Interview with Marc Sidler

Marc Sidler
Marc Sidler
Group CMO
Testex AG
Testex AG

We plan to open offices in SE Asia, Middle East, Africa & Eastern Europe
TESTEX is a globally operating and independent Swiss testing and certification company with focus on textile testing. TESTEX has been testing, analysing and certifying textiles since 1846. In addition to its headquarters in Zurich, the TESTEX Group operates more than 25 branches. Group chief marketing officer (CMO) Marc Sidler speaks about growing concerns about sustainability in Asia, testing of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in cotton and the latest at TESTEX.

How have textile and dyes and chemical testing evolved over the years?

The biggest developments have been in the improvement of equipment, which generally sees major advances roughly every 10 years. In the past, textile extractions were measured in parts per million (PPM), today they can be measured in parts per billion (PPB). Methods of analysis have also evolved, enabling extraction rates that are three times higher than before, in part thanks to more suitable solvents being used. These advances have particularly benefitted the extraction of chlorinated phenols. Furthermore, better norms and added parameters have made textile testing techniques more precise. The developments of the textile industry towards a more sustainable future have played a big role in the evolvement of textile testing methods in recent years.

Which are your major markets for fabric, yarn, fibre, colour fastness, cotton, fire protection, and detergent tests? Please provide bifurcation.

Our major market for physical textile testing is Europe, notably Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Colour fastness testing is in particularly high demand from retailers and personal protection equipment (PPE) manufacturers. In addition to the above-mentioned tests, we also offer GMO screening, clothing physiology, measurement of colour whiteness and ultra-violet (UV) transmission tests.

Which are your major markets for certification services?

Our major markets for certification services are China, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, Austria and Switzerland.

Which regions besides the United States and Europe are actively working to improve their quality and standards through testing and certifications?

Asia is a key region driving towards more sustainability in the textile industry. As textile production takes place predominantly in Asian countries, the region's participation in testing and certification is essential. For brands and retailers to qualify for certification, their whole supply chain must comply with sustainable practices.

How would you describe the market for testing in Asia in the textile niche?

The market for testing in Asia is on the increase. Consumer awareness in Asia towards sustainable textiles has grown considerably in recent years. In 2017, OEKO-TEX® commissioned a global survey of consumer attitudes about textile sustainability. The ground-breaking study is the first to focus on global consumers, examining their views and behaviours regarding overall climate change, as well as their knowledge, perceptions and concerns about textile sustainability and certification. The result showed that people want to live more sustainably, and that concerns about the textile industry are growing not only in Western countries but particularly in textile-producing countries like China and India. This is also reflected by China's commitment to combat climate change in general.

How big is the team of lab technicians in all the countries you currently operate in?

We have 31 lab technicians at TESTEX in Zurich and 17 at ÖTI, our subsidiary in Vienna.

Which new tests and certifications has TESTEX introduced in the last 2 years?

Firstly, we introduced DETOX TO ZERO by OEKO-TEX®  which enables manufacturers in the textile chain to assess the status of their chemicals management systems and the quality of their waste water and sludge and to have these documented through independent verification. The result of this assessment is a status report which can confirm that the results are aligned with the Detox campaign from Greenpeace. 

The LEATHER STANDARD by OEKO-TEX®, which was introduced a couple of years ago, is a testing and certification system for leather and leather articles of all levels of production. Examples of articles that can be certified are: semi-finished leather products (e.g. Wet-blue, Wet-white, Crust), finished leather, leather fibre material and readymade articles. Banned substances include chromium-6 and formaldehyde.

Last year we opened a new laboratory for the testing of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in cotton products. With our new PCR-Laboratory we enable our customers to test cotton for genetic modifications-independently and transparently. The DNA analysis, where samples are measured by the real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) method, allows us to make a yes or no statement regarding genetic modifications in cotton. 

The STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® new requirements (in Annex 6) were specially developed for companies that are particularly focused on the Greenpeace Detox Campaign, as it fulfills a wide range of the campaign's goals. These include stricter limitations on volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chlorinated solvents and flame-retardant agents.  

Do you plan to have any B2C testing services in future for textiles?

We do offer B2C testing services, foremost for consumer protection associations. Occasionally we also receive requests from individuals and from the Swiss Customs Administration that has seized items they need to be tested for banned textiles like certain animal fibres (e.g. Shahtoosh).

What kinds of textile tests and certifications is the research & development (R&D) at TESTEX working on?

This year we are actively working on sludge and wastewater method development to improve the testing for the DETOX TO ZERO  by OEKO-TEX® report. It prepares facilities for the requirements of Greenpeace's Detox campaign by ensuring conformity with the DETOX TO ZERO-specific MRSL. Its goal is to eliminate all release of toxic chemicals and to recognise that there are no environmentally-safe levels for hazardous substances, which is crucial for environmental protection. In 2019, two new product groups will be under observation by the industry: glyphosate and its salts as well as N-nitrosamines and N-nitrosatable substances, so our focus will also be on developing testing for these substances.

Please share details of the last two fiscals and the target for 2020.

We have seen an average growth of 10 per cent in our business over the past few years. Our goal for the near future is to increase the number of certifications for products that cover the whole supply chain. STeP by OEKO-TEX® (Sustainable Textile Production) is a certification system for environment-friendly and socially responsible production facilities along the textile chain. Its aim is to continually improve production conditions and health and safety in all business areas. When combined with the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certificate, which ensures production without harmful substances, finished products fulfill the requirements for the MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® traceable textile label which offers transparency to consumers. 

Furthermore, the ZDHC Foundation recently recognised the ECO-PASSPORT by OEKO-TEX® certificate for chemical management as a 'Level 3 MRSL Conformance Indicator', the highest level in the ZDHC programme. So we plan to focus on this product too soon. 

In addition to our OEKO-TEX® portfolio, a further priority is the TESTEX UV STANDARD 801 that certifies clothing providing protection against UV radiation, and is the world's strictest testing standard for sun-protective clothing.

Which new regions do you plan to open branches in?

We are looking at opening new offices in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. (HO)
Published on: 01/02/2019

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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