Certification and Markets: Yet More Standards! (May 2013)

Apr 2013

Oeko Tex’s New STeP Certification System: Oeko Tex  is the world’s largest environmentally focused certification system for the textiles sector.  Based in Zurich it has issued in excess of 100,000 certificates since its introduction in 1992.  The organization behind the Oeko Tex standards is the International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile Ecology (Oeko-Tex), whose members are 15 independent research and testing centers globally.   In response to demand for inclusion of social and worker safety issues into the textile supply chain, as well as environmental, Oeko Tex has now released the STeP standard for sustainability.  The standard explains: “STeP analyses and evaluates existing production conditions with respect to the use of environmentally friendly technologies and products.  Another important issue is the assessment of working conditions and the plant’s impact on the environment.”   The standard will be launched in June 2013 in Frankfurt.   It is likely to overlap with other standards specifically focused on worker safety in the textile sector, such as WRAP, SA 8000 and FLA.

Walmart’s Sustainable Supplier Management Program: While not a new issue, the following article presents a concise and interesting view on the sustainable supplier management program at Walmart, which with almost half a trillion dollars in sales is the world’s largest retailer.  While Walmart launched its sustainability program in 2006 and was a founding member of the Sustainability Consortium in 2009 last year it launched the Sustainability Index to thousands of its suppliers, questioning them on a range of issues related to sustainability.  The suppliers are ranked and rated, and the results made available to its army of “Merchants” – the people who buy for Walmart.  Critically, the Merchants performance and pay will be partially based on the sustainability performance of the product category in which they operate, providing a mid-level incentive to weed out the poor sustainability performers from Walmart’s supply chain as well as improving the performance of the remaining ones.

Enhanced Eco Labeling System Proposed for the EU: While the EU has since 1992 had its EU Eco-labeling system in place, it now wants to broaden and deepen the methodology used to determine what products are allowed to affix what labels and more importantly to harmonize labels across its boundaries.  In a “Communication” (which is a distant precursor to any EU regulation) entitled “Building the Single Market for Green Products  it proposes a three year pilot study to improve and broaden the green product process.  Expected timeline: January 2015 for testing of labeling and “communication methods” with likely implementation of any regulations for voluntary environmental labeling 3-4 years after this.  In more immediate news, there are reports of fresh talks on eco-labeling in the textiles sector.

A Sustainability Label for Smartphones? Swedish standards body and certification company TCO Development already has a certification scheme for IT products.  In line with the explosive growth of smartphones and tablets, now the largest IT markets in the world, the group has proposed a certification standards specifically for smartphones.   The draft standard covers recycling, packaging, CSR and other issues.  The company hopes to market its new smartphone specific standard in mid-2013 and certification to it will allow users to carry the same marking as previous TCO standards.  The group states “it will be sustainability certification which follows guidelines of a third party certification, Type 1 eco label according to ISO14024.”  TCO certified products are marketed by the likes of Samsung and Lenovo.  See for more details:.

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