Textile Standards: bluesign®
Performance fabrics for the outdoors, fabrics that shed water and transport moisture, often use complex polymers and chemical treatments. Even natural fabrics like cotton and wool are chemically dyed and finished.
At MEC, we test our fabrics and prototypes to make sure they perform like we need them to. But these tests don't tell us anything about the stuff in them or the impact they might have on the environment. Our designers don't actually have the knowledge or facilities to do such testing, so we've chosen a knowledgeable partner who does, bluesign technologies of Switzerland.
Bluesign provides independent auditing of textile mills. They examine the manufacturing process from raw materials and energy going in – to water and air emissions going out. Audit findings are ranked in order of concern, and they suggest ways to reduce consumption, and recommend alternatives to harmful chemicals or processes wherever possible. Mills that commit to verifiably adopting their recommendations earn bluesign system partner certification.
Auditing a mill or raw material supplier follows a consistent process:
- Bluesign completes a thorough questionnaire with each factory and designs their screening process.
- The mill agrees to undergo an examination of raw materials, energy use, emissions, and effluent - every component of their products.
- Once screened, bluesign communicates their findings and recommendations. When possible, they recommend alternatives to problematic chemicals and components. (They maintain a continually updated list of safe components called the bluefinderTM.) Where no bluefinder alternatives exist, they recommend ways to mitigate harm and control chemical outputs.
- The mill signs a binding contract agreeing to implement the changes according to a specified timeline. This makes them a bluesign System Partner.
- As each recommendation is implemented, the mill submits the material for bluesign approval.
- At a designated time, the mill is re-screened to verify the changes have been made and that all components are being selected from the bluefinder.
Partnerships and Alliances
Earning bluesign approval costs mills and suppliers time and money. They have to be convinced they'll get a return on their investment in the form of increased demand for their products from manufacturers like MEC and ultimately from consumers. Long-term, we'd like to see bluesign certification become the recognized world standard, and we hope our participations is a step toward achieving this.