In the current climate of rapidly changing legislation; product safety is a fundamental regulatory obligation for any responsible brand. A range of business strategies and testing models have been adopted to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of legislative requirements. However, in order to ensure the consistent safety of retailed consumer products and the associated upstream and downstream challenges, many brands are setting themselves standards that exceed the minimum legal requirements. As a result, a pressure now exists on brands, to implement a due diligence programme that goes beyond mandatory compliance. Effective due diligence is also important to ensure compliance by suppliers and venders.
In the pursuit of a robust and thorough testing regime, many brands and retailers acknowledge the need for the implementation of a due diligence programme to strengthen current testing procedures and further enhance confidence in a chemical compliance policy. Most significantly, it will minimise the risk of restricted chemicals within finished consumer products and bolster a legal defence (if required) in line with industry best practise.
The effective management of restricted chemicals within a global brand presents a multitude of potential difficulties. Naturally, the introduction of a chemical due diligence programme demands the utilisation of resources and a comprehensive chemical understanding. Therefore, an uncomplicated and practical system is required; one that has the capacity to monitor likely chemical risks within a range of products and test for these accordingly within defined cost parameters.
There may be a need for a due diligence programme that is multi-faceted. Beyond the assessment of restricted chemicals in certain materials, this proposed programme could encompass a broader spectrum of potential risk. An enhanced due diligence programme could evaluate risk from multiple angles; including considerations of the following:
- End use of material (i.e. in prolonged skin contact) e.g. Footwear linings, apparel in skin contact.
- Quality and longevity of relationship with supplier
- Size and location of supplier
- Relationship of supplier with other global brands
- Co-operation regarding previous requests for information
- Willingness to provide test data
- Known previous chemical failures and corrective actions
- Local sourcing of chemicals/materials
- Alliance with any industry groups such as the Leather Working Group
- Demonstration of test data to commercial labelling programmes such as Oeko Tex.
The over-arching notion underpinning a due diligence programme is that it should serve as a programme for progressive improvement. Through the understanding of a multitude of relevant ‘risk factors,’ one is able to gain a more comprehensive and reliable picture of your individual chemical risk. Through testing and data analysis, these risks will be better understood and consequently more effectively minimised.