Apparel brands are under increasing scrutiny from consumers who expect ever-higher levels of safety and sustainability from every product they purchase. That’s why Swiss certification system Oeko-Tex introduced new criteria to the latest edition of its STeP (Sustainable Textile Production) standard, published earlier this month.
To date, more than 30 factories around the world have received STeP accreditation—which replaced the Oeko-Tex 1000 standard in July 2013—meaning they practice environmentally friendly and socially responsible production at every stage of the textile supply chain. But as of Feb. 1, companies already certified as well as those seeking qualification will have to step up their sustainability game.
The standard’s list of excluded harmful substances for textile production (Manufacturing Restricted Substances List, or MRSL) now complies with ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) requirements. That means that production facilities that have been certified in accordance with the updated standard will already meet ZDHC specifications with regard to the use of specific process chemicals that are to be removed from the textile chain by 2020. Meanwhile, companies already certified will have until the next conformity audit to comply with the ZDHC’s MRSL criteria.
The Zurich-based institute has also modified the standard’s “Environmental Performance” module to include an additional point on handling sludge from waste water treatment, which must now be stored in a way that rules out any ground contamination. Oeko-Tex has recommended that residues be disposed of by professionals in accordance with environmental protection regulations.
Additionally, the “Social Responsibility” module has been amended to further improve employee working conditions so that certified companies must offer a suitable level of maternity protection, or ensure paid maternity leave in the context of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Core Labor Standard 183.
Oeko-Tex has also expanded its list of acceptable third-party certifications to contain an additional category for ethical standards, such as the Responsible Down Standard (RDS).
Lastly, STeP version 3.0 requires a plan that clearly highlights all of the areas of the company in which chemicals are supplied, stored and used, while facilities must also prove that chemicals are being transported safely and that affected staff members are being trained appropriately. Similarly, emergency equipment is now expected to be checked at least once a year, rather than every two years.
For more details on the modifications to the STeP by Oeko-Tex standard, visit the institute’s website.