SGS is helping textile manufacturers reduce their reliance on hazardous chemicals through services like hazardous substances control workshops which empower companies with the right knowledge to achieve compliance with regulations, maintaining competitive advantage and better reputations. SGS also helps stakeholders gain technical expertise in production.
Textile production uses around 9.3 million metric tons of chemicals a year and the harmful effects of this are now being fully recognised. The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) has recently published “Footwear and textile clothing: consumers need better protection from the risks of skin allergies and irritation”. It notes that most irritations are caused by chemicals.
In addition, the sector is now being recognised as the “second biggest polluter in the world”, a quote attributed to high-end clothing retailer Eileen Fisher. Pollution from the clothing industry is now so bad in some places, for example the Citarum River in Indonesia and the city of Xintang in China, that the natural environment is no longer safe for humans. In both cases, rivers have become too polluted to swim in or drink.
The ANSES report included recommendations for how authorities can improve the industry. This included, among other suggestions, the recommendation that retailers should only stock clothing or footwear that their suppliers can prove do not include carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic (CMR) substances, and/or skin sensitising and irritating substances. This will require a better knowledge of chemical usage in the whole supply chain.