Closing the loop requires the responsible management and the safe use of all production inputs, such as chemicals, and the control of all production outputs and emissions, such as wastewater and – eventually – the product itself.
Esprit Detox Commitment
In December of 2012, we signed the Greenpeace Detox Commitment, starting our effort to phase out eleven groups of hazardous chemicals from our supply chain.
To achieve “zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020”, we launched a major Detox program within our supply chain. The program is based on building awareness and knowledge among our wet processing suppliers about chemical and environmental management, process control and wastewater testing.
Greenpeace’s assessment of our performance, published in the most recent July 2018 Detox Catwalk report, highlights the positive progress we have made so far.
Our Buying and Sourcing teams play a very important role in achieving our targets, e.g. wastewater testing as well the social compliance performance of factories. Therefore, we have included targets in the bonus agreements with our people in procurement.
Our combined Restricted Substances List (RSL) and Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) is binding for our suppliers. While the RSL focuses on the amount of restricted chemicals in the final Esprit product and its packaging, the MRSL focuses on hazardous chemicals that have to be phased out from chemical formulations used in production, including chemical restrictions and limits in the wastewater.
How we identify chemical risks
We continuously evaluate chemicals that are used for the fabrication of our products and screen existing and new applicable legislation, standards and norms on chemical restrictions in all sales and non-sales markets of Esprit. We take into account requirements of customers and NGOs as well as new insights of research institutes (hazardous screening methodology). Our membership in several collaborative industry and multi-stakeholder initiatives, such as the AFIRM and the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles also help us to exchange with different stakeholders on priority risk areas.
Audit of wet process mills
Since July 2016, we assess the capacities of our Tier 2 wet-processing facilities. Processing steps, such as leather tanning, textile equipment, dyeing, finishing, printing or washing potentially have the biggest environmental impact as they involve the use of chemicals. In our assessments we cover environmental and chemical management as well as process control, which are essential to comply with our MRSL during production - and later on, with our RSL in the final product.
The Capacity assessments help us to understand the performance level of the suppliers in our supply chain and are the baseline for continuous improvements. Capacity building in these areas is essential, as the root cause of any non-compliance with Esprit’s chemical requirements in the final product is the chemical formulations that are used during production. Learn more about our capacity assessments and the findings within the last two years in our case study.
In the capacity assessments we find very different circumstances depending on the factory. Many factories are already very solid, but we still find problems. We have listed the most common ones below:
- No environmental management policies and clear targets for reducing energy, water and waste
- Complete documentation of all necessary documents
- Clear rules to prevent unauthorized entry into chemical storage rooms
- No complete chemical inventory lists
- No systematic procurement of chemicals, such as missing screening and risk analysis
Our team helps factories resolve these issues by creating clear action plans that we follow up together with the responsible staff in the factory.
Case study: Elimination of PFC
Since December 2014, we have eliminated poly- and perfluorinated carbons (PFCs) from the manufacturing process of our water-repellent products. All water-repellent products are made without per-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs) since then.
In the textile industry, PFCs are used for producing water-repellent surfaces of garments. As they decompose very slowly, they are known for polluting the environment. Therefore, through intensive research and trials, we have succeeded to switch to safer alternatives.
You can read more about our research in our PFC substitution case study.
Case study: Prevention of Chromium VI formation during leather tanning
We are working on the introduction of chrome-free tanned leather. Tanning with chromium (III) is currently the most commonly used tanning process in the industry, accounting for around 85-90%. This is mainly due to the fact that chromium (III) can be optimally incorporated into the collagen structure of leather. However, if the tanning process is not carried out properly, chromium (III) may, in certain circumstances, give rise to chromium (VI). Chromium (VI) may cause allergic reactions and should not exceed certain limits. To minimize the risk of chromium (VI) formation, we have taken various measures. As the development of CrVI can be prevented if the tanning process is done correctly, we have developed special capacity assessments for leather tanneries and we provide guidelines for the prevention of chromium (VI) to our suppliers.
In addition, we conducted a study on alternative tanning processes. The results can be found here.
Case study: DMF-free synthetic leather production
Esprit offers synthetic leather-like products which are generally polyurethane-based and without material derived from animals. However, the manufacture of conventional polyurethane (PU) requires a solvent called DMF, which can be hazardous for workers and can pollute the environment. We are working to shift our production from conventional polyurethane to water-based polyurethane that does not use DMF. Our target is to switch all synthetic leather to water-based polyurethane by 2025.
To learn more about our research work on DMF-free synthetic leather, please read our case study.
Target: 100% of our key wet process mills test wastewater according to the ZDHC wastewater guidelines at least once per year by July 2021
Contribution to UN Sustainable Development Goals
Our suppliers with wet processes must have their wastewater tested twice per year and upload testing data on the IPE platforms.
We established an Esprit Wastewater Case Study based on the findings of the first two testing rounds. To support our suppliers, we are cooperating with our partners to improve the quality of wastewater by offering trainings to manage chemicals and wastewater treatment appropriately, and to have wastewater testing done in compliance with the adopted Wastewater Testing Guideline.
We make every effort to ensure that all Esprit products are safe for the health and safety of consumers. Before any product reaches the hands of a customer, it has passed through several chemical and mechanical tests to ensure that it is safe, and that it meets our high quality requirements. All products undergo intensive testing by independent and certified testing institutes several times along the product development process.
The chemical tests are in accordance with our Restricted Substances List (RSL), which is based on REACH, the European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals, as well as applicable national legislation in Esprit’s sales markets. The mechanical tests are in accordance with our Material Quality and Safety Requirements, based on global standards and norms. We are also monitoring our packaging for safety. In July 2018, we adopted the AFIRM Packaging Restricted Substances List.
Our testing program
All Esprit products are tested by independent and certified laboratories before leaving the factory. Only products that have a test report showing they have passed this inspection stage are allowed to be shipped to our Distribution Centers. Our product safety managers review the test reports and advise our suppliers about necessary improvements.
Improvement of production
Our work to monitor and improve production aims to pre-empt issues that could result in unsafe or unsellable goods. Generally, we aim to improve production whenever possible and destroy the smallest amount of clothing possible. However, if during testing we find a chemical non-compliance and improvement of production is impossible, then we must opt for destruction to protect the safety of our workers and our customers. Destruction is done safely and in accordance with legal requirements, and monitored by our own staff.
Reinforced controls on site
Throughout product development and production, our Quality Assurance and Environmental Sustainability teams, located in our sourcing offices near the production sites, oversee testing, improvement and destruction of production and provide support to suppliers.
Root cause analysis
Any instance of chemical non-compliance is investigated by our Environmental Sustainability team on site together with the supplier.
We then work with them to implement proper chemical management and process controls. All lessons learnt from our root cause analysis are shared with all suppliers, to prevent future non-compliances from happening. We are convinced that we must focus on using better chemicals from the beginning and empower our suppliers to manage chemicals safely, instead of waiting for product testing at a later stage.
Our Quality Inspections
Production samples are closely monitored and controlled both at the supplier’s factory and by our own quality and technical teams to ensure that the quality standards are maintained.
Before shipment, an inline and final inspection is performed by the local Esprit quality assurance team, following our strict standards. For onsite inspections, we use our digital quality assurance (QA) tool, designed by Esprit. Via this QA tool our Quality Inspection teams based in our production countries can transmit via mobile devices real time information on the status of the production to the Quality Assurance team at our headquarters in Germany. This increases the speed and efficiency of the final inspection process.
Incoming goods quality check
Goods are examined again by our Quality Control teams when arriving in our European Distribution Center. These controls serve to check if the material or workmanship quality were impacted during transportation, and also verify again that our standards, and any improvements we identified, were applied for bulk production.