A wide variety of dyes and chemicals are used to give textiles the desired colours and functionalities. For many years, large sections of the garment industry did this without adequate consideration for the environment and human health. To put an end to the sometimes irresponsible practices, Greenpeace launched its Detox campaign in 2011 with the aim of banning the use of particularly harmful chemicals. A great deal has happened since then.

When we committed to the Greenpeace Detox campaign, sustainable chemicals management was still uncharted territory for our industry. So our first step in 2015 was to set up a group of experts specialising in this field in China, Bangladesh and Germany. 
The team first had to identify the wet production plants in our supply chain to gain a clear view of the chemicals they used. Regular, mandatory wastewater and sludge tests were then introduced for these factories to check their use of chemicals.

To this day, our chemical management audits (CMAs) in production plants are at the heart of our work in this area. We check that factories comply with our requirements and train their employees in the practical implementation of good chemical management. Alongside the audits, we also assist their managers by providing them with our Chemical Management Handbook and organising training measures.

Checking Adherence

to Limit Values

We have the wastewater and sludge from our wet production sites (WPSs) regularly tested by selected, accredited test institutes to ensure that substances classified as particularly hazardous by the Greenpeace Detox campaign are not used in the production process or are only used within strict limitations. Every WPS is required to produce an MRSL-compliant wastewater test certificate once a year. This is one of the criteria that a factory must fulfil to be included in our pool of wet production sites. In 2020 we adopted the industry-wide ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) standard for wastewater and sludge. Since then, we have conducted our tests in line with the requirements of this standard, which in recent years has established itself as the leading initiative for eliminating hazardous chemicals from the textile industry. 


Chemical Inventories

In 2016, we introduced the Chemical Inventory & Certificates (CIC) Check. This is a chemical inventory in which our wet production facilities list the chemicals they use, which enables us to know in advance what chemicals are used in every production facility. Since mid-2022, we have started to gradually migrate our whitelisted WPSs’ chemical inventories to industry-wide solutions provided by external platforms.

Jet Shen
​ Chemical and Environmental
​ Senior Engineer​ ​

“I joined Güldenpfennig in 2015, when the Greenpeace Detox campaign was launched to limit the use of hazardous chemicals in the textile industry. The campaign set a goal, but getting there was a huge challenge. We’ve now come significantly closer to achieving that goal after years of unceasing work by our entire team.


In addition to our current know-how and rigorous supplier selection procedures, we’re now taking a further step forward by switching from annual wastewater and sludge testing to the digital chemical inventory. This approach creates greater transparency and allows us to control the chemicals used in production more systematically. We’re convinced this is the way to create a sustainable future.”

Chemical Audits

To audit the wet production sites (WPSs) and help them to develop positively before and during our cooperation, it is important to understand their individual circumstances. Because we want to evaluate their current situation and the improvements they have achieved, we need to be right there on site and talk personally to the people in charge. This is why chemical audits are a core element of our work. The audits can be divided into the following six modules:

Katharina Moormann
Jr. Manager Environmental Compliance

“The Environmental Compliance department focusses in particular on the wet production sites in our supply chain as they use the most chemicals and therefore have the greatest impact on the environment. Our customers have a variety of different requirements so we have to provide tailor-made environmental management systems. The majority of our products are made in WPSs that are on our internal whitelist. This is a pool of wet production sites that are regularly audited by us and meet our internal standards. We’ve significantly reduced the number of production sites in this pool since 2016. Ordering larger volumes from this smaller pool of suppliers lets us increase our influence on their practices while providing them with more comprehensive support.”



Compared to social compliance, the topic of chemical and environmental management is relatively unfamiliar in the supply chains of our production countries. Building knowledge and putting it into practice is a crucial step along the path towards safe and sustainable chemical and environmental management. It would be impossible to achieve the desired changes and improvements without a common understanding.

Since 2016, we have been conducting regular training measures and refer to this as Chemical Management Capacity Building. We employ this method, with the support of respected consultancy firms, to help our partner companies further develop the skills of their employees and solve problems in chemical management. In recent years, we have deliberately focused on intensive programmes lasting several months. These alternate between theoretical training, factory visits and meetings to monitor the improvements made and achieve truly practical and effective solutions.