Interview with Frank Michel

Face2Face
Frank Michel
Frank Michel
Executive Director
Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC)
Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC)

Awareness of chemicals used in the value chain is at an all-time high

The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Foundation is a collaboration of leading brands, value chain affiliates, and associates leading the textiles industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemical. ZDHC recently launched a Chemical Module-directory for safe chemicals. Frank Michel, Executive Director of ZDHC shares details about this initiative and also what lies ahead for the non-profit organisation.

What is the biggest challenge in chemical management being faced by the textiles industry?

There are several challenges. One approach that can help with solving most of them is having an alignment on the guidance, tools and standards that are used by the industry to assess and apply better chemicals and chemical management. In this pre-competitive space, alignment on what the requests and expectations are of the value chain will allow brands and retailers to move faster towards zero discharge both with their own supplier base and industry-wide.

Tell us about the latest innovations taking place in green chemicals.

This is an exciting and dynamic area of work. Lot of effort has gone to develop non-fluorinated water repellents for textiles and footwear and to find alternatives to solvents such as those used for coated textiles. ZDHC can help accelerate this work by promoting these safer chemistries in the Chemical Module of the ZDHC Gateway and by raising awareness for areas where innovations are still needed.

What is the Chemical Module of the ZDHC Gateway? What are the practices followed by your organisation in managing chemicals?

The Chemical Module is a directory of safer chemicals meeting the requirements of the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL). The directory is arranged by function; so, for example, a mill can easily search for sourcing agents or water repellents that conform to the ZDHC MRSL. ZDHC does not certify these formulations, but is developing a list of credible third-party certifications that are used to show conformance with the ZDHC MRSL.

You have been hosting various programmes for zero discharge of hazardous chemicals. How successful have you been in creating awareness? Please elaborate.

Awareness of chemicals used in the textiles, leather and footwear value chain is at an all-time high.  Looking back, we achieved a lot in the past few years to support and improve awareness in the fashion industry.  And it's not just about awareness raising. Since our inception in 2011, our contributor base has grown to over 70 contributors worldwide, we have developed numerous tools (e.g. ZDHC MRSL, Wastewater Guidelines) and supported organisations with chemical management across many geographies through training, practical tools and awareness raising. One of our latest accomplishments in creating awareness is the convergence of our Audit Protocol Tool with the SAC (Sustainable Apparel Coalition) Facilities Environmental Module (FEM 3.0) due to be launched in Q4 of this year. This sends a strong message to the industry about the relevance of ZDHC's MRSL and Wastewater Guidelines.

What is the present state of hazardous textile chemicals across the globe? Please add with some focus on overall Asia - India, China and Bangladesh particularly.

As I mentioned earlier, awareness is at a high point and ever increasing. However, transforming a global industry is challenging for a relatively small organisation, like ZDHC, to do on its own. For maximum outreach and scalability within a region we work with strong regional and local partners. We started our large-scale implementation efforts in China in 2016 and collaborated very successfully with the China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC). This year ZDHC is also heavily engaged in the European textiles supply chain and we started to develop implementation scenarios for other large volume production countries including India, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Please tell us about the hurdles faced by ZDHC in achieving its targets.

One of the biggest hurdles is so called 'supplier fatigue' from brands and retailers using so many different standards for chemical management. That is why we feel the ZDHC MRSL, Wastewater Guidance and ZDHC Gateway are critical pillars to the success of advancing towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals in the industry on a meaningful scale.
Published on: 17/08/2017

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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