Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the potentially harmful impact of chemicals that are used in apparel and footwear. In view of concerns about environmental and public exposures to restricted substances, many national and international regulations such as REACH and CPSIA have been issued to restrict or prohibit such chemicals and many restricted substances lists are used throughout the industry.

The Challenges

Harmful chemicals can pose a grave threat to both people and the environment. The presence of hazardous substances might result in a recall case that would be damaging to a company’s brand image and reputation. A recent Greenpeace International publication Dirty Laundry 2: Hung Out to Dry highlighted the chemical Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) and how it was shown to be released into the environment from apparel and footwear. This is an example that shows that the global impact to the environment is not only at the point of production, but also at the point of sale.

There are many other chemicals that fall into the group of chemicals that are potentially harmful to the environment and public exposure. This has created new challenges for apparel and footwear companies in implementing a unified and integrated approach to the requirements of worldwide consumer product regulations, recognized industrial standards, chemical specifications and the release of hazardous chemicals throughout the entire supply chain.

The Control

Numerous chemicals used during production may carry a very high risk to consumer’s health and to the environment. Therefore, risk control and management throughout the supply chain is important in order to diminish the risk that the final product may have on public health and environmental safety. A strict quality assurance system will be needed to control products from the source to the final product. Critical elements of such a system include factory system reviews, verification of documentation and operation control, and assessment of raw material suppliers. Chemical and raw material evaluation and management including chemical substances and their components is vital to a strict quality assurance system. Evaluation mechanisms for new components and suppliers should be established
to ensure that no restricted chemical substances that may pose a threat on the quality of the finished products will enter the production line.

The Next Step

To differentiate your products and competitiveness, to build an exclusive brand image, to promote your company’s reputation and to sharpen your competitive edge, you can partner with SGS to discuss and develop your action plans.

Karen E. Kyllo, Ph.D.
Deputy Vice President, Global Softlines
SGS U.S. Testing Company, Inc.

t: +1 973 461 7934


The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With more than 67,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,250 offices and laboratories around the world.