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RSL-MRSL promise and reality

It is also a conjoint activity which definitely costs a significant amount. But in practical who will pay for this supply chain cleaning activity? Dyes and chemical suppliers say that day by day the cost of sustainable products will be higher. Again, China has great control on dyes and chemical market always, but recently many chemical manufacturing factories got shut down due to change of their government policy which affects the whole supply chain.

Consumers are now very much conscious about using garments. Their consciousness driving the brands, manufacturers as a whole all vendors of full value chain about health, environment, and social safety. To comply with the customer demand, today all manufacturers, brands, and retailers have their own Restricted Substances List (RSL) and Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL). It means there are enormous restricted substances which are being used in the textile manufacturing processes that are causing problems and ironically the sheer number of lists often works against their purpose to get rid of hazardous chemicals.

RSL-MRSL promise and reality
Figure: 100% avoid of hazardous chemical is not possible in a real sense, but it is possible to regulate to an optimum level. Courtesy: business-reporter

Usually, MRSL and RSL lists restrict the use or existence of certain carcinogenic, mutagenic, reproductive toxic, endocrine disruptive and non-biodegradable chemicals and substances in finished textiles and apparels, footwear products, toys, electrical goods etc.

What are RSL and MRSL?

The core objective of the RSL and MRSL is to avoid and control the substances that are used in the textile production processes to the final product and to steer the suppliers towards the production of safe and legally compliant products.

The MRSL differs from RSL because it restricts hazardous substances potentially used and discharged into the environment during manufacturing. So, it could be considered that MRSL is a more valuable tool because it restricts hazardous chemicals earlier in the manufacturing process.

On the other hand, RSL is a list of hazardous chemicals that are restricted below a certain threshold in finished textile products. Often it is given by the buyers and brands.

Recently in his speech in a Textile Today seminar Prasad Pant, South Asia Director of ZDHC informed that according to the UN every 15 seconds in the world, a child dies from water-related disease. Textile Industry is known as one of the most polluting industry. There are lots of factories in the world where the wastewater which is discharged from a textile manufacturing plant is not treated enough to remove all these hazardous substances from going into the river. Chemicals have different impacts on our bodies.

He explained that there are chemicals which can be the reason for certain death. There are chemicals which can damage skin or cause irritation. There are chemicals which are now known as cancer-causing chemicals. The chemicals which we are producing are not limited to the area where we are producing but it is transported either through the water or through the air to various parts of the world even to the North Pole.

Read More: Reforming all standards into one will help everybody to become more efficient and more sustainable

Chemicals in the ZDHC MRSL include solvents, cleaners, adhesives, paints, inks, detergents, dyes, colorants, auxiliaries, coatings and finishing agents used during raw material production, wet-processing, maintenance, wastewater treatment, sanitation, and pest control. The RSL governs the outputs (finished product) to protect consumers.

Textile bill makes all textile businesses to register under DoT

The reality of RSL and MRSL

Now the question naturally arises, do the lists really helping? Practically it is seen that every buyer or brand, and initiatives like ZDHC have their own RSL and MRSL list which is creating complexity in the value chain for the garments manufacturers.

Bangladesh textile industry is willing to implement ZDHC, Sustainability, RSL, and MRSL, but still we do not get enough support from the chemical suppliers and other business associates in true sense.

ATM Mahbubul Alam Milton, Executive Director, Masco Group

Usually, dyes and chemical suppliers give the MRSL/RSL list to both buyers and manufacturers. Liaison offices of the buyers do their schedule check with the manufacturers. Reality is manufacturers produce a different range of products for different buyers at a time and most of the time they are not able to follow all the category of restricted substances. Supply of chemicals & dyes complying RSL and MRSL is critically important. If dyes & chemicals are not easily available and tracked well despite having interest textile manufacturers cannot comply. The most hazardous category is always in the priority list for both buyers and manufacturers but less hazardous substances are often ignored which pollutes the environment gradually.

It is also a conjoint activity which definitely costs a significant amount. But in practical who will pay for this supply chain cleaning activity? Dyes and chemical suppliers say that day by day the cost of sustainable products will be higher. Again, China has great control on dyes and chemical market always, but recently many chemical manufacturing factories got shut down due to change of their government policy which affects the whole supply chain.

On 7 August 2018 Textile Today organized a seminar on ‘ZDHC & Sustainability Implementation in Textile Industry‘ where ATM Mahbubul Alam Milton, Executive Director of Masco Group said, “Bangladesh textile industry is willing to implement ZDHC, Sustainability, RSL, and MRSL, but still we do not get enough support from the chemical suppliers and other business associates in true sense.”

Which actually indicate that textile manufacturers need enough support from chemical suppliers as well as brands and buyers and also they should take the equal responsibility to clean up the value chain.

Local government also do not have the proper policy and MRSL/RSL list for the manufacturers which also may help them from many certification and testing companies those are operating their activities in this regards which is tremendous costly for a factory.

Whatever, this is increasingly important as most major brands are now insisting their stakeholders and partners conform to MRSL and RSL guidelines.

Cases to think

Some cases for a factory to think which also should be a concern of buyers.

  • Do you have enough infrastructure to maintain RSL and MRSL?
  • What ranges of products you are producing?
  • Do you have the necessary expertise to implement an MRSL or RSL?
  • Do you currently have relationships with the chemical suppliers that have the resources to demonstrate the quality of their chemicals?
  • Will you need both an RSL and an MRSL in order to thrive in this new environment?

Buyers and consumers should support the manufacturers in these cases from the greater angle of sustainability.

Effective ways of managing and following RSL and MRSL

  1. Dyes and chemical suppliers should use the less hazardous ingredients in the final product.
  2. An Apparel manufacturer can make a common list of RSL and MRSL for different buyers and brands.
  3. The local government, business associations, trade groups, and non-governmental organizations should work together to achieve the RSL/MRSL target, thus save the business and environment.
  4. Ethically the apparel manufacturers should be sound to follow RSL and MRSL properly.
  5. Raise the awareness to follow RSL and MRSL at a different level (consumer, buyer, brands, chemical supplier and apparel manufacturers).

The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) have developed an RSL and it identifies the most restrictive iteration of that regulation worldwide. It is updated every six months and the latest version is made available for free to the apparel and footwear industry.

ZDHC also developed and published an MRSL with input from key stakeholders from the ZDHC member brands and chemical companies. This initiative demonstrates leadership and innovation and cuts across cultural and competitive boundaries.

Conclusion

100% avoid of RSL and MRSL is not possible in a real sense, but it is possible to regulate to an optimum level. So, in this conjoint activity of cleaning the supply chain apparel manufacturers, chemical suppliers, brands, buyers, end users and also the testing bodies all should take the ownership to make the world more sustainable.

Also Read: “bluesign® would like to offer its expertise and solutions for sustainable business model in Bangladesh”

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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