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LONDON – Textile certification schemes have “lost their way” and are failing consumers who are trying to make ethical and sustainable choices, claims new research. The report identified more than 100 green labels in the textile sector (surely a major problem in itself) and concluded this whole area is in grave need of reform.

The research by the Changing Markets Foundation focused on eight schemes widely used in the apparel and textiles sector, and found faults in all. It claims there is “no single scheme or label which ensures transparency, traceability and sustainability at every stage of the supply chain.”

Global organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the EU Ecolabel were the best schemes, according to the report, because they use a life-cycle approach to textile certification (although not everybody is enamoured with this approach, it needs to be pointed out).

Meanwhile, The Higg Index, which is widely used by brands, currently relies on self- assessment and lacks transparenc, claim the researchers. The self-assessment issue is regularly cited with regards Higg and is undoubtedly a point for debate.

The report criticises the Better Cotton Initiative, claiming it has undermined the growth in organic cotton – a contention which would seem to ignore the many trials and tribulations of the organic cotton sector long before BCI came into being.

“Certification schemes are failing the environment and consumers, who increasingly want to make ethical and sustainable choices. It’s time for a serious rethink about how we achieve sustainability because the current system is broken,” said Nusa Urbancic, campaigns director at Changing Markets.

The researchers also argue that most of the textiles schemes used by the fashion brands to display their green credentials – for example the Higg Index and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) – are run by multi-stakeholder groups including industry associations and NGOs and suffer from a lack of transparency. Others, such as the Oeko-tex or MADE-BY, offer many different certification modules a-la carte and suffer from a lack of completeness. The report says many schemes are so focused on getting all industry players on board, or meeting the growing demand for certified products, that they are willing to lower their standards in order to get more players on board.

“The main conclusion of this report is that certification has lost its way and that its contribution to creating a more sustainable world is minute,” say the authors.

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