What Is OEKO-TEX® STeP And Why Is It Important?
Guest writer Bethany Worthington of Ecothes introduces OEKO-TEX's environmental certification system.
In recent years, the demand for sustainable products has increased as eco-conscious consumers have shifted their buying habits towards more sustainable and ethical options.
But with the emergence of so many new sustainable brands, and with existing brands introducing new sustainable lines, it can be challenging for consumers to know which brands are actually using sustainable practices across their supply chains. Luckily for us, this is where third-party certifications can help.
ColieCo is always looking for the most ethical and sustainable textiles for its collections, and that’s why the brand also seeks out OEKO-TEX STeP-certified manufacturers and factories when sourcing its virgin fabrics and elastics.
Below, we've detailed what it means to be STeP certified, and why the certification is important to ColieCo, consumers, and the rest of the fashion industry as it transitions towards more responsible production practices.
What is OEKO-TEX®?
OEKO-TEX is an international organization created to build consumers' trust in textiles by setting standards for ethical, safe and environmentally friendly production processes.
OEKO-TEX audits a brand or product, and awards a standard when that brand or product passes its strict testing and certification processes.
Various different OEKO-TEX standards exist and can be applied depending on the materials and production process assessed, including the internationally widely-recognised STANDARD100, STeP and MADE GREEN certifications.
ColieCo sources materials from OEKO-TEX STeP certified suppliers, and virgin fabrics and elastics with OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 certification, to help meet and demonstrate its commitments to responsible, sustainable sourcing.
What is OEKO-TEX® STeP?
OEKO-TEX STeP stands for Sustainable Textile and Leather Production. It is a standard awarded by OEKO-TEX when a whole textile supply chain implements eco-friendly production practices, and ensures health and safety standards and socially responsible working.
Unlike other OEKO-TEX certifications, like STANDARD100, which assesses attributes of the final product, STeP focuses on every aspect of the supply chain, from the extraction and production of raw materials and components through to the final product.
What are the requirements for OEKO-TEX® STeP?
ColieCo sources all of the elastic used in its sustainable lingerie and swimwear collections exclusively from STeP-certified suppliers.
These suppliers were chosen not only because they have demonstrated high ethical and responsible production standards, but because the STeP certification they have attained guarantees that these high standards are continually met.
STeP certification considers all aspects of production, focusing on six important areas:
- Chemical management Factories must control all chemicals within the workplace and have a risk assessment programme in place. Hazardous chemicals must have been banned or substituted to ensure the safety of workers.
- Environmental performance Factories must work to reduce carbon emissions and ensure responsible water use.
- Environmental management Environmental targets are continually assessed, and improvement work is conducted to ensure progress toward goals.
- Social responsibility Suppliers must adhere to the ILO core labor standards, ensuring no forced or child labor, fair wages are paid, and no excessive hours are worked.
- Quality management Ensures traceability documentation is maintained within the supply chain.
- Health protection and safety at work Safe working conditions must be maintained and safety training delivered.
Suppliers must meet the standards specified in all six areas before a STeP certification can be awarded.
The six OEKO-TEX STeP modules
Why is STeP certification important?
So now we know what the STeP certification is, why is it important?
In a crowded market of sustainable brands, STeP certification provides consumers with a tool to help identify which brands are committed to sourcing their materials sustainably and responsibly.
As consumers have become more concerned about the impacts of their choices, and more interested in the environmental credentials of the brands they might choose to shop with and the products they might purchase, the phenomenon of greenwashing has emerged.
Greenwashing has become a dangerous problem, as not only can it lead consumers to believe - falsely - that they are supporting ethical and sustainable brands, it can turn consumers off sustainability claims altogether and also remove any incentive for brands to act and address sustainability and climate issues. In doing so, it normalises industrial inaction.
The STeP label helps consumers be sure that the brands that they are shopping with have sourced materials from suppliers committed to providing their workers with safe conditions in which to work, and which are working towards reducing their own carbon emissions.
Wrapping up: OEKO-TEX® STeP
In a world in which demand for responsible products is growing, third party certifications like OEKO-TEX STeP are important in helping consumers determine whether products marketed to them as sustainable are genuinely made with traceable, ethical materials.
In sourcing from STeP-certified suppliers, ColieCo is demonstrating that care for people and the environment is at the heart of its business model.