Sustainability and Chemical Management – Practical insights from Fristads Kansas

QIMA Sustainability Conference 2018 - Session 2: Environmental compliance and chemical management in China: a focus on compliance efforts of local and western businesses

Presented by Caroline Bouisset, Fristads Kansas
Head of Group (SCR) Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility

Speaking as the sustainability and CSR officer for Fristads Kansas, a major workwear and servicewear manufacturer, Caroline Bouisset shared her group’s practical experience of implementing a sustainability and chemical management program throughout a global supply chain spanning hundreds of suppliers.


  • Workflow for supplier assessment and sustainability management
  • Practical example of rolling out a chemical compliance program and roadmap
  • Mitigating environmental risks for brands with a global supply chain and chemical-heavy production

As a leading manufacturer of specialized workwear and servicewear under a total of 11 brands, Fristads Kansas operates a global supply chain spanning over 600 factories in Europe and Asia, as well as 3 fully owned factories in Europe. Despite having a reasonably young CSR program, which dates back only ten years, the group has set up robust processes dealing with social, environmental and chemical compliance across their entire supply chain.

At the formative stages of their Supply Chain Compliance program, Fristads Kansas built out their CSR standards based on the foundational principles of the UN Global Compact, the International Labour Organization and the Fair Wear Foundation, as well as relying on ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 families of standards for quality management and environmental management, respectively. In 2014, the merger of the sustainability and quality departments to further integrate sustainability in all business operations. This period was also marked by a considerable streamlining and consolidation of the group’s supply chain, including a reduction in the number of suppliers. In the subsequent years, Fristads Kansas has expanded its CSR activities by engaging with numerous social and compliance initiatives, including the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety, BSCI, amfori, and others.

Supplier assessment and sustainability management

Being a group of 11 brands, Fristads Kansas handles risk management and monitoring of the supply chain on the group level. This includes all issues of social, environmental and chemical compliance, as well as standards on product traceability and factory transparency. Individual brands integrate the group-level sustainability policies in their operations through processes, products and specific partnerships, while following the strategic roadmap and global targets.

All suppliers and factories across all product categories and nominated raw materials are subjected to the compliance workflow, which involves:

  • Supplier self-assessment, carried out through open-ended questions about the supplier’s labor standards, chemical management, environmental control, etc.
  • Confirmation of Code of Conduct and Restricted Substances List
  • Factory audit to BSCI / SA8000 or other internationally accepted standard
  • Remediation and follow up, including immediate holds on orders in case of zero tolerance issues

Chemical compliance

Fristads Kansas restricted substances list reflects the latest EU harmonized legislation, including REACH, POP, EC Product Safety Regulation, biocide regulation, and the ECHA SVHC. The list is updated twice per year, ensuring that chemical compliance across the group’s supply chain is keeping ahead of the latest regulatory changes.

The chemical compliance program of Fristads Kansas involves the following steps:

  • The core range is defined for catalogue articles and tenders (on brand level)
  • The group’s quality controllers collect samples from vendor
  • Suppliers send sample, along with the test requisition form, to the groups dedicated 3rd party testing partner
  • Test reports, received by the group, are analyzed and shared with the brand and supplier
  • The group SCR team works with the supplier on CAP implementation, following up as necessary
  • Supplier is assigned a grade

Environmental compliance

One of the principles of Fristads Kansas is to lead by example, ensuring that its fully-owned factories and strategic partners are in full compliance with the group’s standards, and all brands’ environmental management systems are ISO 14001 certified. 80% of materials are sourced from nominated suppliers, and textiles are tested and certified to the Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX® (product class II).

Special attention is paid to countries with specific environmental challenges, such as China, where the group regularly reviews environmental inspections and schedules in order to stay compliant with the changing government regulations. Additionally, in Bangladesh, where the majority of Fristads Kansas suppliers are vertically integrated and responsible for the entire cycle of textile production (which traditionally generates large amounts of pollution), the group conducts a quarterly review of effluent treatment plants.