Working to reduce supply chain chemical use
Alex Begg uses only small quantities of chemicals in its production processes, but saw the opportunity to improve how some of its suppliers of cashmere and dye work with chemicals.
Through collaboration with one of its long-term customers, Alex Begg has been working to improve the management of chemicals among suppliers in the dyeing and cleaning of yarn since 2018. This work has involved a commitment to follow the ZDHC Restricted Substances List and introducing a scoring system for tier 1 suppliers.
“In 2019, we stepped up our work by developing a comprehensive chemical management system with a dedicated chemical management team, policies, processes, audits, chemical testing protocols and a chemical inventory,” explains Ian Whiteford, Sustainability Manager at Alex Begg. “This required close cooperation with our supply chain and supplier visits to support them with more robust chemical management processes that ensure our chemical standards.”
Cooperation leverages influence
“By cooperating with key customers we really amplifies our influence on our supply chain and the wider industry,” says Whiteford. At the same time, our customer is using their tier 1 suppliers like Alex Begg to drive chemical management throughout the supply chain.
“It’s been interesting working with other tier 1 suppliers, including some of our competitors, as part of the collaboration – particularly as we share many of the same UK and Italian dyers and spinners,” says Whiteford. “This collaboration really has benefited the entire industry by helping it to eliminate hazardous chemicals through the implementation of a structured chemical system.”
Overcoming chemical management challenges
Alex Begg’s main supply chain chemical challenge were APEOs (Alkylphenol Ethoxylates) detergents, which were previously used to wash cashmere in China and Mongolia. APEOs are effective detergents, but they stick to the cashmere and can impact on local aquatic environments. All Alex Begg’s suppliers now only use APEO-free detergents.
“Our work has involved a lot of raising awareness particularly among our cashmere and dye suppliers, but we now have the management systems and structure to maintain our high standards throughout our supply chain,” says Whiteford. “For me, it’s about being a leader in the industry – pushing beyond compliance towards excellence.”