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Chemicals in textile production

We always strive to do the right thing. We will lead our sector in sustainable consumption and production, offering our customers good value, high quality products and services. To ensure the safety of our customers, people who work in our supply chains and the environment we were the UK's first major retailer to launch a chemical compliance policy in 1998. This banned the use of hazardous chemicals such as alkylphenol ethoxylates (known as APEOs) and heavy metals and was gradually extended to cover textile printers, finishing facilities, laundries and tanneries as well as dyehouses

Environmental and Chemical Policy

The M&S approach to chemical management has never stood still and has continually evolved. After extensive consultation with industry experts, in 2011 we updated our standards as the M&S Environmental and Chemical Policy (ECP) to include new modules providing guidance and best practices for our suppliers. For the first time, we also included sections on environmental management and minimising water and energy use. In 2013 we  updated again with new sections on APEOs and tanneries

The fundamental principle for our approach to managing chemicals in our supply chain is that no dyehouse can join the M&S supply chain without first complying with our Environmental and Chemical Policy. Every dyehouse must complete a rigorous audit before being considered suitable for M&S production, and the performance of the dyehouse is reviewed regularly.
Greenpeace Detox 2020 campaign

In 2012 M&S signed up to Greenpeace’s Detox 2020 campaign and worked with the NGO to develop new chemical commitments that have strengthened our Environmental and Chemical Policy. The ultimate aim is to achieve zero discharge from M&S dyehouses by 2020.

September 2013 update

We remain fully committed to the campaign and have made good progress in the past twelve months. The M&S Restricted Substance List has been updated, with additional chemicals included and tighter limits applied. A new M&S PFC policy has been created and work has begun to eliminate its use by July 2016. Five M&S supplier dyehouses have taken part in a disclosure trial and the level of product testing to ensure compliance to M&S standards have been increased. Additionally M&S has announced a pilot Eco Dye House project that will identify the best practice needed to comply with the M&S standards. The learnings from this project will be rolled out across the M&S supply chain.


As well as implementing and assessing our policy, we work with universities, chemical manufacturers, machinery manufacturers and dyehouse suppliers to develop innovative ways to produce our products.
As part of Plan A, M&S launched three eco-dyehouses that have been used as test beds for new environmental concepts and technology. As a result, processes are now being used in the M&S supply chain that reduce the impact on the environment such as Cold Batch Dyeing, a process that, on average, uses 50% less water and reduces carbon by 30%. 1.3 million M&S products have now been made using Cold Batch Dyeing.

May 2014 update

We have continued our work on the Detox 2020 commitments and remain the only UK retailer to have signed up to the campaign.

The M&S Restricted Substance List was updated again in January 2014, making our standards even more rigorous and we’ve added new categories to our ECP (Environmental and Chemical Policy), for example a module of guidance and advice on PFC substitutes.

We are no longer specifying long-chain PFCs (C8s) in our clothing (as of January 2014).

Work continues on removing short-chain PFCs, which are used in water and oil repellent technology, from the supply chain. We have found alternatives for water repellent technology and these are already being specified in M&S products.

We are working closely with our suppliers and the major chemical companies to develop alternatives for oil repellent technology.

Twenty M&S supplier dyehouses have now taken part in a disclosure trial and we will continue to be roll this out to more of our fabric suppliers.

Our Eco Dyehouse trial has begun at wet processors. We have challenged the dyehouses to excel at water and energy management, chemical and dyestuff management, production efficiency and effluent treatment testing and compliance. We will track progress in the coming months and share learnings with our supply base.

The key to achieving the Detox 2020 commitments will be sharing our learnings, policies and knowledge across our supply base. In March we held our annual supplier conference dedicated to chemical-use in clothing and launched an iPhone app for suppliers. The app is available to all M&S clothing suppliers and gives our supply base easy, mobile access to everything they need to know about M&S chemical policies, restricted substances, testing programmes, compliance regulations and innovation news.  


Our Environmental and Chemical Policy, including the M&S Restricted Substance List, can be downloaded below:

ECP Module 1 - Restricted Substance List

ECP Module 2 - REACH

ECP Module 3 - Minimum Standards & Best Practice

ECP Module 3a - Minimum Standards & Best Practice for Tannery

ECP Module 4 - Environmental Management

ECP Module 5 - Factory Self-Audit FSV

ECP Module 5a - Tannery Self-Audit

ECP Module 6 - APEO

ECP Module 7 - Chromium VI Management

ECP Module 8 - Due Diligence Testing for Chemical Compliance

ECP Module 9 - AZO Dyes

ECP Module 10 - available soon

ECP Module 11 - PFC Substitution Guidelines

ECP Module 12 - New Chemicals Product Safety Evaluation