18 September 2019: The Government of Switzerland has submitted a document on the positive role that private standards, certifications and labeling schemes (SCLs) can play in the post-2020 chemicals and waste framework as input to the third meeting of the Intersessional Process (IP3) Considering the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020.

IP3 convened from 1-4 October 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The document (SAICM/IP.3/INF/11) addresses chemicals of concern in the textiles industry, explaining that chemicals used in producing textiles can be categorized as “effect chemicals” that remain on the finished product and “process chemicals” used to support the textile finishing process, both of which impact human health and the environment through different exposure pathways.

According to the submission, the global textile industry is “one of the biggest polluters,” with textile production contributing 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) annually, which amounts to an estimated 10% of total emissions. In addition, the World Bank estimates that 20% of industrial wastewater pollution comes from the industry.

In this context, the submission underscores the importance of SCLs and regulating chemicals. It highlights examples of multi-stakeholder approaches and their ability to contribute to the post-2020 SAICM strategy, for example the bluesign system, which uses a science-based risk assessment to identify and regulate harmful substances within textiles’ supply chains.

The submission assesses private SCLs with a strong chemicals and waste component that could contribute to a post-2020 SAICM. It notes that some unmet SAICM targets will have to continue beyond 2020 and that final targets for the new framework will be aligned with the SDGs, including SDG targets 3.9 (reducing the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination) and 12.4 (achieving the environmentally sound management of chemicals and wastes throughout their lifecycle and reducing their release to minimize adverse impacts on human health and the environment).

Textile production contributes 1.2 billion tons of GHGs annually, which amounts to an estimated 10% of total emissions.

The document recognizes that responsible chemicals use in the global textile supply chain through sound chemicals management has mostly been based on voluntary SCL systems as the presence and enforcement of regulations has been ineffective in many countries. Thus, the submission calls for establishing and strengthening chemicals regulations and controls, enhancing cooperation to build developing country capacity and promoting the transfer of cleaner and safer technology. Capacity building in this area has been supported by private SCLs, whose influence in the textile industry can be strengthened by better coordination with national focal points of textile exporting countries.

The document further addresses, inter alia: the ways in which SAICM can assess and assure SCL quality and mitigate greenwashing; whether SAICM should impose minimum SCL requirements; and whether SAICM should focus on upscaling, for example, of selected voluntary SCLs that meet minimum criteria through supporting expansion into other sectors such as toys, consumer electronics, leather and leather-related goods and furniture and home goods, or into new markets thereby strengthening reach and adherence.

The report includes recommendations on the ways in which the textile industry can contribute to a post-2020 SAICM framework, and the role of private SCLs in incentivizing the private sector to engage in the new framework. The document suggests that the post-2020 SAICM framework could expand the reach of private SCLs through awareness raising and activity execution milestones in the years 2025 and 2030 to ensure that upscaling would maximize the strengths and support the private SCLs. Milestones for the textile industry, for example, include:

  • by 2022, increasing awareness of minimum requirements in all textile and garment producing countries through national focal points and a global peer group of experts;
  • by 2024, countries analyzing and addressing obstacles to implementing SAICM-relevant elements of selected private standards;
  • by 2025, private sector associations supporting their members to follow relevant SCL schemes and regulations;
  • by 2025, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including adherence to relevant private standards in their strategic outreach and in their communications with the private sector and governments; and
  • by 2030, concrete harmonization of requirements among voluntary SCLs and their implementation/application in the global market.

In addition, the paper notes that the UN, based on its experience with the Global Compact, could identify private SCLs that meet minimum requirements as “best practices.”

The ‘Beyond 2020’ process was launched in Brasilia, Brazil, in 2017, and aims to create a new and enhanced platform to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, as well as to consider the broader pollution agenda. The goal is to have the new Beyond 2020 framework ready for adoption at the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) in October 2020 in Bonn, Germany. [Switzerland’s Submission on the Role of Labels and Certification Mechanisms in the Post-2020 Chemicals and Waste Framework] [Meeting Webpage] [IISD RS Coverage of IP3]