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Fashion brands join together to develop safer materials

Organisation - Fashion+

Five fashion brands are working together with a private US-based certification and ecolabel scheme to develop certified materials for use in the supply chain.

H&M, Kering, Loomstate, Zero + Maria Cornejo and Eileen Fisher have joined the Fashion Positive Plus initiative run by the US-based Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Products Innovation Institute.

The companies are drawing up a list of commonly-used materials that will undergo a chemicals assessment by third party consultants.

The project is the first time a group of companies has collaborated to gain C2C's ecolabel for materials. 

C2C verifies materials against its own standards for the circular economy across many sectors, from building materials and interior design finishes to packaging, personal care, household products, textiles and apparel.

Its certified product standard assesses a product through five quality categories:

  • material health;
  • material reutilisation;
  • renewable energy and carbon management;
  • water stewardship; and
  • social fairness.

A product receives an achievement level in each category – basic, bronze, silver, gold or platinum – with the lowest achievement level representing the product’s overall mark.

Material health assessment

According to C2C, the material health category assesses the extent to which the product manufacturer knows the chemical ingredients of every material in a product, and the company's efforts to move towards safer materials.

Material assessments are conducted for each homogeneous material in a product.

Each chemical in the material is first rated according to a range of hazard endpoints. The ratings are then combined with exposure scenarios covering manufacture, use and reuse to produce risk ratings for each of the chemicals. These risk ratings are then used to produce a single risk rating for the material by assigning it the worst single risk rating.

Annie Gullingsrud, C2C textiles and apparel director, told Chemical Watch the initiative differs from other programmes to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals because it goes beyond complying with lists of banned chemicals.

Although the use of such lists by Greenpeace's Detox campaign and fashion brands collective the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) group is, she said, "a great place to start", C2C's scheme assesses all chemicals that go into a product, as well as the water, social impact, energy consumption and material reuse.

Greenpeace Detox aims to phase out 11 classes of chemicals in the textile supply chain by 2020, while ZDHC is a collaboration of companies which produce standards, tools, guidance and training to help eliminate hazardous chemicals.

But Ms Gullingsrud said C2C's goal is "to go beyond reduction of bad – and provide a positive impact."

Industry pressure group Fashion for Good compared the C2C scheme with the OEKO-TEX standard 100 and found its material health criteria exceed it, but will require materials testing.

Fashion Positive Plus members are asked about their material usage and suppliers to identify building block materials such as fibres, yarns, finishings, trims, and dyes.

They decide on the most important materials to focus on from the Fashion Plus critical materials list. This identifies materials urgently needed by the fashion industry to enable circularity.

These will then be assessed and verified using the C2C Certified product standard. The materials will also be added to C2C's 'fashion positive materials collection', which currently lists 70 C2C Certified materials with apparel and fashion applications.

This summer, Dutch retailer C&A will be the first global retailer to launch gold level C2C certified t-shirts.

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