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H&M urges EU leaders to secure an ambitious REACH revision

H&M Group — one of the world’s biggest fashion brands — sent a letter to EU authorities last week, urging them to move forward with the revision of the EU’s chemical legislation REACH as soon as possible. Here are the three main asks from the letter.

Published on 29 Mar 2023

In a letter sent to EU authorities early last week, fashion giant H&M Group calls for a more progressive chemicals legislation. The letter includes three asks in order to improve the chemicals policy in the European Union — secure an ambitious REACH revision, integrate the hazard-based approach and improve chemical transparency.

“It’s super important that industry leaders such as H&M voice their concerns and speak out about the importance and urgency of an ambitious REACH revision”, says Frida Hök, Deputy Director at ChemSec.

The letter could be viewed as a follow-up to the joint letter from December last year when H&M and 21 other co-signers wrote to EU President Ursula von der Leyen, also requesting an ambitious and prompt revision of REACH.

Secure an ambitious REACH revision
H&M Group states that the company supports the commitments made in the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS), and that these cannot happen without an ambitious revision of the chemical legislation REACH.

Not only is the revision important to protect human health and the environment, it is also necessary in order to incentivise innovation in the industry and ensure predictability.

“It’s an urgent matter. The EU Commission needs to finalise the REACH proposal by June to make sure the process is not delay by many years due to the upcoming election of the European Parliament and formation of a new Commission”, Frida Hök comments.

“It’s an urgent matter. The EU Commission needs to finalise the REACH proposal by June”

Integrate the hazard-based approach
In addition, H&M states that the most hazardous substances should be restricted based on their hazards, rather than on exposure risk: “a hazard-based approach will enable us to achieve lasting compliance, thus making our industry future-proof”.

This approach is also necessary to control legacy chemicals in recycled materials, the company writes.

Improve chemical transparency
The letter expresses that insufficient chemical transparency is a major obstacle for the textile industry when trying to phase out harmful chemicals. The primary information about chemical ingredients is today the Safety Data Sheet, which does not provide enough information on the chemical content.

“This situation leaves us with scarce information about most ingredients in chemical products, hindering our chemical traceability efforts and causing the risk of regrettable substitutions”, H&M Group writes.