17 July 2009
Seal of approval
The flood of seals and certificates on the European market that strive to verify biodegradable, organic, eco-friendly or fair trade products is vast, but difficult to negotiate.
These labels are meant to give consumers guidance on what products to buy and act as a valuable marketing tool for suppliers and manufacturers.
What is most crucial for traders is that such certificates have credibility, are transparent in their award and are reliable guides to acceptable quality.
Standing tall among the certificates on offer is the Oeko-Tex® Standard 100.
It's particularly useful in ensuring that fashion garments fit well, are comfortable and are protective. A similar testing process is applied to bed linen, for example. Testing and certification both ensure that textiles don't contain harmful substances.
Increasing numbers of textile and clothing manufacturers are responding to the public clamour for "protected" products tested according to Oeko-Tex® Standard 100. Since its launch in 1992 there's been a marked increase of public acceptance for the label.
In fact, it's generally regarded as the binding guideline for industry and trade since it provides peace of mind, links economy and ecology and offers a high level of security.
Many textile companies, retailers and importers are taking an eco label into consideration when making their purchasing decisions.
In the global trade context this standard also provides assurances that the goods have been tested and its criteria can, without exception, be tested in the laboratory.
Companies not only have their products tested according to criteria established by the Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 but also apply the test label to their products.
For consumers, it sends a clear signal that the product is not going to release harmful toxins - and that also works to the advantage of sales.
Most of textiles have been through a large number of industrial processes before appearing in stores.
Fashionable, functional and easy-care outerwear, clothes worn next to the skin, baby wear, home and household textiles are these days expected to be free of levels of harmful substances which pose a risk to health.
They could include banned azo dyestuffs, carcinogenic and allergy-inducing dyestuffs, formaldehyde, pesticides, colour fastener and phthalates, to name a few.
The label Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 provides information on which chemicals are excluded or limited in particular concentrations and are not toxic to people.
A textile is only awarded the Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 if all components correspond to the requirements of criteria set by member institutes - as well as tested in an authorised laboratory to uniform test methods and procedures.
The product line is checked annually and is subject to a random sample test without prior notice being given. This applies both to the outer fabric and the lining, as well as the zip fastener, buttons, sewing yarn and interlinings.
Only textiles which have been tested by an authorised test institute and which fulfil all criteria are awarded the "Oeko-Tex® Standard 100" label. The control number on each label makes the test results for each certified textile clearly identifiable.
In Hong Kong, Oeko-Tex® International, the Association for the Assessment of Environmentally Friendly Textiles is TESTEX® Swiss Textile-Testing Ltd.
from Michael Katzmarck, Frankfurt Office