Nike, Adidas and others aim for less toxic supply chains

In 2004, a group of forward-thinking fashion and athletic brands with restricted substances lists (RSLs) -- featuring major players Adidas, C&A, Gap, Levi’s, Marks & Spencer and Nike -- formed an industry working group with the aim of reducing the use and impact of harmful substances in the apparel and footwear supply chain. 

Nine years later, the Apparel and Footwear International RSL Management Group (AFIRM) is 18 members strong and continuing its mission by creating and distributing new and innovative tools for supply chains around the globe and by hosting seminars to educate its global supplier base on ever-evolving best practices in chemical safety management.

Since its founding, AFIRM has met semi-annually, hosted hundreds of calls and assembled multiple taskforces to identify and solve various RSL issues including hazardous substance identification, appropriate analytical test methods and limits, laboratory performance evaluation, new regulatory requirements and best practice in education and engagement of supply chains.

AFIRM released the first version of its RSL Supplier Implementation Toolkit in 2008, a collection of resources to help suppliers understand restricted substances and implement their own factory management plan to gain control over the substances used in their raw materials. To date, AFIRM has hosted five RSL seminars across Asia to directly engage and present RSL management techniques to over 2,400 suppliers.

More recent AFIRM activity includes:

  • The second edition of the AFIRM Supplier Toolkit, a substantially improved version over the initial document, released in 2011.
  • The RSL Guidance, a review of all AFIRM brand RSLs reflecting the most stringent substance limit and corresponding test method, published in 2012. The document also includes general indicators for occurrence level within the apparel and footwear supply chains for reference.
  • An educational seminar hosted in Vietnam in November 2012, which included presentations from experts in the fields of advancing safer chemistries, responsible sourcing and greener chemical opportunities in the apparel and footwear supply chains. Also included were overviews of the updated Supplier Toolkit, the RSL Guidance document, and a hands-on training activity designed to engage and educate suppliers on best practices based on hypothetical RS failures. Suppliers were challenged to identify the appropriate corrective action plans from a variety of perspectives within the chain of custody of the hypothetical product/material failure.

Next page: What's in the toolkit?

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