All materials, including those that are sustainable, must adhere to various requirements. Some of these are compulsory, regardless of whether they are enforced legally or otherwise. Others are optional, but fulfilling them may provide a competitive edge.What are the compulsory requirements?
If you intend to export apparel to Europe, there are several mandatory requirements to comply with. These encompass legal requirements related to the use of chemicals, alongside non-legal requirements. Furthermore, numerous buyers have established non-negotiable terms and conditions for all their suppliers, typically involving standards and certifications for raw materials testing, product performance, product safety, labelling, and environmental and/or social impact.What are the legal requirements?
REACH, the EU Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, imposes certain restrictions. The European Union has limited the utilization of specific chemicals in textile products due to potential health risks to consumers. In textile products that have skin contact, flame retardants are limited. Frequently used flame retardants include Tris (2,3 dibromopropyl) phosphate (TRIS), Tris (aziridinyl) phosphineoxide (TEPA), and polybromobiphenyles (PBB). Azo dyes, which are often used in the textile dyeing process, have certain carcinogenic types that are prohibited in consumer products in Europe.Non-legal mandatory requirements.
When initially conducting business with a European buyer, they will typically provide a contract and/or a supplier manual for you to sign. By signing, you commit to adhering to all listed requirements. The responsibility for enforcing these requirements at your facility and within your upstream supply chain lies with you. Any issues arising at your (or one of your suppliers') facilities or with the product, including those discovered post-delivery, will hold you accountable.
Brands and retailers may insist on social and environmental audits of raw materials production facilities, either conducted by themselves or an independent third party. These audits could be announced or unannounced. Factories and mills refusing full access are typically blacklisted and denied future orders. Many brands have developed their own Restricted Substances List (RSL), based on industry and regulatory standards, which material and garment suppliers must adhere to. Complying with REACH and customer-specific requirements can be demanding. For smaller orders, most European buyers will not request testing, but if illegal chemicals are found post-delivery or products fail to meet standards, you will be responsible for all associated costs. Numerous buyers distribute a supplier Code of Conduct within the supplier manual. This Code of Conduct outlines the buyer's values and policies on key topics to ensure suppliers understand and comply with the required ethical standards. This may encompass aspects like:
- Child labour;
- Forced labour and overtime;
- Health & Safety;
- Fair remuneration;
- Business integrity and conflicts of interest;
- Intellectual property;
An increasing number of European purchasers are intensifying their commitment and requirements with regard to sustainable production and social responsibility. This escalation is driven by growing consumer consciousness regarding the adverse environmental and social repercussions of fashion, coupled with an increasingly rigorous regulatory landscape. Manufacturers capable of adjusting their supply chains to accommodate these demands are well-positioned to capitalise on opportunities within this sphere.