Project Developers: Purchasing / Quality
Partners: Suppliers

Reducing environmental impacts during textile ennobling

The product categories concerned

Context and description

The ennobling stage gives new properties to the product thanks to processes such as dyeing, finishing, printing or coating.

To transform the appearance and the properties of the textile, this stage calls on numerous chemical products and can consume a large quantity of water. It can also impact on the health of personnel involved in manufacturing. As an example, the bleaching process via the sanding technique is banned by numerous brands as it is harmful to the health of workers assigned to this task - it provokes silicosis, an uncurable and deadly disease.

Furthermore, the Detox campaign initiated by Greenpeace in 2011 and relayed by the ZDHC initiative has committed brands to greater transparency and the drastic reduction in toxic chemical product discharges in their production and supply chain.

Today new, more respectful production processes for man and the environment are being developed and should be preferred by brands in order to reduce their environmental footprints.



Complexity of implementation


Estimated economic gain


Human means

1 year
2 seasons

Implementation timeframes

Try it! : Follow the sheet step by step and have a go!
Step of
  • It is firstly necessary to carry out a rapid assessment of your material purchases. What proportion of materials are purchased directly or selected? For unspecified materials (i.e. when the company buys finished products), what is the proportion of known material suppliers? If the company has a low level of visibility with respect to its material suppliers (and their ennobling sites which may be all or partly externalised), traceability is necessary for the 20/80 of its purchases (Pareto).

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  • If the company knows the ennobling sites for at least 50% of its purchases, it can complete its assessment with a profile of the main sites: what is the proportion of sites located outside of the EU (where regulations can be less strict making the risk of pollution higher) and among them, how many are equipped with wastewater treatment plants (WWTP)? Which sites possess environmental guarantees (i.e. certification, recent audits or any other concrete environmental protection initiative?

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  • Guaranteeing the safety of materials is an essential stage. Europe, the United States and several Asian countries have developed restrictive regulations aiming to ensure the absence of hazardous substances in textiles and footwear (e.g.: REACH, Prop 65). Depending on their origin or the treatments carried out (e.g. coating), certain materials can be particularly exposed to these regulations. It is essential to put in place a monitoring system, to draft eco-toxic specifications (Restricted Substance List - RSL) duly validated by material suppliers and to carry out an adequate number of self-checks (or to base yourself on certifications such as Oeko-tex).

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  • Depending on the strategy and maturity of the company, defining a strategy to reduce the environmental impacts associated, with material ennobling requires going beyond regulatory obligations at the level of objectives and working lines. Initially, it can consist in making traceability systematic at the level of material suppliers or ennobling sites and gaining visibility regarding their practices.

    Various working lines can be envisaged such as focusing on the processes that the organisation wants to improve as a priority, fixing strategic performance objectives for material suppliers (See Tool 1) or environmental pre-requisites for new incomings (See Tool 2).

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  • The company may establish its own standards: management of chemical products, limits to be respected, water management policy...(See Tool 1). In this case, it may also develop its own check means, namely via the introduction of environmental audits. Generally conducted by independent experts, these visits enable the compliance of sites with local regulations to be assessed as well as the solidity of the site's environmental management system (EMS) (See Tool 3).

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  • Use reference certifications such as the ISO 14001 (the most frequent), EMAS, STeP. Bluesign is also recommended. These constitute credible guarantees which will exempt you from other forms of checks on site at this stage.

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  • The most advanced companies can take environmental performance management one step further with a more active management of the chemical products used by ennobling sites to limit local pollution. The organisation can namely take inspiration from MRSL lists (Manufacturing Restricted Substances List) and initiatives such as the ZDHC programme (See Tool 4). This commitment will also contribute towards reinforcing regulatory compliance with mechanisms such as REACH. Share standards with suppliers and integrate these specifications into check systems to ensure that standards are respected (signature of specifications, request for certificates, audits).

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  • Dialogue with partners or use sourcing to find suppliers which employ ennobling processes using less water or chemical products (for example : laser bleaching and "waterless" processes for denim). Prefer the use of mechanical finishes as opposed to chemical finishes in order to reduce the quantities of chemical substances used.

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  • Carry out advanced quality tests on samples in order to ensure that the product corresponds to the requirements set out in the specifications (solidity of dyes with respect to light, washing, perspiration for example) and that product sustainability is not questioned. Include the ennobling processes selected in the product sheet and / or in the specifications.

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  • The most ambitious stakeholders can follow an innovation logic by choosing innovative ennobling processes (closed loop or processes using less chemical products) … (See Cheat Sheet: Dyeing and finishing processes).

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Key indicators

- % of products which are the focus of REACH certificates signed by suppliers

- Proportion of products which are the focus of eco-toxic self-checks

- % of products / purchases from "eco-responsible" ennobling sites

- Existence of an MRSL aligned with the ZDHC

Watch point

The aesthetics of the product is essential. Innovative ennobling process must offer a finish which is comparable to that of conventional processes in order not to impact on product desirability.

For more information

Tool 1 : Environmental standards for the supply chain - GSCP Environmental Reference

Tool 2 : Selection of ennobling sites - NRDC

Tool 3 : Assessment and development of supplier environmental performance -GSCP Environmental Implementation Guidelines

Tool 4 : ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List

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What is Eco design?

Eco design is a platform whose purpose is to provide information and assist textile and footwear brands to rise to the eco-design challenge. This platform is a Refashion initiative (formerly Eco TLC), a public authority-approved eco-organisation for the CHF industry (Clothing, Household linen and Footwear).

Our vision: a 100% circular textile and footwear industry.