Long-standing advocate for textile traceability and certification Oeko-Tex celebrates its 30-year anniversary on Thursday, revealing new tools.
Twenty years ago, Oeko-Tex launched its Standard 100 product safety label. Seven United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, are firmly integrated in the Oeko-Tex product portfolio, despite the SDGs launching only in 2015.
Programs like Made in Green and now its Responsible Business by Oeko-Tex (debuting later this year) bolster the product portfolio.
Responsible Business will be a new certification for brands and retailers committed to international agreements for human rights and environmental protection. Responsible Business by Oeko-Tex was developed in accordance with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct.
“Over the last three decades, Oeko-Tex continuously supported the textile and leather industry toward product safeness and sustainability,” Oeko-Tex secretary general Georg Dieners said in reflecting on the organization’s impact. “The association’s goal of building trust for companies and consumers and enabling them to make responsible decisions to protect people and the planet was initiated by textile label Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex, which is one of the best-known labels for product safety today.”
Founded as a collaboration between Hohenstein Research Institute and the Austrian Textile Research Institute, or OETI, Oeko-Tex has seen growth despite pandemic woes. Today Oeko-Tex counts 17 independent research and testing institutes, with contact offices in more than 60 countries. Globally, more than 21,000 manufacturers, brands and retailers work with Oeko-Tex. From 2020 to 2021, the association issued more than 31,000 certificates and labels — an increase of 31 percent compared to the year before.
Asked how Oeko-Tex is responding to the U.N. climate report and the degrowth movement, Dieners reiterated the urgency.
“The impacts we are seeing today are occurring much faster, more destructive and far-reaching than expected 20 years ago, and even if we manage to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial level in the near future, humanity will have to cope with the consequences in just 20 years. It is becoming clear to us that the implementation of sustainability measures alone will not be sufficient to achieve the ambitioned goals,” he said.
Calling the latest U.N. climate report “concerning,” he described how the last two years saw the industry “mercilessly” exposed.
“During the pandemic whole supply chains were disrupted, an unbelievable excess of products did not even go on sale and an oppressive number of people lost their livelihoods,” Dieners said. “With these environmental and social challenges, the society and economy realized that there is a need for a reorientation of the industry: Product life cycles must be reconsidered and above all products need to be produced in an environmentally and people-friendly manner. Unfortunately, we do not have the time to wait for the effects of this rethinking, so it seems opportune to question the measures regarding further basic economic principles: can we afford further growth?”
Although the industry has started to take responsibility, Dieners is convinced collaboration must be lifted to another level as soon as possible, which is why due diligence is becoming key.
“Industry, politics and the consumer must bear their fair share. Especially consumers still might not be aware of how much power they have as they can influence the industry directly with their purchase decisions,” he said. “We see it as our duty to continually support their actions with information and education, for example with our Oeko-Tex Label Check provided online. But of course, the industry in particular needs to change its mindset. Therefore, we advocate international due diligence laws. Our support with the Responsible Business by Oeko-Tex certification for the upcoming laws in Europe and Germany — where the law is already passed for 2023 — as well as our Impact Calculator for data analysis and transparency will only mark the beginning of this transition. At Oeko-Tex we will continue with our approach of using scientific data to improve the industry, but we are also convinced: Overall we need to produce less, but better.”