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Chemical Management

Last Updated: 2020.05.29
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Fast Retailing implements strict controls on water and air pollution, managing chemical use to minimize risk of harm to our customers, workers and the environment.

Policies for Chemical Management

Chemicals play an important role in garment manufacturing processes, including dyeing, washing and finishing. In all our manufacturing processes, Fast Retailing strives to prevent and reduce water and air pollution and to minimize the risk of environmental harm through the careful management of chemical substances. Our goal is to eliminate emissions of hazardous chemicals in products and in production processes. With the cooperation of our business partners, we prioritize the safety of our customers and factory employees. We also partner with other organizations to solve industry-wide chemical management issues that are difficult to be addressed by a single company.

Goals

In 2013, Fast Retailing committed to the goal of eliminating hazardous chemical substance discharges from production processes and products by the year 2020. In line with our commitment, we have worked to eliminate priority substances, eliminated Alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APEOs) and Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), conducted wastewater inspections at core fabric mills and disclosed its results. As of the end of 2019, the overall compliance towards zero is 99.8% (for details, please refer to the report on "Progress of the Initiatives to Eliminate the Release of Hazardous Chemicals" published as below). We continue efforts to achieve sustainable chemistry, promoting safer input chemicals with increased transparency of chemical use, best practices at our facilities, and safe product development.

Initiatives

We publish our chemical management guideline for production partners and lists of restricted substances based on our commitment to eliminate emissions of hazardous chemicals. Our core fabric mills conduct periodic wastewater studies and publish results. If a release of hazardous chemical substances is detected, Fast Retailing works with the factory to make improvements. Our production partners also work toward using alternatives to hazardous chemical substances and improving control over chemical management. In addition, Fast Retailing is a member of Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC), a group which promotes the implementation of sustainable chemistry, driving innovation and best practice in the textile, apparel, leather and footwear industries to protect consumers, workers and the environment. ZDHC programs such as the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) and the ZDHC Gateway enable us to measure our performance according to an industry standard and make improvements efficiently.

Overall progress of initiatives

Chemical Management Guideline

This guideline outlines the requirements and expectations from Fast Retailing to its production partners in order for us to move towards our zero hazardous chemicals discharge goal. The guideline requires our production partners to select proper chemical formulations and its safe use in the facility and use proper treatment of wastewater.

Drafting and publishing lists of restricted substances

We update and circulate lists of restricted substances annually, asking production partners to comply with the lists. We update these lists in accordance to the prevention approach and precautionary principles. Substances to be added to the list are identified in consultation with external experts on legal and industry standards, taking into consideration data obtained from relevant authorities, NGOs and scientific reports.

For wastewater testing, we apply the wastewater guidelines developed by the ZDHC Group.

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Wastewater testing and disclosure

Fast Retailing requires its core fabric mills to conduct wastewater testing based on the ZDHC wastewater guidelines and to disclose results via the IPE (Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs) website, an environmental NGO in China. If hazardous chemicals are detected in wastewater, we investigate chemical manufacturers and partner factories, identifying root causes and implementing improvements.

Initiatives toward the elimination of specified substances

・Alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APEOs)
APEOs are a class of chemicals used as surfactants and are widely used as industrial detergents, but have been pointed out as endocrine disruptors. Fast Retailing has banned the use of formulations containing APEOs since 2012. In 2019, all target facilities achieved to meet the standard.

・Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs)
PFCs are durable water-repellent finishing agents used widely in the apparel and outdoor wear industry to protect clothes from rain and dirt. The international environmental NGO, Greenpeace, is concerned with lack of biodegradability of PFCs. Fast Retailing set a goal to eliminate PFCs use in our manufacturing processes. We worked with our business partners to develop alternatives to PFCs, and had eliminated PFC use by the fall/winter season of 2017.

Audits of business partner chemical substance controls

Based on our Code of Conduct for Production Partners, we conduct environmental audits and monitor the labor environment of suppliers' sewing factories and major fabric manufacturers. Environmental audits include the storage condition of chemical substances, the status of instruction manuals, and employee training conditions. Third-party specialized auditors conduct periodic audits, and factories in need of improvement are visited by Fast Retailing personnel who work with the factory to implement changes.

Fabric mills use large amounts of resources such as water, energy and chemicals, with risk of significant environmental impact. Accordingly, UNIQLO began using the Higg Index Facility Environmental Module in 2015 to assess environmental impacts at its core fabric mills. The index was developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), a non-profit organization working to reduce the environmental impact of the apparel industry. Chemical management performance is evaluated in the Higg Index, and we are working with our core UNIQLO fabric mills to improve their chemical management methods.

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