Standards for Managing Chemistry

Nike's Restricted Substance List

In 2001, we shared our first Restricted Substance List (RSL), a set of chemical requirements for materials that met or exceeded legal restrictions from around the world, including substances that we voluntarily restricted from products.


Our RSL has evolved since 2001, and other brands have created their own lists. This has led to confusion among our suppliers, who were trying meet different requirements from different companies. We decided to create a common approach to restricted substances management. We invested significant effort in co-creating a unified list of chemical restrictions with other key global brands through the Apparel & Footwear International RSL Management (AFIRM) Group.

AFIRM Industry Restricted Substance List

In January 2017, Nike formally adopted the AFIRM Industry Restricted Substances List. The AFIRM RSL applies chemical limits based on legislation, best practices in industry and voluntary reductions in hazardous chemicals.


We built on this industry success by focusing on implementation. Investing to strengthen our internal management of the program and improving capability across the supply chain is essential for reaching 100 percent compliance. For example, our RSL training program, launched in FY16, is a requirement for all suppliers. We have already trained 82 percent of our contract manufacturers and 72 percent of our raw material suppliers in our supply chain as of the end of FY17.


Right now, 98 percent of the materials we tested are compliant with the RSL. Though non-compliances are resolved before the creation of final product, it is important to recognize that the RSL is not static. As we add new chemicals and tighten the limits, we may see a small number of failures as the supply chain adapts to the more stringent requirements, especially now, given our voluntary commitments to phase out controversial chemistries ahead of regulatory control.

Manufacturing Restricted Substance List

In 2014, we developed the first industry-aligned manufacturing restricted substances list (MRSL) with the ZDHC Coalition – an industry group aiming for Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals detailing chemicals restricted from use in the manufacturing process.


Though MRSL was launched in 2014, we knew that this industry milestone was not the end of the journey. We needed more. So, we worked with other global brands and industry stakeholders in FY16 to expand the scope of the MRSL.


We believe that certain chemicals shouldn’t be used in manufacturing, and we’re always working to improve how suppliers in our supply chain select and use chemicals that meet our expectations.


Our input management program supports this approach in two key areas:

  • We collaborate with the ZDHC Foundation to strengthen the industry-wide MRSL compliance requirements for input chemistry, and;
  • We develop tools to enable our suppliers to scale procurement and use of chemicals that meet those requirements.


Effective tools and training help suppliers implement the MRSL and procure compliant chemicals. We’re supporting the creation of the ZDHC Gateway “Chemical Module” – a database that enables procurement of the MRSL compliant chemical formulations – and deploying a global training program to elevate understanding of MRSL implementation to our suppliers.


The bluesign® system supports sustainable textile production by eliminating harmful substances from the manufacturing process and setting safe and environmentally friendly standards. Bluefinder is Bluesign’s database, which lists chemicals and compounds that are compliant.


We’re encouraging the use of bluesign®-certified chemistry amongst our textile suppliers and supporting access to the bluefinder database.

Measuring progress against this target began in late FY17, when we rolled out the ZDHC Wastewater Guideline to dyeing and finishing suppliers. This enabled them to measure their compliance by testing wastewater for presence of restricted chemicals. In addition, we captured chemical inventory data from ten material vendors to measure the use of compliant formulations. Now that we’re expanding this program across all our suppliers, we plan to report on progress when industry tools become sufficiently robust.