Product certifications

A summary
Sustainability Glossary - MU Sustainable Innovation

To make their products more competitive in the market, companies opt for environmental certifications. Some of these certifications involve the company as a whole and the company’s ability to monitor and reduce the environmental impact of its processes (UNI EN ISO 14001, environmental management systems or EMAS). Others focus on products and refer to the UNI EN ISO 14020 series, governing different types of labels and environmental declarations. The UNI EN ISO 14040 series refers to the methodology implemented in the study of the product life cycle and to the Environmental Product Declaration (EDP).


The German Blue Angel, introduced in 1978, was the first certification, dedicated to evaluating and guaranteeing the safety of textile products. Since then, the textile certification system has grown considerably and now covers important aspects of the company's strategy, including the reduction of pollutants in processes and products, the organic cultivation of fibers, the presence of recycled materials and much more.


Which are the most common certifications in the fashion industry?


Data collected during the July 2019 edition of Milano Unica provide an interesting picture: Oekotex 100, which with over 800 certified companies in Italy, holds a leadership position: it is the most widespread certification system among the exhibitors participating in the Sustainability Project organized by Milano Unica (36%). Launched in the ‘90s with the aim of ascertaining the chemical safety of textile materials and garments, it was later supplemented by STeP, which extends the certification to production systems. A high level of interest is also reported for GRS (Global Recycle Standard) and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) for the certification of organic fibers, obtained by over 200 companies in Italy. Moreover, there are Bluesign, which covers the environmental impact of processes and corporate social responsibility; ITFashion, the voluntary Traceability system promoted by Unioncamere and the Italian Chambers of Commerce and managed by Unionfiliere, targets an upgrading and increased visibility of the products of the Italian fashion supply chain.


Will the world of textiles be increasingly focused on certifications? 


In recent years, different reporting criteria analyzing product and process chemical safety have been developed and implemented. Launched by Greenpeace in 2011, the Detox campaign introduced a direct approach in addition to targeting more ambitious objectives compared to the standards set out in the certification systems: companies declare their commitment and communicate the results obtained without any third party intermediation. Over the years, brands and companies have developed specifications including specific prohibitions and tolerances, both individual or collective, as in the case of ZDHC - Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, and Afirm. 


Going beyond the evaluations expressed by professionals concerning the alternatives proposed by the complex certification system, the unanimous opinion is that the textile and fashion industry is now moving towards a process of continuous improvement. Sustainability is now an indisputable market trend and can be documented transparently.