OEKO-TEX, the Zurich, Switzerland-based International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile Ecology, has recently modified its certification process.
STeP by OEKO-TEX certification makes the sustainability of production facilities throughout the textile value-creation chain visible using a transparent scoring system. According to the association, STeP gives brands, retailers and manufacturers the opportunity to have each area of their companies’ facilities analyzed and assessed according to environmental and social criteria by an independent body. Modifications to the STeP standard include:
- The STeP list of excluded harmful substances for textile production (Manufacturing Restricted Substances List, or MRSL) now complies with the requirements of the ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) initiative. Production facilities that have been certified in accordance with STeP therefore already meet the ZDHC specifications with regard to the use of specific process chemicals that are to be removed from textile production by 2020. Companies already certified in accordance with STeP will comply with the MRSL criteria of the ZHDC after the next successful conformity audit.
- In the Environmental Performance module, requirements have been expanded to include an additional point on handling sludge from waste-water treatment. Sludge must be stored by STeP-certified companies in a way that rules out any ground contamination. OEKO-TEX recommends that sludge residues of this type always be disposed of by professionals in accordance with environmental protection regulations. If the sludge is used for agricultural purposes, a new harmful-substance limit must be complied with, unless national statutory provisions have stricter requirements for them.
- The Social Responsibility module features minor amendments to further improve employee working conditions. For instance, certified companies in the future will have to satisfy statutory regulations relating to a suitable level of maternity protection. Where there are no statutory regulations, companies are encouraged to define their own guidelines to ensure paid maternity leave in the context of ILO Core Labor Standard 183.
- The overview of third-party certifications accepted by OEKO-TEX has been expanded to include an additional category for ethical standards. In this, the Responsible Down Standard has now been explicitly listed as a reference tool that STeP-certified companies can use to provide evidence of the responsible procurement of feathers and down for the manufacture of their products.
Another addition to the STeP standard is that manufacturers of foams and mattresses can now have their production conditions certified. Also new is the need for a plan that clearly highlights all of the areas of the company in which chemicals are supplied, stored, and used. Company facilities must prove that chemicals are being transported safely and that affected staff are being provided with appropriate training. Emergency equipment must be checked by companies at least once a year. Additional limits relating to the output of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide have been defined for waste air emissions from gas turbine power stations.