H&M’s Commitment to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals

Helping to lead our industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals

H&M has since more than a decade recognized the urgent need to eliminate Hazardous (i) chemicals and has an approach based on prevention and the precautionary principle (ii). H&M is committed to continuously eliminate the use of all hazardous chemicals and hence achieve zero discharge (iii) of the same from all production procedures that are associated with the making and using of H&M products (iv), at the latest by 2020 (f1).

A concrete example of H&M's efforts is our membership in the steering committee of AFIRM (Apparel and Footwear Industry RSL (Restricted Substance List) Management group). The aim of AFIRM group is to reduce the use and impact of hazardous substances in the apparel and footwear supply chain. H&M is also an active member in Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

Furthermore is H&M’s Chemicals Management one of the most stringent chemical restrictions in the apparel sector. H&M also makes sure that these restrictions are understood and applied in its supply chain.

We recognize that mechanisms for disclosure and transparency about the hazardous chemicals used in our global supply chains are important and necessary. In line with the right to know principle (v) we will increase the public availability and transparency of our restricted substance list and audit process and will set up public disclosure of discharges of hazardous chemicals in our supply chain. We will promote development of common standards towards this end.

H&M also commits to support systemic (i.e., wider societal and policy) change to achieve zero discharge of hazardous chemicals (associated with supply chains and the lifecycles of products) within one generation (vi) or less.

Due to the scale and complexity of this endeavour, true success can only be achieved by engaging with other companies in the apparel sector and stakeholders such as regulators, NGOs and the chemical industry. H&M will continue its efforts to create awareness and drive more responsible practices within the industry.

H&M is committed to continuously engage with and put demands on the chemical industry in order to spur innovation of safer alternatives to any chemical identified as hazardous. Similarly, H&M is committed to engage with material manufacturers to implement new technologies and safer chemicals as they become available.

H&M understands the scope of the commitment to be a long term vision – with short term practice to be defined in the clarification of actions to follow. An action plan will be set up by H&M within eight weeks from the time this commitment was made that will detail the measures to be taken to implement this commitment including timelines for public disclosure (f2) and for the elimination of the highest priority hazardous chemicals.

In addition, we will develop and implement a joint roadmap to detail specific programmes and actions that we can take collectively with other brands to drive our industry towards the goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals.

Achievements and actions in line with above


  • First Chemical Restriction list published in 1995
  • Phase out of PVC in 2002
  • Publicly engaging with Greenpeace in 2005 in a lobbying campaign for a stricter chemical legislation in EU
  • In 2005 setting up of audit process intended to shift focus from testing final products to chemicals management in factories to ensure restricted substances are controlled and avoided from the very beginning
  • In 2006 Screening for potential substances of very high concern (SVHC) relevant for H&M’s products with the goal of eliminating their use
  • As member of AFIRM’s (viii) steering committee, working with others to educate suppliers and promote a responsible chemicals management from 2006 and onwards
  • H&M was a major contributor to Chemsec’s (ix) first SIN-list in 2008 and engaged in lobbying activities for the same
  • From 2008 and onwards, H&M is engaging with the UN to develop global general practice for spreading information on chemicals in products.
  • From 2008, H&M has contributed to a bi-annual training programme (x) organized by Swedish Chemicals Agency and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to improve chemical legislation and enforcement policies in developing countries.
  • H&M was the first major retailer to ban the use of Nonylphenol ethoxylates in 2009
  • H&M initiated in 2009 an industry wide project to develop a harmonized test method for Nonylphenol ethoxylates, finalized in 2010
  • H&M was the first major retailer to offer fluorocarbon-free garments with water repellent functional fabrics in 2010
  • Engagement in Sustainable Apparel Coalition (xi) from 2010 with the goal of developing a universal index to measure environmental and social performance of apparel products
  • In 2010 H&M started cooperation with chemical industry to conduct trials to convert traditional solvent based polyurethane (PU) material into water based PU.
  • H&M is the world’s number one buyer of organic cotton in 2010

(viii) www.afirm-group.com

(ix) www.chemsec.org

(x) http://www.kemi.se/templates/Page____4909.aspx

(xi) www.apparelcoalition.org


Footnotes: (f1), (f2), (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (vi), (vii)

(f1) We recognize the need for continuous review of the identification process and elimination of hazardous substances based on the intrinsic properties science.

(f2) Note: the first data should be reported to the public by end 2012

(i) Hazardous chemicals means all those that show intrinsically hazardous properties (persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic (PBT); very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB); carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction (CMR); endocrine disruptors (ED); or equivalent concern), not just those that have been regulated or restricted in other regions.

(ii) Precautionary approach: It means that when scientific evidence suggests a substance may harm the environment or human health, but the type or magnitude of harm is not yet known, a preventative approach towards potentially serious or irreversible damage should be taken, recognising the fact that such proof of harm may not be possible. The process of applying the precautionary approach must involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including, where necessary, the development of harmless alternatives where they do not already exist. It is based on the understanding that some hazardous substances cannot be rendered harmless by the receiving environment (i.e. there are no `environmentally acceptable´ use or discharge levels)

(iii) Zero discharge means elimination of all releases, via all pathways of release, i.e. discharges, emissions and losses, from our supply chain and our products.

(iv) This means the commitment applies to the environmental practices of the entire company and for the whole product-folio of the company. This includes, as a long-term vision, all suppliers or facilities horizontally across all owned brands and licensed companies as well as vertically up the entire supply chain (to material suppliers and dyeing/finishing facilities, in particular those which include wet processes). As a first step – within 18 months – this will cover all directly contracted strategic suppliers across the H&M brand, with a focus on chemically intensive processes, including wet processes.

(v) Right to know is defined as practices that allow members of the public access to environmental information – in this case specifically about the uses and discharges of chemicals based on reported quantities of releases of hazardous chemicals to the environment, chemical by chemical, facility-by-facility, year-by-year.

(vi) Regarding societal: One generation is generally regarded as 20-25 years.

(vii) The list of restricted substances is the summary of chemicals with hazardous properties identified as relevant for H&M’s products and processes.

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Our Action Plan

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

Chemicals Management

Helping to lead our industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals

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