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New requirements for certification in accordance with STeP by Oeko-Tex

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The new requirements for the certification of environmentally friendly and socially responsible production facilities in accordance with STeP by Oeko-Tex are applicable as of 1 April.

Sustainable Textile Production (STeP) is the new Oeko-Tex certification system for brands, retail companies and manufacturers from the textile chain. Certification is possible for production facilities of all processing stages. From July 2013 on, STeP replaced the previous certification of production sites according to Oeko-Tex Standard 1000.

Sustainable Textile Production (STeP) certification system by Oeko-Tex. © Oeko-Tex

“The interest in STeP goes well beyond the penetration we saw in what was known as the Oeko-Tex Standard 1000, which was the precursor to STeP. We expect the acceptance of STeP to rise, particularly as we include many suggestions from our customers in the new edition of the STeP standard, which will be published on 1 April 2015,” said David Pircher, a Business Development Manager, Oeko-Tex.

Waste water criteria

In the future, production sites certified in accordance with STeP must comply with new criteria relating to their waste water. The following values are applicable:

Parameter                                                                                 Limit Value

FOA                                                                        μg/l                        50

PFOS                                                                      μg/l                        10

Nonylphenol (AP)                                                μg/l                        0.1

Octylphenol (AP)                                                 μg/l                        0.3

Nonylphenolethoxylate (APEO)                       μg/l                        1

Octylphenolethoxylate (APEO)                        μg/l                        1

Ethically correct behaviour

With immediate effect, chapter 4.5.13 of the STeP standard requires all employees to comply with ethically correct behaviour.

Therefore, companies must provide their employees with a written Code of Conduct, which defines the ethical principles of the company and lists corresponding specific directives. Oeko-Tex will also establish a neutral point of contact for employee complaints from STeP certified production sites.

With regard to the purchase of feathers and down used in bedding or clothing manufacturing, STeP certified companies are required to obtain their raw materials from suppliers who can prove they do not adopt practices, such as live plucking and/or forced feeding. Oeko-Tex recommends that companies obtain proof from the suppliers by means of independent evidence, such as the Responsible Down Standard (RDS).

Social responsibility

The STeP criteria for the company area of Social Responsibility have also been modified. To exclude the worst forms of child labour, STeP certified companies must, in the future, also be able to provide evidence of compliance with ILO standard C182.

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If the employees of STeP certified companies receive additional donations from their employers, it must be clearly documented. Medical investigations required by law, for example, HIV tests, are not categorised by the STeP standard as discriminatory, but must be documented and monitored.

All forms of slavery and forced labour, such as Sumangali, which is practised in India, are categorically excluded. In addition, workers and salaried employees may use the toilets, drink water, and take a break at any time within the extent prescribed by law without fearing any disciplinary action.

Banned chemicals and processes

Banned processes that have a very negative influence on the environment and occupational health and safety will now be listed in Appendix D4 of the STeP standard – Banned Chemicals and Processes. Two new processes have also been included in the list of excluded processes. These are:

  • Sandblasting for the treatment of jeans and other articles. Excluded from the ban are closed systems, provided that the dust emissions at the workplace do not exceed the limit value specified in Appendix G07 of the STeP standard.
  • The use of thickening agents based on aromatic hydrocarbons for textile printing.

Production waste

The guidelines for production waste have been modified in the new STeP standard so that appropriate storage areas must be provided immediately to ensure that, wherever possible, pollution of the immediate environment and groundwater is excluded.

This also specifies that the storage of production waste must be protected from external weather conditions and from fire. The objective for production companies is to ensure that the storage of production waste has no effect whatsoever on the environment.

Chemicals management

In the area of Chemicals Management, the list of banned and regulated substances for the manufacture of textiles (MRSL, Manufacturing Restricted Substances List) has been updated. The detailed changes are shown in Appendix D3 of the new STeP standard.

Exclusionary criteria

Aside from the points already mentioned, the list of exclusionary criteria was also expanded to include other aspects.

This includes, for example, the specifications that each employee must receive a written employment contract, that the company ensures specific workplace conditions for young employees and that the payment of deposits for the recruitment of new employees is not permitted.

The STeP standard can now also be applied to production companies for accessory parts for textile manufacture with immediate effect.

** This post and the images are sourced through here.

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Get The Big Picture on Organic Cotton Agriculture

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Textile Exchange introduces the Organic Cotton Sustainability Assessment Tool (OC-SAT)

What does it do?

– A framework for assessing the environmental, economic and social impacts of organic cotton agriculture.

– Insight into the sustainability status of farmers certified to one or more of the internationally accepted organic agricultural standards.
– Builds on the findings in the recently published Organic Cotton Life Cycle Assessment (download here).

– Shows how farmers are successfully diversifying their crops, organizing their farming communities and supporting female farmers. Also reveals the challenges farmers face including pricing and payment, climate change, and lack of access to non-genetically modified seed.

To download a pdf version of the Organic Cotton Sustainability Assessment Tool, please click here.

**This post first appeared on Textile Exchange.

The E-commerce Sustainability Quotient Matrix

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E-commerce is changing the way people shop globally. Over the last two decades, multi-billion dollar e-commerce companies have come into being. Even as they see increasing scale and success, e-commerce companies have not turned their focus on environmental sustainability – in stark contrast to the initiatives on sustainable production and consumption undertaken by world’s leading retailers like Walmart and Ikea.

Realizing the acute need for the e-commerce industry to start thinking about their environmental impact, Sustainability Outlook delved deep into e-commerce operations to create an E-commerce Sustainability Quotient Matrix. The E-commerce Sustainability Quotient Matrix will help guide e-commerce companies to assess their preparedness and current state when it comes to environmentally sustainable operations. This matrix also provides an indicative path that e-commerce companies should embark upon to make their operations greener.

The E-commerce Scenario in India

E-commerce has suddenly exploded in the Indian marketplace. What was a non-existent concept ten years ago is now a $3.5 billion industry with about 20 million active users and an annual growth rate of 34%. Flipkart and Snapdeal have set targets of Gross Merchandizing Value (GMV) of $8 billion and $10 billion respectively for 2015 as the market gets ready to see even greater growth.

Environmental Impact of E-commerce vs. Brick- and- Mortar stores

Various studies have consistently underlined that e-commerce has a significantly lower environmental impact than physical retail stores. This is primarily driven by the reduction in consumer transport to and from the stores, which is replaced by last-mile delivery for e-commerce. Multiple products to different addresses are consolidated in the e-commerce last-mile delivery system and as the number of users of e-commerce grow the per-item footprint of last-mile delivery drops significantly.

To read the complete report, click here.

**This post originally appeared here.

Online Factory Guide to engage and empower factories

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Fair Wear Foundation has launched the Factory Guide, a new online training tool developed with the support of the Swiss NGO Brot für alle.

An interactive graphic showing how a safe building can still house a lethal factory; a quiz on gender discrimination; video interviews on overtime, harassment and wages: the Factory Guide aims to engage factory managers in the work of FWF and its members, and contribute to stronger partnerships between garment factories and their customers.

Expanded and attractive

The Factory Guide is part of FWF’s Workplace Education Programme (WEP) and complements the management trainings that FWF provides in factories. ‘FWF works closely with garment brands. They inform their suppliers about FWF at the start of their membership. The Factory Guide is an expanded, more accessible and attractive way to do this’, FWF’s Sophie Koers explains. ‘Graphics, videos and quizzes add a fun factor to serious matters.’

Integrated approach

The Factory Guide elaborates on FWF’s vision that brands and factories share the responsibility for improving working conditions. Koers: ‘Often, brand practices inhibit improvements on the work floor, but factories do not have the tools to raise these issues with their customers. Good Practice examples in the Factory Guide will help factory managers to work with their customers on better communication. For example: how can brands and factories work effectively together on reducing excessive overtime?’

The guide explains how labour standards work in practice and what to expect from FWF’s audits. It also clarifies FWF’s vision on supply chain relationships, complaints handling and trainings.

FWF member brands send invitations to garment factories to participate in the guide, but it doesn’t stop there. The brands will receive regular updates about the progress that’s made by their suppliers in working through the guide’s topics. While going through the Factory Guide, managers have the opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts about issues related to labour standards, both with brands and with FWF.

Here is a short video on the work of Fair Wear Foundation

**This post first appeared here.

New fabrics make recycling possible, but are they suitable for high street?

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Fibre-based textiles claim to be highly recyclable, but fashion quality controls prevent them from going mainstream

As clothing brands experiment with textile-to-textile recycling models, the emergence of new fabrics built around closed loop processes could help accelerate this progress. Examples of recent innovation in this field include Econyl, X2 Plus, Returnity and SaXcell. Based on the concept of regeneration from the outset, these fibre-based textiles are largely crafted from waste materials and claim to be highly recyclable or reusable, making them suitable for multiple life cycles.

Econyl is a type of nylon manufactured wholly from waste streams and swimwear brands were among the first to invest. Photograph: Rob Carr/Getty Images
Econyl is a type of nylon manufactured wholly from waste streams and swimwear brands were among the first to invest. Photograph: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Econyl is a type of nylon manufactured wholly from waste streams that include abandoned fishing nets and carpets. It is billed as a sustainable alternative to Nylon 6, which is traditionally sourced from caprolactam (a derivative of oil). Giulio Bonazzi, CEO of Aquafil, the company behind Econyl, says the clothing industry has been quick to take advantage of Econyl since its launch in 2011.

“Swimwear brands were among the first to invest in the use of Econyl fibres as the majority of their products are made from nylon,” says Bonazzi. “Brands such as Koru Swimwear and Adidas were impressed with our efforts to not only recover derelict fishing nets … but also expand our supply source for post-consumer waste.”

Besides swimwear, Econyl is suitable for the manufacture of sportswear, lingerie and outdoor clothing.

Returnity is a 100% recyclable polyester which is replacing not only traditional polyester, but cotton and wool-based fabrics too. According to Dutch aWEARness, which owns the European license for the product, Returnity fabrics reduce CO2 impact by 73%, waste management by 100% and water usage by 95% compared to cotton.

Returnity is mainly used in the workwear market, where takeback of corporate garments is easier to arrange. Dutch aWEARness founder Rien Otto believes the potential is there to widen its appeal: “Extension to the fashion market is possible, in particular in areas where garments are polyester-based, such as sportswear, outdoor wear and jackets.”

Yarns appropriate for consumer fashion fabrics are already under development, Rien adds: “We see that more and more brands are looking for new production methods, new collections and materials. At this moment, we are sharing our knowledge with different brands that want to change their way of working.”
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With their Garment Collecting and Shwopping in-store clothing takeback programmes, H&M and Marks & Spencer (M&S) respectively are both keeping a watchful eye on such activities. H&M’s environmental sustainability coordinator Carola Tembe says the company’s long term goal is to find a solution for reusing and recycling all textile fibres and to use yarns made out of collected textiles in its products.

“There are a lot of different exciting projects and research going on in this field, and we aim to find a scalable solution for textile-to-textile recycling with an outcome equal, or hopefully even better, than virgin fibres in the near future,” she says.

H&M has already started to use pre- and post-consumer recycled textile waste in its products, but Tembe points to limitations, particularly when it comes to closing the loop on natural fibres. “For recycled cotton, the highest amount of mechanically recycled post-consumer fibre H&M can use at the moment is 20% without compromising the quality,” she says.

“In the mechanical recycling procedure, the textile fibres are being regenerated in a way that makes the textile fibres shorter and with lower quality than virgin fibre. They need to be blended with virgin fibres to reach our quality standards.”

M&S’s general merchandise innovation delivery manager Jo Gordon sees “huge potential” in reusing post-consumer raw materials in retail fashion – the company plans to launch more closed loop clothing lines later this year. However, she acknowledges there are still challenges involved.

M&S is now looking to drive its own agenda in this space – it is working with the University of Cambridge on a project called Redress, part-funded by Innovate UK, to examine circular economy opportunities around garment recovery. “It’s a two-year project that will investigate opportunities to increase volume and value of textile recovery. It’s too early at this stage to go into further details on what the different opportunities might be, but we have committed to sharing the learnings of the project publicly in 2016,” Gordon says.

Building greater durability into fabrics that can be used again and again could pave the way for the ultimate in closed loop clothing – leasable fibres. This would allow fabric suppliers or textile manufacturers to effectively retain ownership of a garment’s raw materials.

Dutch aWEARness’ Otto says it’s a concept to aim for. “The advantage of a lease model and performance-based contracts is the continuous drive to optimise the performance of the product, the environmental performance and the costs.”

Financing such models, however, remains a huge sticking point, he adds: “We are investigating if there are possibilities for a green investment fund with pension funds or investors.”

Aquafil’s Bonazzi agrees it’s a “great concept”, but cautions: “The logistics could be a potential snag if not cost-effective to all parties, convenient for the consumer or if there is an overall lack of interest and participation from the consumer.”

** This post first appeared on the Guardian Sustainable Business blog here.

Experts Frame rules to make textile industry green

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Speakers at a seminar styled as ‘Legal and Regulatory Issues Related to Environmental Sustainability of the Textile Sector’ in Dhaka yesterday – See more at: http://www.dhakatribune.com/business/2015/mar/22/experts-frame-rules-make-textile-industry-green#sthash.pUsVEHfk.dpuf

In the wake of increasing demand for green products globally, experts yesterday suggested framing rules for making the textile industry environmental complaint for enhancing its competitiveness and sustainability.

They also made a set of recommendations, including giving financial or fiscal incentives to encourage entrepreneurs to low-cost cleaner production practices and making aware that the reduction of energy consumption can be a real cost-cutter.

The recommendations were made at a seminar on “Legal and Regulatory Issues Related to Environmental Sustainability of the Textiles Sector,” organised jointly by Policy Research Institute (PRI) and International Finance Corporation at the PRI conference room.

Speaking at the function, Environment and Forest Minister Anwar Hossain Manju said his ministry had put its best efforts to improve environment in the country.

“There are lots of regulations but effective implementation of them is important to reduce pollution,” he said.

He expressed disappointment that the water supplied by the government was not drinkable, which is “unfortunate.”

BGMEA President Atiqul Islam said ensuring quality and environmental matters in the factories is increasingly becoming a global issue.

“This means if any of the two is missing, you are simply out of business.”

“But it is easy for big factories but not for small factories to address the environmental pollution, which is a challenge.”

Atiqul Islam added the textile industry uses ground water as it contains less chlorine.

He laid emphasis on financial support at lower interest for implementing the environmental issue.

Senior environmental adviser to GIZ in Bangladesh Tanuja Bhattacharjee said rules and proper guidelines are necessary to make textile industry competitive as environmental sustainability is becoming an increasingly important issue in international arena.

“It is high time to look at the issue so that we can set example before the world,” she said.

She said GIZ is going to launch mobile testing water wastage programme by June next to identify the level of environment pollution in the textile industry.

Assistant Chief of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Khalid Hassan said the ministry is in the process of enacting Land Zoning Act to help make cluster textile industry outside of the city.

Chief Operating Officer of Comfit Composite Limited, Md Kawser Ali described that how his company had reduced use of water by adopting environment-friendly technology.

“Use of water has fallen to 50 litres from 180 litres for cleaning per kilogram fabric. ”

PRI Executive Director Ahsan H Mansur emphasised the need to address the environmental issue before being late for keeping the environment clean for generations to come.

He presented a paper at the seminar putting a number of recommendations, including differentiating water tariffs based on locations, strengthening enforcement and monitoring, tax and duty rationalisation for encouraging environmentally-friendly investment goods and for discouraging hazardous chemicals.

The paper said although data on the extent of washing dying and finishing firms with effluent treatment plants (ETPs) are not readily available, the perception of experts is that the coverage is very low at around 30%.

Without the full coverage with ETPs along with strict enforcement of rules, the water pollution could not be addressed, it said.

An assessment of four firms shows that 3 of 7 best practices cost less than Tk4.1 lakh each, two of them cost almost nothing.

None requires more than 15 months to recoup the costs and the improvements could reduce water and energy consumption by up to 25% as well as reduce chemical use significantly, according to the findings.

** This post was sourced from Dhaka Tribune here.

Textile makers stress on importance of sustainability

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The textile sector is one of the oldest industries on the planet and it is growing rapidly to meet the needs of people of all ages. Presently, the biggest challenge faced by the textile industry is sustainability and some industry representatives are stressing on the importance of environmental protection in the sector.

Speaking to fibre2fashion, Ms. Sharon Rowe, CEO and founder of Eco-Bags, a manufacturer of reusable eco-friendly cotton net bags, said, “Transparency is the key to sustainability.”

“Allowing the customers to see who is making the goods, how they are being compensated, the environmental conditions and the third party certifications are becoming more and more important in sustainable textile production,” she adds.

Elaborating about the importance of textile production, Dr. Tim Swales, vice-president, research & development and chief sustainability officer for Johns Manville (JM), a manufacturer of technical textiles, says, “The biggest issue facing the global textile industry is water usage and pollution, particularly in raw material processing areas such as dyeing and printing.”

“The next biggest issue faced by the textile sector is landfill use – the need to recycle/reuse/repurpose at end of life will continue to grow,” he informs.

According to him, the technologies exist globally to address the issues of water and landfill. “The industry and individual countries must take it seriously and it is up to them to make sure their manufacturers address these issues in a timely manner,” he continues.

“However, if you look more broadly at sustainability the social impact of appalling employee conditions, especially in the garment industry, must also be addressed,” he mentions.

In a similar vein, Ms. Rowe says, “The textile manufacturers must focus on environmental protection while producing textiles and clothing.”

** This post is sourced from Fibre2Fashion here.