STeP by Oeko-Tex
STeP by Oeko-Tex (Sustainable Textile Production) is a worldwide certification system for environmentally friendly and socially responsible production facilities in the textile and clothing industry. STeP is a 2013 re-branding of the Oeko-Tex Standard 1000 that had been introduced in 1995. The current version of the STeP standard is available on the Oeko-Tex website.
A STeP label is not meant to be displayed on products, but rather to be used in business-to-business communication. Given the locally different legislative regulations, STeP acts as a tool to render the sustainability and social achievements of textile facilities comparable across country borders. Via the central MySTeP database maintained by Oeko-Tex, certified facilities may make their certification data accessible to their customers along the textile chain. The guiding principle of certification according to STeP by Oeko-Tex is not a one-off optimization of environmental measures but rather the permanent improvement of overall environmental performance within a company.
Production facilities from all textile processing stages of the textile chain may apply for certification, such as fibre production, spinning, weaving and knitting facilities, textile dyeing and finishing facilities, manufacturers of accessories, foam materials or mattresses, producers of textile consumer goods or logistics centers. In the form of an online questionnaire, companies must disclose extensive information about their production conditions. The questionnaire is organized in six modules:
- Chemical management
- Environmental performance
- Environmental management
- Social responsibility
- Quality management
- Occupational health and safety
To simplify the assessment, a number of already acquired third party certifications can be taken into account, for example the ISO 14000 family of standards and EMAS for environmental management, certifications by the Fair Wear Foundation and others for social responsibility and ISO 9000 standard family for quality management.
Each module contains so-called basic and advanced questions. At least 70% of the basic questions have to be answered. Advanced questions are a chance to document additional efforts towards sustainability and social responsibility. Some mandatory basic questions constitute exclusion criteria: If these criteria are not met in their entirety, STeP certification is not possible. Among the exclusion criteria are noncompliance with the STeP standards for chemicals, sewage and emissions, child and forced labour and the prohibition of union organization.
Following application for certification, companies receive access information to the online assessment tool. The information provided in the questionnaire is reviewed by Oeko-Tex, verified by an independent auditor from one of the Oeko-Tex member institutes during an on-site inspection, and finally analyzed and evaluated. The STeP certificate shows the score and an individual analysis for each module as well as the overall sustainability level that combines the equally weighted results for the six modules and is ranked as follows:
- Level 1 – entry level: 70% of the basic questions (including exclusion criteria) have been satisfactorily answered
- Level 2 – good performance with further optimization potential: Additional basic questions and advanced questions answered
- Level 3 – exemplary performance: 67% or more of the advanced and remaining basic questions answered
Once issued, the STeP certificate is valid for three years