Oeko-Tex has put new criteria into place for its STeP certification standard, designed to make the sustainability of production facilities throughout the textile supply chain visible using a transparent scoring system.

STeP gives brands, retailers, and manufacturers the opportunity to have each area of their company facilities analysed and assessed according to environmental and social criteria by an independent body. From this month, modifications mean the list of excluded harmful substances for textile production now complies with the requirements of the ZDHC initiative (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals). Those facilities already certified in accordance with STeP will meet the specifications.

Additionally, the 'Environmental Performance' module now requires that sludge from waste water treatment must be stored by companies with STeP certification in a way that rules out any ground contamination. Oeko-Tex is recommending sludge residues be disposed of by professionals in accordance with environmental protection regulations.

The 'Social Responsibility' module has also been modified and certified companies in the future will have to satisfy statutory regulations relating to a suitable level of maternity protection for workers, for example. If there are no statutory regulations, the companies are encouraged to define their own company guidelines to ensure paid maternity leave in the context of ILO Core Labour Standard 183.

And finally, 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 (RDS) 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.

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 also prove chemicals are being transported safely and that affected staff are being provided with appropriate training. Emergency equipment now has to be checked by companies at least once a year instead of the previous interval of every two years. 

Last week, Oeko-Tex piloted its new Eco Passport testing programme, which verifies whether textile chemicals, auxiliaries and dyes can be used in sustainable textile production.

Oeko-Tex pilots Eco Passport chemicals certification

Further details of the STeP certification modifications can be found here