Interview with Frank Michel

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

You began with the ZDHC Academy in Bangladesh, India, Italy, Turkey and Vietnam. Tell us about this training programme. What has been the outcome of this initiative?

Our ZDHC Academy is part of a holistic toolbox to educate the industry and build capacity on best chemical management practices and to support implementation efforts around the ZDHC MRSL and Wastewater Guidelines. We established the Academy in 2016 and set up an international pool of high quality, accredited training providers to achieve impactful outreach in a minimum timeframe. Training sessions have to date been held in seven countries, and we continue to build our accredited trainer pool worldwide. Looking at the training landscape, the industry is however increasingly facing the challenges similar to audit fatigue.  Training activities can be poorly coordinated and facilities are trained multiple times, by multiple organisations with different terminologies and messages. This is why ZDHC decided to open the ZHDC Academy and our trainer pool for the entire industry. We are also concentrating efforts on developing a standard for a Chemical Inventory Template that helps the industry to manage chemicals in terms of worker safety, chemical storage and driving better chemistry.

What has your growth story been in the last five years and what is the target set for the next two?

In 2011, ZDHC started as a coalition of six brands. The same year, these brands created and committed to the Joint Roadmap. In 2014, the group released Version 1 of the ZDHC MRSL that was updated in 2015 to include leather. In the same year, we released our Chemical Management System Guidance Manual and launched the ZDHC Foundation, our own not-for-profit legal entity, based in Amsterdam with staff to drive global development and implementation. We started with four team members and 21 signatory brands. Now, we are a team of 11 based in offices in Amsterdam (our headquarters), Shanghai and Portland, and have grown to over 70 contributors by July 2017. Based on our implementation strategy, we are planning to accelerate growth in the coming years. Without being specific about the numbers, I would like to point out that it is not so much the increase in contributorship that is in our focus. What drives us most is the quality of collaborations and strategic partnerships, the relevancy of our solutions, and the collective impact created within our industry.

Which brands and retailers are you currently linked with?

We are differentiating between active contributors, who are driving the development of our programme, and our 'Friends' who are actively working with or referring to ZDHC tools and standards within their supply chains. We call them 'Friends' because those brands and retailers have seen the relevance of our programme, and have chosen to create active awareness by implementing our tools. Looking at it this way-the number of brands and retailers that are referring to ZDHC is way higher than the number of active contributors. To better link and create synergies with our 'Friends of ZDHC' we are working on ways to make it easier to connect to ZDHC's programme and coordinate global implementation efforts. The current list of ZDHC contributors can be found on our website at

Is your organisation taking certain initiatives for sustainability, besides zero discharge?

The improvement of water quality and the reduction of discharges are essential parts of the ZDHC programme. ZDHC, however, is not only about discharge, we proactively engage with stakeholders around the globe to educate on the prevention of environmental pollution and drive innovations for the substitution of hazardous chemicals. For example, together with brands and industry representatives in China, we are currently running a project to phase out DMF (di-methyl formamide) in synthetic leather production. Through our implementation activities, we also have a substantial role to play in the transition of the fashion industry towards circularity and its alignment with the sustainable development goals. As ZDHC is about the global textiles, leather and footwear value chain, we hope to run many more of such forward-thinking projects in the near future in all parts of the world.(HO)
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

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