  • By the end of 2015, 59 factories with wet processes disclosed their discharge data through IPE. These represent about 46% of our factories with wet processes who are owned by our strategic first tier suppliers in the global south. We regularly published our annual discharge data summary report. The latest one was published in early 2016.
  • H&M published its supplier factory list in March 2013. By then the list included our first tier supplier factories that account for 95% of the total order volume for all H&M brands. Since then we continuouly expanded the scope and since March 2016 even include fabric and yarn mills involved in about 50% of our production volume are the mills that provide our suppliers with fabric and yarn are included.
  • Through extensive research we found that the Pollution Release Transfer Register (PRTR) is an effective method to prevent intentional use of hazardous chemi­cals in the manufacturing process. Inspired by the PRTR methodology, we developed a mathematical modelling together with Bureau Veritas, a global leader in Testing, Inspection and Certifi­cation (TIC), to determine the chemical discharge performance in factories in a more comprehensive way.
  • During 2015, we launched the first pilot project for using this method in 8 factories located in China and Bangladesh. All factories were trained and required to submit all the relevant information for evaluation. This modeling method allows acquisition of comprehensive discharge information of factories. Read more about the pilot result.

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  • H&M further engaged and worked together with the chemical industry to seek for possible solutions.
  • H&M conducted chemical trials together with chemical suppliers. The objective was to verify the presence of hazardous chemicals in wastewater discharge when using specific brands of chemicals. We did this by switching all chemicals used at a factory, to chemicals sourced from one chemical supplier. We followed the same procedure in three factories using three different chemical suppliers.
  • The outcome of these trials was very positive. All chemicals detected were also in residuals. For the details of the trial, you can find the summary report here.The chemical companies which conducted chemical trials with promising result have released a "Positive List". The lists rank the best available products which are fulfilling the requirements of ZDHC and H&M's Chemical Restrictions. Until now, we have eleven chemical companies that have successfully conducted such trials and created corresponding positive lists that were published on H&M’s supplier portal.
  • Chemical suppliers: Longshan, Transfar, BASF, CHT, DyStar, Huntsman, Bozzetto, Jintex, Matex, Ohyoung, Resil, Tanatex, Everlight, Croda, Pidilite, Jay Chemical, Atul, Silkflex, Centro Chino, Seydel.

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  • In line with our existing commitment prior to our commitment to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals, we banned perfluorinated compound (PFC) for all orders placed from 1st January 2013. An alternative list of water repellant finishes was published in 2012 for supplier to use. You can find more information here.
  • Applying these alternatives has not lead to major compromises on our quality requirements.
  • Since our ban on PFCs for all products within the H&M Group, we have confirmed the compliance with this requirement through product testing and also the consumer organisation “Forbrugerrådet Tænk Kemi” confirmed the absence of PFCs at a test of children’s gloves  from 11 different brands in a test conducted during 2015.
  • However, factories might still use PFCs in the production for other brands. That is why, building on our product ban, our next step will be to develop roadmaps towards a full usage ban on PFCs following a clean factory approach (s. section “phase out” for more information).

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  • Through our partnership with the WWF, we reassessed the synergies between our water and chemical activities. The synergies allow integrating our coming ZDHC activities with relevant actions from the Water Stewardship programme.  Read more about our Water Stewardship partnership with WWF.
  • We have reviewed and refined our internal routines and working structures, for example, for data veri­fication and testing through external laboratories.
  • We further strengthened our wastewater requirements to ensure that the quality of waste water discharged meets BSR’s waste water quality standard, or the strictest local laws and increased the frequency of water data collection from annual to biannual. We also introduced an additional verification routine to secure the reliability of data collected. With our new routines we have seen some improvements and so far we have reached a compliance level with the BSR water water quality standard of 75% at our suppliers with in-house effluent treatment plants (status: Nov. 30 2015).

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What will H&M do next?

We continue to make progress and set the next milestones towards our goal of zero discharge and the required transformation on all levels, such as facilities, industry and government. We will also begin our process of elimination of the use of hazardous chemicals beyond the current 11 priority chemical groups from July 2016 to December 2017 as following:


  • In line with moving closer towards 2020, we will continue our work towards phasing out hazardous chemicals also beyond the 11 priority chemical groups.
  • We are continuously reviewing our MRSL screening methodology and update MRSL documents regularly, most recently in May 2016.
  • All substances included in the MRSL must be phased out not only in our production lines but at the whole production site, at the latest by 2020 following a clean factory approach. In order to implement and achieve this we follow a step-wise approach.  H&M divides the substances into two groups:                          

·        Group 1: Substances are not allowed to be found in the whole production site nor used in H&M production lines. We continuously monitor this to secure the complete phase out in the whole production site.

·        Group 2: Substances are not allowed to be used in H&M production lines. These substances shall be phased out in the whole production site latest by 2020, and hence achieve a clean factory approach.


  • We will set specific time lines for continued phase out processes and will publish these in beginning of 2017. 

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  • We continue working closely with the ZDHC group and the SAC to align the chemical management module included in the Higg-index to adopt one chemical audit tool for the industry.
  • We are continuously working on securing the capability of factories in chemical management. In 2016, we have worked with SGS to organize HSC training on printing and dyeing module. We will continuously expand the module of HSC training to apply it to other factories.
  • We will develop best practice workshops to share and promote best available technologies to drive real change within the industry. 
  • We will conduct Best Chemical Management Practices (BCMP) workshop to support our suppliers on improving their chemical management system by providing better and clear guidance.

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  • In case of finding new ways to replace chemicals, we will document and share these replacement methods on the online platform Subsport or ECHA.
  • We will continue to encourage our supplier factories to publish waste water test performance through IPE and publish a new discharge summary report in 2016.
  • To increase the transparency of the intentional use of hazardous chemicals in manufacturing processes, we worked with Bureau Veritas to develop an Environmental Emission Evaluator (E cube), which is a tool to measure the chemical management performance in a factory. We will further strengthen the tools to provide a better picture on the reduction of hazardous chemicals used in a factory.

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  • Working beyond our scope of influence, we will continue our joint efforts with other leading brands and stakeholders who are also committed to the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.
  • We are continuously driving collaboration in the industry and continue to engage with the SAC to improve the environmental and social impact of our products.
  • We promote common key performance indicators used within the industry.  

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Together with the ZDHC Group we:

  • Set priorities in finding safer alternatives from research list:  5 hazardous chemicals are prioritized and ready to move forward with research, seek for funding and academics/research and industry institute to take next steps.
  • Pilot and promote progressive technical training for hazardous chemicals risk identification, substitution and phase out.
  • Continuously develop and harmonize ZDHC audit protocol with SAC HIGG FEM 3.0.
  • Engage with key supply chain actors and chemical industry & associations in Asia to drive best industry standard adoption, disclosure policy and promote best available chemicals.
  • Develop ZDHC data platform to promote positive chemistries and one common disclosure platform for input chemistry use and pollution data.
  • Create industry wastewater standard for ZDHC chemical parameters.

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H&M has set out the vision to become 100% circular. H&M promotes a circular (1) approach in how products are made and used, and works towards a clean, closed and effective circular life cycle for textiles, maximizing the utility and the value of the products. As part of this we have set a long-term goal to only use recycled or other sustainably sourced materials (1).

H&M will implement a voluntary Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system (2). This includes:

i.        Conduct further analyses of economic value of additional models/offers aiming to maximize the utility and value of products, following a circular approach.

ii.      Offering take-back and consumer textile waste collection systems (3) in all markets where we operate (4).

o       Reaching more than 95% of H&M (brand) customers globally through the H&M global clothing and home textile collection scheme for clothes and home textile for re-use (re-wear) and clean recycling (5), independently of brand and condition. The collection will maximize the utility and the value of the textiles following the European Waste Hierarchy promoting re-use before recycling. We ensure that none of the collected textiles end in landfills. We aim to continuously ensure that at least 50% of the textiles collected in H&M stores are reused or recycled (and not downcycled) and work to further minimize downcycling.

iii.     Taking a holistic circular approach in how products are made and used.

o       This includes addressing circular design, longevity, chemical input, quality and durability requirements, raw material choices and sourcing, sustainable production processes and to expand the lifespan of our products, i.e. through durability requirements and by promoting and/or facilitating repair, re-use and recycling . We will set time-bound targets and roadmaps related to  this during 2016-2017.


o       We will conduct further research (incl. customer behavior) and develop additional programs and targets during 2016-2017.

o       We will conduct a risk assessment in regards to potential chemical inputs included in post-consumer recycled material and develop related working methods (5).

iv.               Increasing the use of both, pre- and post-consumer recycled textiles and actively promoting recycling innovation.

o       H&M will maximize the use of closed loop and recycled materials in our products and complement our input needs with material that has been sustainably sourced. Our goal is to only use recycled or other sustainably sourced materials. We will set additional time-bound goals and milestones towards this.

o       To achieve this, we will continue to create demand for such materials and actively promote, engage in and invest in circular innovation.

v.                Creating consumer awareness and promoting the re-use and recycling of textiles while making conscious choices increasingly accessible

o       H&M will create dedicated consumer campaigns promoting the re-use and recycling of clothing and create additional awareness amongst our customers and our value chain to regard old textile as a resource.

o       Educating and training staff and salespeople in the importance of closing the loop and maximize the value and the use of the products through re-pair, reuse and recycling.



(1) Circular is defined as maximizing the utility and the value of the products and components. Having a circular approach to how products are made and used including circular design, durability and longevity, chemical input, only recycled or other sustainable sourced materials, sustainable production processes and different ways of expanding the fashion life span for example through repair, re-use recycling and collecting schemes.  Sustainably sourced materials are evaluated and qualified as sustainably sourced  preferably with third party certification when available. Examples of sustainably sourced materials include the H&M Conscious materials and Better Cotton. We follow a science based approach and we constantly review what qualifies as sustainably sourced together with our stakeholders.

(2) Extended Producer Responsibility is individual and global company responsibility to ensure the whole lifecycle of a product having a circular approach to how products are made and used through circular design, raw material choice, longevity and durability, sustainable production processes and different ways to expand the life span of the products through repair, reuse and recycling.

-        Sustainable sourcing that protects the well‐being of the natural environment stays within planetary boundary limits and supports the socio‐economic well-being of workers and local communities;

-        ensures the system for end-of-life collection achieves the highest utility and value of the product and the material quality through effective collection, disassembly and re‐use or recycling.

-        Promote circular design ensuring the highest utility and value of the product and enable an extended lifespan including different ways of extending the lifespan through repair, reuse and recycling.

(3) Take-back program shall enable the highest utility and value of the products and the materials and the program will follow the waste hierarchy promoting re-use and remake before recycling and making sure that nothing ends up in landfill. 

(4) Covering all H&M brand stores in all self-operated markets (for new stores after six months after opening at the latest). In franchise markets (as per FY 2015 representing approx. 2% of total sales), at least one store per market (Morocco and Egypt excluded).

(5) H&Ms approach to hazardous chemicals in recycled materials, see separate document.  








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Our commitment to Zero Discharge

Helping to lead our industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals.

Our Action Plan

Action plan to help lead our industry to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals.

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