A new eco-labelling scheme is targeting leading retailers and textile manufacturers with the promise it can, for the first time, certify that their products and every component in them is free from harmful chemicals and has been made in factories which respect the environment and the rights of workers.

The 'Made in Green' mark tests and audits textiles and garment production processes throughout the supply chain - including all the component manufacturing centres used to make a product such as yarn, fabric, buttons, zips, sewing threads.

Clothing or textile items passing the tests are awarded a 'Made in Green' label which indicates to consumers that the product has been produced in accordance with social responsibility, ecological and environmental guidelines.

"Unless a retailer or manufacturer knows where to look, they are unlikely to find the problems in auditing and tracking supplier chains in the textile industry," says Asif Shah, business development manager at Shirley Technologies (STL), the textile testing group that is licensed to carry out the certification in the UK and Europe.

"The advantage of Made in Green is that it tests the product range, audits the processing in the factory, audits the environmental impact and ensures compliance with social responsibility guidelines all at once."
 
The testing and audit process involves three elements: Oeko-Tex 100 certification which guarantees products do not contain substances harmful to health; Oeko-Tex 1000 or equivalent, which confirms current environmental legislation compliance; and CCRS-AITEX or equivalent, which ensures compliance with social responsibility guidelines including child labour.

A company's Made in Green status will be reviewed and audited annually.

Asif Shah told just-style that first and foremost, the mark looks at traceability throughout the supply chain. "There will be some companies that will need assistance with getting their suppliers audited for social responsibility and environmental standards," he said.

Because it is third party independent verification, "we will be able to offer to ensure validity and authenticity."

Raising consumer awareness is another key component of the scheme. "Our vision for Made in Green is a long-term one; we view it as a green quality stamp for companies.

"We would like to think that in the future consumers will be able to recognise Made in Green just as they would other quality labels," Shah said.

Developed by the Association of Textile Industry Research (AITEX) in Spain, the 'Made in Green' scheme is licensed to Shirley Technologies (part of testing and certification company BTTG) in the UK and Europe and the Belgian Textile Research Centre (Centexbel).