Chemical safety

Sustainability performances: introduction to the Milano Unica classification (2)

This is the second of a series of 5 articles illustrating the classification of the sustainability performances of the samples of fabrics and accessories that will be exhibited in the "Sostenibilità Creativa" project. Sustainability performances are defined starting from 5 value areas: 1) Climate Action, 2) Chemical Safety, 3) Biodiversity Conservation, 4) Circular Economy, 5) Social Justice.


The quality, appearance, hand and other aesthetic and functional characteristics of fabrics and garments depend not only on the materials that are used but also on the production processes, which, in general, may require intense use of chemicals, suffice it to think of dyes, water repellency, surface shine, etc. Chemistry, including synthetic chemistry, is not intrinsically good or bad; some substances are dangerous for the environment and health, and others are not dangerous, even if they can have a positive effect. The actions that a company can carry out in the field of energy concern three areas:


For a long time, the fashion supply chain has underestimated the risks associated with using dangerous chemicals in production processes. The European regulation REACH No 1907 of 2006 regulates the control, use and, in some cases, the elimination of dangerous chemical substances. The regulation represents a minimum legal basis generally exceeded in a more restrictive and voluntary sense by the requirements imposed by the certification marks and labels. The selection criterion adopted by Milano Unica requires compliance with the most common market standards or the leading certification labels.


The negative impact of substances, although permitted by law, which the market and the main standards consider hazardous, concerns the whole community's health beyond the health of those who work in contact with these substances or those who wear garments treated with dangerous substances. These substances can be released into the water or the air and, in this way, be harmful to the health of all citizens, even indirectly, if, for example, they contaminate food, vegetables, fish, and mammals through irrigation, the pollution of rivers and seas or the water we drink.


In more detail, three categories of compliance are defined:

  • Compliance with the M-RSL (Manufacturing Restricted Substances Lists) or P-RSL (Product Restricted Substances List) of the standards (e.g. or Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana) or of the most relevant certifications for the fashion supply chain (e.g. Oeko-tex 100 or Cradle to Cradle)
  • Compliance with Chemical Management protocols (e.g. Oeko-tex Step, 4Sustainability, ZDHC or Blusign)
  • Use of materials that come from agriculture that uses chemistry responsibly (e.g. GOTS and, in general, organic materials) 


In line with these principles, the Safe Chemicals label is attributed to a sample if the exhibitor's declarations reveal compliance with one or more of the abovementioned categories in the Milano Unica classification system.


Finally, we remind the reader that the evaluation of the samples' compliance with the selection criteria is based on the exhibitors' declarations, for which a consistency check is envisaged and a verification of the correct attribution of the certification labels.