Chemicals are a big part of modern, high-performance fabrics. We love the quick-drying, moisture-wicking, waterproof-breathable qualities. We love fabrics with bright colours and soft touches. But every step of the textile manufacturing process - from yarn to weaving, dying and applying coatings - uses chemicals. The wrong chemicals - or the wrong use of chemicals - is harmful to people and the environment.
Bluesign® is an independent chemical auditor that works with producers, manufacturers and brands to reduce harmful chemicals in the textile industry.
Their work is important. In 2015, the global apparel industry produced more than 400 billion square metres of fabric - enough to cover New Zealand, twice! Producing all this fabric accounts for 25% of global chemical use.
Only 10% of the chemicals that go into a textile factory, come out in the fabric. The rest is either recycled or ends up in the air, the water, the land - and the people.
There are up to 2000 chemicals used in textile processes and new ones are being developed each year.
Chemicals are the solution
But as the director of bluesign® North America, Kevin Myette says, “Chemicals are not the problem. Chemicals are the solution.”
Bluesign®, which was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Switzerland, continually pushes for “better chemistry”.
Bluesign® partners like Kathmandu have access to the extensive bluesign database of more than 900 chemicals, which are rated as blue (clear to use), silver (use with good management) or black (never use). Bluesign® helps factories manage silver chemicals with good practice and replace black chemicals with bluesign® approved.
Customers know that a bluesign® approved fabric has been manufactured in a way is safe for the environment, safe for workers and safe for consumers.
If you know what goes in, you know what comes out
The aim of the bluesign® system is responsible use of resources, clean processes with controlled air and water emissions, safe processes for the workers and safe products for consumers. To achieve this, the system defines criteria for ingredients, for the manufacturing process and for finished products. By making sure all the ingredients are approved, it’s much easier to make sure the finished products are approved.
Bluesign® also works with a growing number of brands, who need a way to navigate the complex textile industry and give customers assurance that materials have been manufactured responsibly.
As more brands sign up as system partners, it creates more demand for bluesign® approved materials and puts pressure on the whole industry to improve.
Kathmandu signed up as a bluesign® system partner in December 2016.
“Becoming a bluesign® system partner is a significant step in our sustainable materials strategy,” says Textile R&D and Responsible Materials Manager Manu Rastogi. “We see bluesign® as the gold standard for ensuring that our products are free from hazardous chemicals and are made as responsibly as possible. When we choose bluesign® certified fabrics, we are assured that the raw materials we use help protect not only the environment, but also those who come in contact with them: textile workers, factory workers and ultimately, our end consumers.”
The new CEO of bluesign technologies is Jill Dumain, who comes from a long career developing sustainability initiatives at Patagonia.
“Bluesign technologies is proud to welcome Kathmandu as a system partner,” says Jill. “We are happy Kathmandu is demonstrating environmental leadership in this region of the world by joining the holistic bluesign system. Kathmandu has seen the value of bluesign technologies previously by specifying bluesign materials for their products but now they have taken the next step in their sustainability journey and are embedding their values into their business practices. Bluesign technologies looks forward to the partnership with Kathmandu.”