Summary

The OEKO-TEX® Standard was originally developed as a label that gives guarantees on various aspects of textile human ecology; the first module (OEKO-TEX® Standard 100) focused on consumer health, especially to prevent adverse health reactions induced by textiles.

Each label has a serial number and carries the name of the institute that carried out the laboratory tests for the qualification for the standard.

The OEKO-TEX® Association has developed three certification schemes for textiles and texile production sites:

(1)  OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 (chemically safe textiles)

(2)  STeP by OEKO-TEX®, Sustainable Textile Production

(3) OEKO-TEX® Standard 100plus (the combination OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 and STeP)

Sustainable Textile Production (STeP) sets requirements for environmental management of the entire production process. As such, the standard is a testing, audit and certification system for environmentally and socially responsible production sites. The certification addresses the reduction of hazards and risks across the entire textile production chain, from fibre production through processing with the aim of increasing sustainability, quality and resource efficiency of factories.

In order to receive STeP by OEKO-TEX® certification, companies must meet the stipulated criteria in each of the identified “modules” of the textile production chain. These modules are:

  • Chemical Assessment and Management
  • Environmental Performance
  • Environmental Management
  • Social Responsibility
  • Quality Management
  • Health and Safety Performance and Management

Within these modules, various rankings can be achieved based on the levels of performance. The level of performance is assessed by answering basic and advanced questions defined in the standard, this information is then validated and an external audit by a third-party is required before a certification can be issued. Each of the modules is weighted equally, representing 1/6 of the total score each.

STeP requirements  are awarded on the basis that the selected products are free of harmful substances according to the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 and are only manufactured in environmentally-friendly operations at socially acceptable conditions as per the STeP criteria – this process must be ensured along the entire production chain, from the production of yarn to ready-made products.

In the latest version of the criteria, OEKO-TEX® has committed to supporting the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals initiative (ZDHC) as well as the criteria of the Higg Index (Sustainable Apparel Coalition). This commitment is made by raising awareness among companies involved in the OEKO-TEX® system about the chemical issues associated with the compounds identified by Greenpeace in their Detox campaign.

Governance

The OEKO-TEX® standards series have been developed and are managed by the International OEKO-TEX® Association, a group of 16 textile research and test institutes in Europe and Japan, with representative agencies and contact offices in over 60 countries worldwide.

Scope

The standard is to be applied in productions sites for textile products, their pre-products and textile accessories. It also covers non-agricultural fibre production.

STeP addresses facility performance across the entire textile production chain such as management, production technologies, resource use, quality assurance, safety precautions, social working conditions and others.

Market Acceptance

STeP, being a fairly new standard on the market don’t have many suppliers certified to it yet. At the moment (30.03.2014) there are 11 suppliers globally certified to STeP, of these only one is located outside Europe (China). Currently also more than 50 customers are in the the procedure to obtain the certification.

STeP certification applies to any production facility in the textile chain, from spinning mills, manufacturers of textile fabrics and textile finishing facilities to manufacturers of ready-made articles can have their production and workings conditions certified in line with STeP. Certification of individual areas within multi-stage production facilities is also possible.

A full list of certified suppliers is available at the following website:

https://www.oeko-tex.com/en/certificate_holders/certificate_holders.xhtml

Areas of Impact

Energy Consumption

STeP requires that companies optimise their energy consumption through energy-saving or energy recovery practices. This is done by presenting an annual balance sheet where quantities and cost balance of individual energy types is presented, any measures already taken to reduce energy consumption should be presented here as well. The employment of renewable energy types are preferred but not demanded.

Water Consumption

STeP certification demands that suppliers document water consumption at least annually. The quality of incoming water and any treatments that is required before incoming water can be used should also be documented.

Water Emissions

STeP requires that facilities keep a wastewater map where discharge locations, waste water routes and water treatments plants are recorded. There are also limits for the quality of outgoing wastewater which differ depending on if wastewater is discharged into natural water or into public sewage treatment plants.

The goal of wastewater should be to minimise volume and toxicity, this is accomplished by proper chemical management and treatments. Additional requirements for waste water treatment include compliance with all applicable legislation and mandatory use of a waste water treatment facility, which can be either private or public, but must be functioning properly. If there is no legal country requirement, STeP refers to the principle of ‘Good manufacturing practice’, which outline the aspects of production and testing that can impact the quality of a product.

Chemicals (Accepted/Restricted)

STeP completely prohibits the use of several substances such as APEO, EDTA, DTPA, LAS, α-MES (used as complexing agents and active detergents), substances that are mutagenic, carcinogenic, or toxic to reproduction, as well as organic solvent with chlorine (Cl), fluorine (F), bromine (Br), iodine (I), or heavy metals (other than cadmium, lead), etc. These are all listed in a “black list” or RSL – Restricted substance list which is part of the standard.

Chemicals (Chemical Management)

As part of their environmental management system, certified companies are required to run a chemical management system. This system is the preferred way to deal with chemical risks at the facility level and as a minimum must contain an inventory of all chemicals used in production processes. Other essential components of the chemical management system are that MSDS (material safety data sheets) are available at the facility and that a person with responsibility for chemical management within the company is named. The storage and handling rooms must also ensure that leakage of chemicals into the environment is prevented in case of an accident or disaster.

Chemicals (Consumer Safety)

An assessment regarding the safety of products for end users has to be considered and, if possible proven be certification (e.g. OEKO-TEX Standard 100, GOTS, PPE type examination, EN 14682:2008, EN 71-7, etc.)

Air Emissions

STeP requires that companies observe stringent limit values relating to exhaust air: the exhaust air of firing plants and steam is judged against parameters set for carbon monoxide, dust, SO2 and NOx.

On top of this, the standard has specified detailed (continuous) emission measurement requirements to ascertain that the emission limits are not exceeded.

Occupational Health and Safety

STeP requires compliance with national legislation for the protection of workers against dangerous and unhealthy chemicals, and encourages stricter protective measures where possible. Personal protective equipment has to be provided for the handling of dangerous chemicals, as well as instructions for use.

If noise levels are above 85 dB, effective ear protection must be provided to staff, including directions for use and marking of areas where they should be used.

Other criteria for occupational health and safety include:

  • Prevention of harmful dust formation (filter equipment/ventilation systems)
  • Prevention of noise stress (insulation, hearing protection)
  • Protection against harmful chemicals (protective goggles, work clothing, shoes, gloves etc.)
  • Preparation of hazard and emergency plans, particularly suitable measures to protect against fire
  • Identification of dangerous work areas
  • Suitable employee training on behaviour in safety-relevant work areas
Management System

OEKO-TEX® distinguishes quality management and environmental management. Both are examined during the audit.

STeP recommends that companies prepare and maintain an environmental management manual.  The manual must contain the environmental policy with the objectives, goals, and programmes; it should also document key roles and responsibilities.

Record Keeping

STeP indicates that the companies must have procedures for the registration of all legislative, regulatory and other policy requirements pertaining to the environmental aspects of the activities, products and performances.

The record should contain:

  • Controlled and uncontrolled emissions to the atmosphere
  • Controlled and uncontrolled emissions to water
  • Controlled and uncontrolled contamination of land
  • Solid and other wastes
  • Use of land, water, fuels, energy and other natural resources
  • Noise, dust, smell vibration and light
  • Consequence for ecosystems and specific environment areas

The records need to be kept for as long as the facility uses the STeP certification but the minimum time is 3 years.

Management Responsibilities/Roles

According to STeP, the company must appoint a commissioner, who has the authority and responsibility to ensure that the demands on the environmental management system are fulfilled.

Trainings

STeP recommends that companies introduce and maintain procedures for the training of the staff members which ensure that all staff members are informed about the importance of the environmental policy, potential consequences of the staff activities for the environment, etc. Records of trainings also have to be kept and maintained.

Environmental Policy

The implementation of an enviromental managment system is a prerequsite for achieving the STeP certification. STeP certification indicates that the first step in the introduction of an environmental management system is a declaration from upper management.

The environmental policy shall be defined and documented ensuring that it:

  • is relevant to its activities, products and services, and their environmental effects;
  • includes a commitment to meet all regulations;
  • is oriented towards the prevention/minimisation of adverse environmental effects, and towards sustainable development.
Social Responsibility

STeP requires compliance with the ILO Principles for fair labour conditions, including non-discrimination, no forced labour, minimum age, right to join labour unions and maximum work time. Wages paid for a standard work week must be based on “legal and industry standards”.

In addition to the STeP requirements for occupational health and safety, which cover noise and dust requirements and employee training, the standard also requires access to bathrooms and potable water for workers.

Others

Packaging: STeP suggests reduction of packaging use and also recommends, as far as possible, to completely avoid the use of one-way packing material during internal handling.

Packing systems that are reusable or that are made of recycled material are preferred.

Certification Process

On Site Audits or Desktop Review

Every applicant company is visited by an independent auditor to check for compliance with STeP on site.

Unannounced Inspections/Other Inspections

The testing institute is authorised to undertake unannounced visits to a STeP-certified facility at any time.

Process

For STeP assessment, all six modules of the certifications is evaluated and given a score. Each module has a minimum score that has to be fulfilled, there are also basic requirements that has to be fulfilled in order to get certified. In the end, the facility gets an overall score based on the separate scores from each module. All costs originating from the application process is to be payed by the applicant.

The first step of certification is the handing in of an application form to Oeko-Tex via the internet or to one of the Oeko-Tex institutes. Application forms are available here:
https://step.oeko-tex.com/en/step/step_application/step_application_1.html

During this process, the appropriate Oeko-Tex institute will provide the applicant with guidance and support for completing a first assessment of the measures that need to be taken in order to get certified.

To evaluate the assessment filled in by the applicant a site inspection (audit) is mandatory for the final assessment. The extent of the audit depends on the size and the production of the facility as well as the quality of the prepared documents. During this audit, if certain technical details cannot be determined with documents, the auditing team is entitled to order tests or independently perform such tests (e.g. wastewater or air emissions). After the initial audit an audit report will be handed over to the facility where requirements and obligations to achieve certification are specified.

A re-audit may thenbe necessary to determine the fulfillment of these obligations before certification. When a facility is certified, the auditing institute will carry out compliance audits every 18 months as well as unannounced audits at any time.

If the conditions of the standard have been met the auditing team will provide a two page certificate, proving that the facility complies with STeP.

Timing

The time it takes from application to the issue of a certificate varies greatly and is highly dependent on individual factors. On average a period of 3 months can be assumed from the time of application to issuing of the certificate.

Audit Team

The audit team is composed by the Association for the Assessment of Environmentally Friendly Textiles, which is composed of 16 independent research and testing institutes in Europe and Japan that are officially authorised by/members of the Association OEKO-TEX® International or independent auditors of the Association OEKO-TEX® International. The auditing staff consists currently of 68 trained auditors present in 62 different countries of the world.

Frequency

The certified operation has the right to maintain the environmental label for a period of three years.

Certification and License Fee

The certification fee comprises the license fee for three years, and the auditing fee.  The auditing fee depends on the size of the production site.

Certificate Samples

step_certificate_sample1


step_certificate_sample2

Implementation Tools

Tools

The OEKO-TEX® website provides the standard’s criteria and a list of companies that have been awarded the certification.

Manual/Procedures

OEKO-TEX® provides the following resources to help companies become authorised to use the STeP mark:-

STeP standard

Labeling

Production sites fulfilling the requirements of STeP and which are correspondingly certified can be marked with the STeP label. The label can only be sued for facilities and not for products.

Process

To obtain the STeP label, the companies should succeed in complying with the OEKO-TEX® Standard criteria.

Applicability

If the production site fulfills the requirements of STeP, and it is correspondingly certified, it can be marked with the following label:

step_graphic_example

This label can only be used for production sites and not for products.

Fee

The license fee for using the label is already included it in the certification payment.

Appendix

Contact Information

OEKO-TEX® Association
Splügenstrasse 10 8002 Zürich
SWITZERLAND

Tel.: +41 44 20642 35
Fax: +41 44 20642 51
E-mail: info@Oeko-Tex.com
Websites: www.Oeko-Tex.com

https://step.oeko-tex.com/en/step/step_home/home.html

Bibliography

http://www.milieucentraal.nl/pagina?onderwerp=Keurmerk%20kleding

http://www.cbi.eu/marketinfo/cbi/docs/international_consumer_health_label_ko_tex_for_textiles

https://www.oeko-tex.com/media/init_data/downloads/STeP%20Standard.pdf

https://www.oeko-tex.com/media/downloads/STeP_FAQ_2013_EN.pdf