Four major clothing manufacturers have agreed to share their “screened chemistry” approaches to alternative chemistries, with the aim of supporting a unified approach to chemical management across the apparel and textile industry. Levi Strauss & Co, Nike, H&M and C&A – all of which use similar methodologies in their efforts to identify safe chemical alternatives when eliminating hazardous chemicals – will be sharing their screened chemistry tools with the ZDHC Foundation to help the organization develop a platform for developing safe chemical alternatives and driving innovation in the industry.

Screened chemistry is the concept of evaluating the human health and environmental impacts of potential alternatives when eliminating hazardous chemicals in order to avoid “regrettable substitutions,” according to ZDHC, an organization focused on building a global center of excellence for chemical management in the textile and footwear industries. The foundation has established a task force for its Roadmap to Zero program. The program expects to create a clear process for identifying and evaluating chemical alternatives with input from various stakeholders across the industry.

“Although the efforts of Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, H&M and C&A were not initiated together, the core elements of their different Screened Chemistry methodologies are remarkably similar, both in their approach and ultimate goals,” ZDHC says. Levi Strauss & Co’s screened chemistry program, for example, scores chemicals based on their toxicity to human health and the environment. The four retailers will form the core of the new ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme Task Team and will invite other brands and partners to join the initiative.

Traditionally, in terms of reducing hazardous chemicals in their supply chains, brands focused on “restricted substance lists” (RSLs), which identified the chemicals a company would not permit in its products. These lists are useful when it comes to ensuring compliance with international chemical regulations, but do little to drive the use of more sustainable chemistries in the apparel supply chain, Levi Strauss says. By shifting to hazard-based approach to chemical management, and by sharing their approach with others, the retailers believe they can drive systemic change.