Brand CasesVF’s Innovative CHEM-IQ – Bringing a Higher Level of Consciousness to Chemical Management

Publication Date:2022-09-15
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“Our vision is to use chemistry as a force for good.”

As with everything we do at VF, we are continuously working to improve and innovate our approach to chemical management. Smart, safe, preferred chemistry is at the core of VF’s promise to deliver responsibly made products, and it plays an integral role in protecting people and the planet. Responsibly managed chemistry enables us to create high-performance products that consumers trust. 

 “Eliminating Unwanted Chemistries from Our Supply Chain and Beyond”

VF’s chemical management system stretches across our entire global supply chain, from materials and chemical innovation to product manufacturing. Our vision is to use chemistry as a force for good, enabling consumers to experience the industry-leading performance of our brands’ products without harming the planet or the workers in supplier factories. We also believe that the foundation of managing wastewater starts with managing the input chemicals. VF has gone beyond industry standards by announcing a goal to eliminate and/or restrict 100% of unwanted chemical substances by 2025, using the innovative CHEM-IQSM program from VF’s supply chain.[1]

The CHEM-IQSM program is a unique and innovative component of our chemical management system that helps us to identify and remove unwanted chemical substances from our supply chain. The program identifies unwanted chemical substances in chemical auxiliaries, with the aim of replacing them with safer alternatives in a scalable way across our supply chain.  The benefit of testing chemical auxiliaries is that it allows us to find substances we otherwise would not even be aware of being present because they are not listed in the chemical auxiliary’s Material Safety Data Sheet(MSDS).  By doing the sampling of the auxiliaries at their point of use, testing such samples on an annual basis, also allows us to discover batch-to-batch variations we know are present in the chemical auxiliary production processes. When such processes are not properly controlled, unintended chemical reactions may result, forming impurities that can be hazardous.  On-site sampling also provides us with a very clear picture of what is happening in our supply chain, which allows a very actionable and focused approach.  The CHEM-IQSM program allows us to be proactive, and to eliminate potentially harmful chemicals before they are flagged or banned by industry-wide regulations. 

We’re continuously expanding the CHEM-IQSM program and have committed that 100% of in-scope VF Tier 1 and nominated Tier 2 suppliers will be screened annually using the CHEM-IQSM program.

“Our goal is to eliminate and/or restrict 100% of unwanted chemicals or substances from VF’s supply chain by 2025, using the innovative CHEM-IQSM program.”[2]

CHEM-IQSM – the perfect balance 

We challenge our exploratory chemists to think beyond conventional chemistry solutions but always within defined environmental and safety parameters. We have developed and implemented an industry-leading Restricted Substances List (RSL), which identifies prohibited or limited substances for all products and is overseen by our Product Stewardship Team. The key to our approach is CHEM-IQSM —a unique proprietary chemical management system that helps prevent substances of concern from entering our supply chains.

Through CHEM-IQSM, which is initiated by VF, we have identified and removed more than 600 metric tons of non-preferred chemicals from our supply chain since 2016. CHEM-IQSM does not limit our chemistry creativity; it enables us to accelerate product innovation in line with our green chemistry principles, reducing hazardous waste from product design to final production.

In 2017, we made our CHEM-IQSM program manual, testing methodology, and actively involved the chemical industry in creating the substances to avoid (STA) list available to other manufacturers so they could share its breakthrough benefits. Many players in our industry are now using CHEM-IQSM, and we’re actively exploring new ways to extend its use throughout the textile supply chain.

What we have done

The CHEM-IQSM program is a proactive method for identifying and eliminating potentially harmful and banned chemicals before they enter VF’s supply chain during the manufacturing process. Textile formulations and processing chemicals are currently screened for over 480 substances to avoid, many of which appear on VF’s Restricted Substances List (RSL). The RSL defines limit values for restricted substances and identifies banned chemical substances for all final products manufactured and sold under VF brands. The RSL is updated regularly to reflect changes in international laws, including those set forth under CPSA (USA), California Proposition 65, and REACH (ECHA). Whereas the RSL sets limit values for final products, the CHEM-IQSM program sets limit values for substances to avoid in all textile formulations and processing chemicals during each production stage. 

VF’s CHEM-IQSM program outlines a five-step process that provides actionable information on chemical selection for VF and its suppliers. 

1.     Each factory submits a chemical inventory list (CIL). 

2.     VF’s CHEM-IQSM program manager determines which chemicals from the factory require screening and informs the factory. 

3.     The factory submits a small sample of each formulation or chemical to an approved chemical laboratory. 

4.     The laboratory analyzes each submitted sample for over 480 hazardous substances from substance to avoid (STA), giving the chemical a rating of preferred (green), allowed (yellow), due diligence required (orange), or prohibited (red).

5.     The factory receives a report on all chemicals submitted and is required to follow a public available VF CHEM-IQSM Program guide. 

The goal of the CHEM-IQSM program is to achieve responsible chemical management throughout the supply chain in a cost-effective manner and thereby improve workplace safety, environmental protection, and VF product quality.

We’re continuously improving our chemical footprint with the CHEM-IQSM program by: 

•      Phasing out red-rated chemistries and replacing them with more environmentally conscious, safer alternatives 

•      Tightening our requirements for acceptable chemistries 

•      Providing CHEM-IQSM program training to our suppliers 

•      Sharing our program and learnings throughout the industry

CHEM-IQSM uptake 

Worldwide: Since 2016, more than 22,000 chemical auxiliaries were screened through the CHEM-IQSM program from supply chain factories. This screening has enabled VF to eliminate more than 600 metric tons of unwanted chemicals from its supply chain and influenced the global chemical manufacturing industry to adopt safer chemistries by working with suppliers at every tier to identify and remove hazardous chemistries. 

China: As one of VF’s most prominent supply regions, one-fourth of chemical auxiliaries (more than 5,500 items) were screened by the supply chain factories located in China.  Quinoline, Toluene, 2-Butoxyethanol, Xylene, Biphenyl, Cyclohexanone, Diphenylmethane diisocyanate and Cyclic Siloxanes were the most frequently detected chemicals in China. These chemicals are listed in global compliance requirements or research reports that indicate a negative impact on workers’ health during the production process and environmental impact on the surrounding area. VF guided supply chain factories to use CHEM-IQSM preferred or allowed substitutes in production lines and phased out the unwanted chemistry.

A specific case:

One of our factories in China joined our CHEM-IQSM program in 2019. VF screened 110 of their chemicals, and 30 out of 110 screened chemicals were identified as needing to be phased out based on the CHEM-IQSM evaluation system. CHEM-IQSM-approved chemicals (80 out of 110) were allowed to be used in the production lines. 

After further guidance and communication with this factory, VF successfully phased out all 30 unwanted (RED-rated) chemicals, which led to removing 23 metric tons of unwanted chemical auxiliaries from the production lines and VF’s supply chain.

Although, some chemical auxiliaries were used in a smaller quantity in the factory, the toxicology effect or hazards to the surrounding environment were equally considered within this program. All unwanted chemicals were stopped and replaced by safer substitutes. Removing those chemicals from the factory directly promotes workers’ health and wellbeing, and reduces environmental impacts. 

In 2022, VF only detected 2 RED-rated chemicals from this factory, and an experienced factory chemical manager immediately took action and communicate with their chemical supplier to work on a safer alternative to replace RED-rated chemicals. All unwanted chemistries were phased out within 2 months. 


About VF Corporation

Founded in 1899, VF Corporation is one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear, and accessories companies connecting people to the lifestyles, activities, and experiences they cherish most through a family of iconic outdoor, active, and workwear brands, including Vans®, The North Face®, Timberland®, and Dickies®. Our purpose is to power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and our planet. We connect this purpose with a relentless drive to succeed to create value for all stakeholders and use our company as a force for good. For more information, please visit vfc.com.


References: 

You can find more information through the following links to know more about VF’s chemical management programs, and our efforts on supply chains and the planet

•      Product stewardship at VFC

•      Reporting at Data and VFC

•      VFC’s Restricted Substances List

•      VFC’s Made for Change Report



[1] Classes and definitions of unwanted chemicals or substances are detailed on the Chemistry section of www.vfc.com with VF’s Restricted Substance List policy and VF’s CHEM-IQSMprogram. 

[2] Classes and definitions of unwanted chemicals or substances are detailed on the Chemistry section of www.vfc.com with VF’s Restricted Substance List policy and VF’s CHEM-IQSM program.


(The above content is provided by the brand, and the authenticity of the data is the responsibility of the brand) 



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