Today, every company or brand that are serious about chemicals management has their own Restricted Substances List. That means there are a lot of lists out there that suppliers need to be aware of – literally thousands and thousands. But the fact that there are too many RSLs in textile sector is causing problems, and ironically the sheer number of lists often works against their purpose to get rid of hazardous chemicals.
Let’s say your RSL has some special requirement for the textile mill you are working with, a certain chemical you don’t want them to use. In order to fulfill your requirement the mill needs to run the machinery empty for a while to make sure the specific chemical is gone before they proceed to produce your batch of textiles. Possibly the mill will also have to replace your unwanted chemical with another in order to achieve the same function. In that case the machines would need to run empty once again, after your batch is done, otherwise the next batch of textiles will be contaminated with it. Obviously, this is going to be very costly for your company. Especially if you represent a minor portion of that textile mills total business.
Now imagine every other company having these special requirements. It’s not realistic to expect that they will be met.
That’s why we advice you to adopt an RSL from a larger company or join a common standard, which means you are then part of a company coalition asking for the same input chemistry. By doing so you will not only increase your own chances that your requirements are met, but you are also helping out in pushing the industry away from using too many chemical standards.
There are currently a number of joint textile initiatives with the purpose of streamlining chemical requirements, such as the ZDHC programme or AFIRM. Full memberships in such groups can be costly, especially for SMEs, but since their RSLs are public you can always adopt them even without being a member. There are number of joint initiative RSLs in our database, including the ZDHC programme and AFIRM, to name a few – just filter for the one you are interested in.
At ChemSec we strongly believe that when more and more companies are asking for the same input chemistry – that is when we will se real change in terms of reduced use of hazardous chemicals.
RSL or mRSL?
Lately many large textile brands have shifted their focus from RSL to something called mRSL. So what is the difference between the two?
The RSL aims to restrict the chemicals that will end up in the finished garment, in other words the chemicals that the end costumers are exposed to. The problem with the RSL is that the garment can still be produced using a lot of hazardous chemicals, but they are washed out before they reach the consumer. So even if these textiles might be safe from a end consumer perspective, it does little for the health of workers and the environment in producing countries.
The mRSL, where the “m” stands for “manufacturing”, aims to remedy that since it targets all chemicals used in the whole supply chain. In other words, if a chemical is placed on an mRSL it implies that it is not allowed to use during any of the production steps.
When creating an RSL, it’s common to study the approach taken by other companies and what substances they have included. Some countries also have business associations, trade groups and non-governmental organisations that recommend or produce information and lists of substances to avoid and/or control.
Get inspiration from some of the RSLs of leading textile companies:
H&M Chemical Restrictions – RSL and mRSL
Puma Chemical Restrictions – RSL and mRSL
VF (including Lee, Wrangler and Timberland) Restricted Substance List
Trade associations and joint initiatives:
AFIRM Restricted Substances List
RSL / mRSL facts
The purpose of the RSL/mRSL is to avoid and/or control substances used in your textile production processes or your final product, and to steer your suppliers towards the production of safe and legally compliant products. The list may contain substances for controlled use, substances to be targeted for elimination/substitution and substances that may be totally banned or regulated.
The requirements should apply to all your products and be a part of your other supplier requirements and instructions (e.g. requirements for quality, delivery, packaging, labels, etc.). The requirements must be provided as part of your purchase agreement with the supplier.
Remember that when you state your requirements you also need to specify how you will verify that the requirements are being complied with (read more about Control and Audit).