Eco Certifications got you in a muddle? Look out for OEKO-TEX®

You may have seen clothing labels that say things like ‘Forest Stewardship Council certified, ‘Fair Trade,’ or ‘Organic Cotton.’ Each of these certifications is designed by its own organization, which performs its own authentication. These help consumers like us to become more aware of the ethical and sustainable practices surrounding the clothing we buy. For instance, they tell you what material an item is made from, how its natural materials were grown, or whether it required toxic dyes or finishes.

The problem is that there are so many certifications it can be overwhelming – like a collection of Boy Scout pins.  It is harder to tell if a brand is greenwashing or if their products are as good as they’re described. I’ll be honest, sometimes I just pick the one with the most badges and don’t always have time to read every eco label’s fine print (I’m an ethical fashion geek!). 

One standard I look out for is the OEKO-TEX® label because it encompasses many of the things that I care about. Think of it as ‘First Class Scout’ whereas the other certifications are ‘Bugling’ and ‘Woodcarving.’ 

Who is OEKO-TEX®?

OEKO-TEX® is an association of independent textile and leather institutes.  It’s made up of 18 research and test institutes headquartered in Europe and Japan.  OEKO-TEX® partners conduct laboratory tests and company audits in accordance with worldwide standardized guidelines.  These tests manage risk, consumer, and environmental protection, as well as legal conformity.  OEKO-TEX® has created third-party certification and labeling standards to verify the substances used in clothes and home-goods.  This certification has a criteria catalog that is updated at least once a year with new scientific knowledge or statutory requirements.  

How does a company acquire OEKO-TEX® certification? 

To acquire OEKO-TEX® certification and labels, a company must meet OEKO-TEX® standards, test methods, and criteria catalog.  The entire product needs to be certified, not just the fabric or one component (thread, buttons, etc.).  These certifications awarded have to be renewed annually and also require audits to ensure quality is consistent and maintained.  To make this process easier, some companies source pre-certified components. 

Two labels I wanted to suggest looking out for are STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® and MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX®

The STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® label

Example of the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® label
Example of the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® label

This label ensures every component of a product – from the fabric to the zip and thread has been tested for harmful substances, like formaldehyde, lead, and asbestos.

Example of all the areas that are required to be certified
Example of all the areas that are required to be certified

The MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® label 

Example of the MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® label
Example of the MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® label

This label requires a product to be tested for harmful substances.  It also ensures the product comes from a facility implementing environmentally friendly production processes.  These processes include responsible wastewater treatment and the use of certain chemicals.  Suppliers awarded this label must also provide safe work conditions for workers at production sites.

OEKO-TEX® label check

If you’d like to check an OEKO-TEX® label you can lookout for a label number and testing institute.  These details can be verified online and this video shows you how to do this. Click here.  

I appreciate the transparency associated with these labels.  There are other labels such as LEATHER STANDARD by OEKO-TEX® which is also much stricter than current national and international specifications.  You can learn more about OEKO-TEX® by clicking here.

I’d like to say thank you to OEKO-TEX® for sponsoring this post and as always, all opinions are my own.

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