Environmental, health and social issues associated with textile products, including clothing and soft furnishings, have been addressed through the release of a new standard by Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA).
“Recently there have been concerns regarding a number of issues for textiles products including the use of carcinogenic dyes, and labour practices in developing countries,” said GECA CEO Rupert Posner. “This new standard enables manufacturers to provide confidence to their customers that these issues have been addressed and that their products are environmentally and socially preferable.
“Through our third-party certification program companies can demonstrate that their products meet robust criteria for reduced environmental and human health impacts and that workers involved in making the product have received fair pay and safe working conditions. It enables consumers to make better informed decision.”
The standard considers impacts over the life cycle of textile products, including material sourcing, manufacture, packaging and use. It addresses specific issues such as:
- Pesticide use – currently, cotton and wool farmers may use a range of pesticides on the crops and directly onto the sheep. Pesticide run-off can contaminate local water supplies and cause harm to workers and animals. GECA’s standard places strict limits on the pesticide residues in raw materials.
- Dyes – certain dyes and dye by-products have been classified as skin sensitisers, carcinogenic, mutagenic and reproductive toxins. Dyes such as azo dyes may not be carcinogenic themselves, but can break down into more harmful by-products during use. GECA’s standard places limits, restrictions and bans on certain dyes or dye by-products.
- Illegal harvest of wood for man-made cellulose fibres (eg viscose) – illegal harvesting, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and cases of unsustainable management can threaten ecosystem health and local communities. GECA’s standard requires that raw materials from wood and fibre must not come from uncertified sources, illegal harvesting, GMOs, or environmentally destructive practices.
- Hazardous materials –formaldehyde and heavy metals can be present in clothes, depending on how the garments are manufactured and treated. GECA’s standard restricts the use of heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium, arsenic) and other hazardous materials (such as formaldehyde, biocides, and APEOs). It also bans known carcinogenic substances.
- Workers’ rights – with increased awareness surrounding the poor working conditions of many textile workers, more people are demanding to know where their textiles originated. Along with fair pay, safe working conditions and equal opportunity requirements, GECA’s standard requires licensees to show awareness and/or compliance with International Labour Organisation Conventions regarding forced labour and worker exploitation.
The standard was developed incorporating feedback from industry, stakeholders and the general public. It replaces GECA’s previous Textiles standard.
Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) runs Australia’s only independent, not-for-profit, multi-sector ecolabelling program and is the only Australian member of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN). It develops standards against which products can be independently audited by GECA’s JAS-ANZ accredited conformity assessment bodies. Its standards are developed following ISO 14024 principles for global best practice in ecolabelling. Thousands of certified products can be found on its website www.geca.org.au.