Internationally Recognized Certifications in the Denim Industry

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Md. Imran Hossain

Certification is becoming more and more important for sustainable development in today’s world. Textile manufacturers and suppliers conduct various types of testing and analyzes to make sure their clothes and other textile products we use in our daily life won’t harm us, will be comfortable & eco-friendly and will stay colorful for a long time. The most obvious reasons and ultimately certifications are that it assures companies, consumers and governments that textiles are safe for our health, product quality is good and textile mills support ethical working conditions. The certification process for environmental and social responsibility helps an organization achieve the goal of sustainable production. Only companies that meet all the criteria for manufacturing are certified. In this article, I will discuss some of the common certifications of the denim & textile industry. The best standards for textiles are GOTS, Fair Wear, Bluesign®, OEKO-TEX®, GRS, RCS, OCS, LEED etc. Actually, these are some certifications varies according to the buyer’s requirements.

Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX® Certification

Currently, there is a growing demand for certified textile products of various brands in the garment industry. To be a successful manufacturer you must meet these growing demands. OEKO-TEX® is one of the world’s leading labels for textile products tested for harmful substances. It is known for customer confidence and high protection of the products. OEKO-TEX® works primarily on increasing textile and leather product safety, improving sustainable production and sustainable value creation chains.

The OEKO-TEX® certify the following products – garments, clothes, and final textile products, decorative materials, home textiles, fabrics, yarns, fibers, coatings, linings, components, accessories, labels, prints and trims.

More than 150,000 Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX® certificates have been issued with more than 14,000 issued per year and 10,000 manufacturers, brands and retailers in 98 countries are working with OEKO-TEX®. This certification is a competitive advantage for manufacturers. This applies to textile products used in all manufacturing stages from thread to end products. The investment in certification by OEKO-TEX® is valuable to manufacturers because consumers trust textile products with the Standard 100 label and this guarantees the performance of your business relationship. The OEKO-TEX® Institute operates uniformly and scientifically measurable standards worldwide. They also provide suitable solutions for processing and enhancing product quality.

Test Criteria and Methods:

The current statutory provisions cover extensive cataloging of hazardous substances testing and the relevance of future developments is checked. Rules related to prohibited Azo dyes, Formaldehyde, Nickel etc. are included in the test catalog. Chemicals harmful to health are also tested if they are not regulated. OEKO-TEX® laboratory tests contain about 100 test parameters and are considered for use in textiles. Skin contact with any textile material is more intensive so the restriction standard for each product class is more stringent. The product classes are-

Product Class 1: This class includes products for babies and toddlers.

Product Class 2: This class includes products with skin contact like blouses, inner wear, mattresses, shirts etc.

Product Class 3: This class includes products without skin contact such as, jackets, vests, blazers, belts etc.

Product Class 4: This class includes products for home furnishing and decoration such as, table clothes, carpets, curtains, upholstery fabrics etc.

Certification Process:

Manufacturer must first complete the application form for the certification according to Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX®. The selected OEKO-TEX® institute will then contact them. After that, they examine the documents, the field of observation and the parameters of success are defined. Manufacturer articles will then be tested according to Standard 100. If their product is successfully tested in the laboratory, the OEKO-TEX® Institute will send you a Standard 100 Certificate with a detailed test report. Before or after the certification, OEKO-TEX® experts will visit manufacturer’s site to confirm all the details. (For more details: https://www.oeko-tex.com/)

STeP by OEKO-TEX Certification

Sustainable Textile Production (STeP) by OEKO-TEX® is the certification system for sustainable product manufacturing facilities of various brands, retailers and manufacturers in the textile and leather industry. STeP’s main goals are to implement long-term environment friendly production processes, improve health and safety issues and promote responsible social working conditions at production sites. STeP is different from other certification systems in that it not only considers individual sustainability aspects but also includes analysis and evaluation of production conditions. This analyzes all important areas of any organization or industry using of 6 modules:

  1. Environmental Performance
  2. Environmental Management
  3. Chemical Management
  4. Social Responsibilities
  5. Quality Management
  6. Health Protection and Safety at Workplace

Certification Process:

OEKO-TEX® institute certifies textile manufacturers for all the processing stages from fiber production to Spinning and Weaving/Knitting to finishing and making-up. In order to get the STeP by OEKO-TEX® certificate, first you have to fill the application form and confirm the general conditions. You will then receive access data from the OEKO-TEX® institute which is selected for you. After that you will need to complete the web-based STeP assessment tool. Your OEKO-TEX® institute will evaluate the information you provide and the documents you submit. The OEKO-TEX® institute will examine the data recorded during an on-site inspection at your production facilities.

 STeP Scoring System:

     Level 1: Compliance with the entry level specifications

     Level 2: good implementation with further optimization potential

     Level 3: Ideal implementation in the sense of best practice examples

Finally, your OEKO-TEX® institute will prepare a detailed audit report with a final assessment and issue a STeP certificate with a validity period of 3 years. (To know more details: https://www.oeko-tex.com/)

Bluesign® Certification

Bluesign® is known as an emerging and reliable standard for environmental health and protection in the manufacture of textile products. It is a Switzerland-based company, officially known as Bluesign® Technologies AG. It’s an internationally approved standard for textile production that works in Europe, Asia and North & South America. This standard system applies to some specific prducts for high protection, that are garments, fabrics, clothing accessories, home textiles, fibers, yarns, trims & labels, dyes & chemicals, footwear and other products worldwide. The goal of the Bluesign® system is to inspire some supply chain sites such as chemical suppliers, textile & garment manufacturers, production sites, leather processors, brands and retailers to work for a better tomorrow. It works always for sustainable solutions for textile production. The products that Bluesign® certifies are not harmful to humans or the environment. Bluesign® also ensures the use of sustainable processes in the production of textile products. It examines every manufacturing process in the textile industries, starting from raw materials and also monitor what industries emit as energy sources and wastes. The eco-toxicological effects of each component are evaluated. Environment aware consumers can safely purchase clothing items with Bluesign® labels because, most of the eco-friendly and socially conscious clothing items are Bluesign® standard certified. Bluesign® certification provides specific guarantees that are 1) Free of harmful substances, 2) Safety for business, consumers and environment, 3) Lower air emissions, 4) Reduced water emissions, 5) Increased resources productivity and 6) More production transparency and trust

 Certification Process:

First, you need to fill out the evaluation form of the Bluesign®. Then, you will need to provide your contact details and company’s information to Bluesign® and sign a contract & non-disclosure agreement. After doing all these formalities, you have to read the Bluesign® standard well and prepare the relevant documents accordingly. Documents and procedures need to be reviewed subject to Bluesign® company’s requirements. Then wait for the inspection report, test results and recommendations. You will then need to become a partner in the Bluesign® system and implement Bluesign’s recommendations. Start working with Blue-finder to use Bluesign’s approved components. After the implementation, be ready for the random tests and inspection. Finally, if the test is successful, you will receive the certificates. (To know more details: https://www.bluesign.com/)

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is one of the most widely known and internationally recognized organic standard in the world, guaranteeing reliable assurance for the sustainable processing of textiles and garments made from organically produced natural fibers. GOTS Certification is very important for the global textile and apparel industry, the garments are made in a sustainable process and this standard guarantees its eco-friendliness. When it comes to the organic content of clothing, safety comes into play. GOTS ensures that resources and processes have the least impact on people, animals and environment. GOTS is an active contributor to sustainable development, allowing textile processors and manufacturers to export their organic fabrics and garments with a certificate to all major markets.

GOTS Certification Provides the Following Guarantees:

  1. At least 70% recognized organic content
  2. Eco-friendly manufacturing and production process
  3. There is no toxic input like heavy metal, aromatic etc.
  4. Good working conditions and social consent in the supply chain
  5. Fully traceable product in value chain.

Raw material producers, processors and textile manufacturers, distributors, importers, brands or organizations associated with the textile sector will also be able to avail the OCS certification. The GOTS covers the processing, production, packaging, labeling, marketing and distribution of all textiles made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibers. The GOTS label grade (organic) guarantees a minimum of 95% certified organic fibers and the label grade (made with organic) guarantees a minimum of 70% certified organic fibers. GOTS certification applies to the specific textile products: Organic clothing, apparel and final textile products, Organic Textile Accessories, Organic home textiles, Organic Fabrics, Organic yarns and Organic Components.

There are two types of GOTS certification documents-

  1. Scope Certificates: This certificate proves that suppliers, manufacturers, processors, holder have met all the criteria for the production of GOTS certified products i.e., they are capable of producing GOTS products.
  2. Transaction Certificates: This certificate proves that the textile goods themselves meet all the GOTS product criteria. While the Scope Certificate confirms that the company covered by the GOTS certification is capable of producing GOTS products, but the Transaction Certificate confirms that certain shipments in the textile industries contain GOTS certified products. (To know more details: https://global-standard.org/)

 Organic Content Standard (OCS)

Organic Content Standard (OCS) is a widely recognized and great textile standard worldwide, ensuring organic content of textiles, apparel, apparel, accessories and more. OCS certifications guarantee that textile products are manufactured in environmentally friendly and socially responsible working conditions. OCS certified units will be available in more than 64 countries. India, Bangladesh, Turkey, Germany, Italy, China, Pakistan, Portugal, the United States and South Korea are in the top ten. OCS directs the textile industry to move rapidly towards progress towards sustainability. It allows textile processors, manufacturers and suppliers to export their organic fabrics and garments with an internationally recognized certificate in all major markets.

OCS’s Guarantees and Label Grade:

In order for OCS to be certified, raw materials, intermediates and final textile products must take adequate steps to preserve the identity of the input material. Organic content standard system applies to supply chain sites such as processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, storing, handling, trading, etc. And they certify some specific textile products: Organic garments, clothes, and final textile products, Organic home textiles, Organic fabrics, Organic yarns, Organic fibers, Organic components. According to the ‘OCS 100’ label grade, textile products can contain a minimum of 95% organic fiber and a maximum of 5% non-organic fiber. And according to the ‘OCS Blended’ label grade, textile products can contain a minimum of 5% certified organic fiber and a maximum of 95% non-organic fiber.

Certification Process

OCS certification relies on third-party verification to ensure that a product contains the right amount of organically produced ingredients. It verifies the organic ingredients in the products along the supply chain and tracks the organic ingredients in the final product from its first processing. For OCS certification you first need to choose a certification body and fill out the application form. Then you have to sign a contract with the certification body of your choice. You have to read their standard well and prepare relevant documents accordingly. Documents and procedures need to be reviewed subject to OCS’s requirements. Now wait for the results of the audit and the decision of the next certification. If non-conformities (NC) are mentioned, a corrective action plan needs to be implemented. When these formalities are completed, you will get a Scope Certificate. And always be prepared for unannounced inspections, where standard compliance will be verified. Finally contact the certification body to apply for the transaction certificate.

 Global Recycled Standard (GRS)

The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an international standard that sets out the requirements for third-party certification of recycled input. The Control Union Certification (CU) originally developed the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) in 2006. The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an internationally recognized standard that provides textile companies / factories with a tool that verifies one or more specific input components in the final product.  GRS certified units are available in more than 50 countries. The goal of the Global Recycled Standard is to increase the use of recyclable materials in various textile products and, of course, to reduce the harmful effects of production systems on people and the environment. GRS certification guarantees manufacturers in the textile and apparel industry that sustainable manufacturing processes use environmentally friendly and socially responsible working conditions. It is exported to all major markets by textile processors and manufacturers with a certificate recognizing their recycled fabrics and garments.

Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certification guarantees the requirements of the CCS, at least 20% of certified recycled materials, traceability from recycled to the final product, ethical and responsible production, chemical restrictions for toxic inputs and environment friendly practices in the production. Textile products with at least 50% recycled materials qualify for GRS labeling. Some specific recycled products such as recycled fabrics, yarns, garments, clothes, home textiles etc. are tested by GRS system. GRS certification also applies to the specific supply chain sites like ginning, spinning, weaving & knitting, dyeing & printing.

Certification Process

GRS certification relies on third-party verification to ensure that textile products contain the appropriate amount of recycled and sustainably produced material. For GRS certification you first need to choose a certification body and fill out an application form. Sign a contract with the certification body of your choice. Then they have to read the standard well and prepare the relevant documents accordingly.  Review documents and procedures subject to GRS requirements and wait for audit results and subsequent certification decisions. If there are Non-Conformities (NC) then implement a corrective action plan. You will get a scope certificate if all the formalities are completed. You will then need to contact the certification body to apply for a transaction certificate. Because transaction certification is mandatory for all GRS product purchases. (To know more details: https://textileexchange.org/)

Recycled Claim Standard (RCS)

The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) is a voluntary, international content claim standard that gives credible reassurance to recycled content claims by tracking inputs which are recycled through the product’s supply chain. The main goal of RCS is to increase the use of recycled content in products and reduce the harmful effects of manufacturing processes on people and the environment. Global non-profit textile exchange manages RCS, not only RCS but also GRS, OCS, CCS. RCS is an internationally recognized standard that uses the requirements of the Content Claim Standard (CCS) for clothing, apparel, clothing accessories and other products.  RCS leads the textile industry to rapid progress towards sustainability, as it provides reliable reassurance to customers by tracking certified recycled materials throughout the supply chain from the first processor to the final product and allows the textile industries to export RCS certified products.

RCS certification provides two product labels, 1) Recycled 100, 2) Recycled Blended. According to Recycled 100, RCS 100 guarantees that products without any non-certified material contain 95-100% recycled content. And according to Recycled Blended, RCS Blended guarantees that products contain 5-95% recycled content without any restrictions, i.e., the rest may contain certified or non-certified material. Some specific recycled products such as recycled fabrics, yarns, Fibers, garments, clothes, home textiles etc. are tested by RCS system. RCS certification also applies to the specific supply chain sites like ginning, spinning, weaving & knitting, dyeing, printing, cutting and sewing.

Certification Process

RCS certification relies on third-party verification to ensure that textile products include the appropriate amount of recycled and sustainably produced material. First you need to choose an approved certification body and fill out the application form by contacting them. You will then need to sign a contract with the certification body of your choice. Read their standard carefully and prepare relevant documents accordingly. Review documents and procedures subject to RCS requirements. Now we have to wait for the result of the audit and the decision of the next certificate. If there are non-conformations (NC) then a corrective action plan needs to be implemented. You will receive a scope certificate when all formalities are completed. Then contact the certification body to apply for the transaction certificate as the transaction certificate is mandatory for the purchase of all RCS products. (To know more details: https://textileexchange.org/)

LEED

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world, which reviews green enterprises of a factory such as sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere conservation, material selection and internal environmental standards, innovation & integrative process credit. It is a certification program for green building, with many levels and ratings that recognize best-in-class building strategies in many more areas, including factory/industry, home & office, school, hospital etc. LEED certification is approved by the “Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI)”, which conducts third-party verification subject to the LEED requirements of a project. The “Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)”, in collaboration with USGBC and GBCI, has launched the “LEED Green Factory Award” in recognition of Bangladesh’s RMG sector initiatives in green industrialization.

Certification Procedure

  1. First create a budget according to your project for LEED certification. You can pay your LEED registration and certification fees at USGBC.  The project registration fee is $ 600 ($ 450 for USGBC members) and the certification fee ranges from $ 2250 to $22500 depending on the size of the project, ranging from $1750 to $17500 for USGBC members.
    2.  Then you need to mark the target certification level. Since the certification process is very expensive, it is very important to identify the certification level.
  2. You can find experienced and qualified people in the field of LEED. Planners, architects or engineers who are well versed in LEED certification can guide you in your construction decisions and advise you on how to earn additional LEED points without incurring additional costs.
  3. Now you need to fill up the registration and application form for certification. All these processes are conducted online. Then go to their website and select the rating system that is applicable for your project. There are different types of rating systems such as: Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, Building Operations and Maintenance, Homes etc.
  4. You will then need to collect and upload information and documents according to the LEED points or credits you want to earn. It is important to check that all information and documents have been uploaded properly. Projects that follow the LEED certification at the end of the application earn points for different green building strategies in different categories and earn any one of the four LEED rating levels, the rating levels are-
  • CERTIFIED (40-49 points)
  • SILVER (50-59 points)
  • GOLD (60-79 points)
  • PLATINUM (80+ points) (To know more details visit https://www.usgbc.org/)

Fair Wear Certification

Most socially conscious clothing companies or brands are Fair Wear certified. Fair Wear Certification review and support improvements to factory working conditions. The Fair Wear Foundation develops the Fair Wear Certification, it’s an internationally recognized standard used in many European countries. This standard works with clothing brands, garment workers and industrial influencers to improve labor conditions in the textile industries. Fair Wear Foundation is active in 11 garment producing countries: Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Turkey, Macedonia, Romania and Tunisia. It focuses mainly on garment production with the most labor-intensive steps in the supply chain dealing with the sewing, cutting and trimming process. The important thing is that Fair Wear not only verifies the working conditions in the garments factory, it also verifies every sector of the supply chain and gives the Fair Wear label guarantee to the industries that the clothing brands are actively working to improve the labor standard.

Fair Wear Certifies some specific Products that are Garments, Clothing, Fashion apparels, Outdoor products, Outdoor wear, Sports and Activewear, Footwear & Workwear, Home & Furnishing textiles, Luggage & other travel accessories. This also applies to conscious clothing brands willing to make change by improving working conditions for people in garment factories. This standard system guarantees the highest level of social responsibility for consumers. To become Fair Wear certified, clothing brands must join the Fair Wear organization and find a fairer way to make their clothes.

Certification Process

Fair Wear Certification monitors the performance of clothing brands by conducting three levels of checking: 1) Audits of business practices and management decisions, 2) Audits of the factories to inspect working conditions, 3) Directly hearing from the garment workers. For the Fair Wear Certification, you must first ensure that the basic requirements of the membership are met. Then you have to fill the application form and supplier sheet of the company. Then you have to provide company information and contact details in the application form obtained from Fair Wear. At the end of all these procedures you have to pay the application fee and wait for the review. Then you have to sign the contract paper and non-disclosure agreement. To become a permanent member, you need to know about the on boarding process and be ready for a brand performance check. In addition to paying the annual Fair Wear membership fee, a work plan must be developed in accordance with the Fair Wear standard. Documents and procedures need to be reviewed subject to Fair Wear requirements. And then, wait for the monitoring report and subsequent recommendations. (To know more details visit https://www.fairwear.org/)

 

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.oeko-tex.com/en/our-standards/standard-100-by-oeko-tex
  2. https://www.oeko-tex.com/en/apply-here/standard-100-by-oeko-tex
  3. https://www.oeko-tex.com/en/our-standards/step-by-oeko-tex
  4. https://www.oeko-tex.com/en/apply-here/step-by-oeko-tex
  5. “What Does It Mean To Be Bluesign Certified” by Alex Assoune | https://www.panaprium.com | 29/06/2021
  6. “Everything You Need To Know About GOTS Certification” by Alex Assoune | https://www.panaprium.com | 30/06/2021
  7. “All You Need To Know About The OCS Certification” by Alex Assoune | https://www.panaprium.com | 29/06/2021
  8. “The Truth About The Global Recycled Standard (GRS)” by Alex Assoune | https://www.panaprium.com | 28/06/2021
  9. “The Truth About The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS)” by Alex Assoune | https://www.panaprium.com | 01/06/2021
  10. “A Step By Step Guide to Achieving LEED Certification” by RACHEL BURGER | https://www.thebalancesmb.com/ | 02/07/2021
  11. “All You Need To Know About Fair Wear Certification” by Alex Assoune | https://www.panaprium.com | 29/06/2021
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