UK headquartered multinational home improvement company, Kingfisher, has reported that, through product testing, it has found that almost all of its textiles range is free from the three chemical groups it pledged to remove by 2025 – phthalates, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) and halogenated flame retardants (HFCs).
The company, which owns brands B&Q, Screwfix, Castorama and Brico Dépôt, said this year it has tested 80 products in its textiles range that it considered to be the highest risk of containing the substances and found that more than 93% were free from the three chemical groups.
Kingfisher made a series of commitments as part of its 2018 sustainable growth plan that aim to “help millions of customers have a greener, healthier home – one that is resource-efficient, uses planet-friendly materials and is free from harmful chemicals”.
The company’s roadmap focuses on removing long chain and short chain PFCs, a sub-group of the broader chemical group per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). However, it is also working to remove many other PFASs from its textile and footwear products, it said.
Speaking at last week’s Chemical Watch Global Business Summit Europe 2020, Kingfisher’s sustainable chemicals specialist, Oscar Benjamin, said the company is working with suppliers through education and training to phase out these high-priority chemicals from the remaining products.
In addition to textiles, Mr Benjamin said the company has also made progress on phasing out phthalates from plastics. This, he said, was because there are market alternatives that are widely used, but he did not elaborate on what these alternatives were. The company has been training its suppliers in Asia and Europe on how to provide accurate information on the chemicals used in its products, with a focus on plastics.
However, the company is having more trouble phasing out halogenated flame retardants. Mr Benjamin said this is because it is harder to find alternatives that meet various national legally required safety standards.
“Keeping products fire safe requires suppliers to plan the right combination of materials, product design and substances,” he said. The company’s approach to flame retardant substitution involves planning the best combination of these three attributes, he added.
Mr Benjamin told delegates that Kingfisher has a number of green chemistries in the pipeline that are in the R&D stage. One objective of the company’s 2025 chemistry goals is to replace substances of high concern in its products with five ‘green’ chemicals.
The company told Chemical Watch that it is not yet publicly revealing what it considers to be a green chemical or what the compounds being developed are.
Kingfisher said that when it knows it has viable alternatives, it will share more information about them. However, at the moment, the development and use of these chemistries is commercially and competitively sensitive.
Mr Benjamin said in last week’s virtual conference that these chemicals look to be a “great fit to replace some of the chemicals we are trying to eliminate”. The company is currently at the stage of testing product samples, product trials and market testing, which will be the real test, he said.
Kingfisher has also committed to achieving transparency of harmful chemicals in key supply chains by 2020. The company said key supply chains include textiles and footwear, plastics and chemical products.
“We have made good progress and have improved our understanding of where higher risk chemicals are likely to be used. However, with a large supply chain and many products in our ranges, this process is taking time,” the company said.
“We have also learned that the chemicals found in products often vary and a similar product may contain different chemicals according to the materials, suppliers, sub-contractors or manufacturing sites,” it added.
chemicalwatch.com, 17 September 2020