Confidence in Textiles: Interview with Robert Loecker, Managing Director of OETI, Vienna
The Middle East and North Africa are important markets for OETI, which is a testing and certification institute, based in Vienna, Austria.
About the impact on these markets of such pressing issues as sustainability in textile production and products, free from harmful substances – please read below in an interview by Kohan Textile Journal, conducted with OETI’s Managing Director Robert Löcker.
Kohan Textile Journal: Please introduce yourself and your company.
My name is Robert Loecker, I am the Managing Director of OETI. We are a testing and certification institute for textiles, personal protective equipment, floorcoverings and interior design materials. We are also a founding member of the international OEKO-TEX® Association and provide the services from OEKO-TEX® service portfolio. We, along with our mother company TESTEX AG based in Zurich, Switzerland, currently operate in 27 countries and serve clients all over the world.
Kohan Textile Journal: In which Middle Eastern and North-African countries do you have representative offices and what is your general comment about the textile/ flooring industry in these countries?
The Middle East has traditionally and historically had a strong textile manufacturing and trading industry, and we are happy to see this trend to develop further.
Our relationships with the Middle East date back to our first representative office in Egypt, founded in 2007. Since then we have established offices in Turkey, Iran and Morocco. It is a great thing to see that nowadays more and more companies tend to turn towards the values of sustainability and, therefore, we consider the trend to be positive overall.
For example, Iran especially has a great potential for us as there are many textile and carpet manufacturers of all levels of production with high exporting volumes.
Furthermore, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey have very strong textile industries as well. In addition, the flooring market in Turkey is a massive industry. With a 10 percent market share Turkey is the world’s third biggest exporter of carpets, the fifth biggest exporter of handmade carpets and Turkey produces 54 million square meters of laminate flooring per year.
Kohan Textile Journal: OETI is the founding member of OEKO-TEX Association, please tell us about its history and how it was born.
Back in 1967 OETI was founded as an “Austrian carpet research institute”. We’ve gone a long way since then, developing our competences and widening our service portfolio.
As for the OEKO-TEX certification, in 1989 it did not have that name yet. The modern STANDARD 100 was called “Schadstoffgeprüft nach ÖTN 100“ (Tested for harmful substances according to ÖTN 100), which was a standard introduced by OETI. The standard itself has been developed as a result of a growing interest from textile manufacturers worldwide on ecology, health and safety issues in textiles.
It was only in 1992 that OEKO-TEX® Association was founded with OETI as a founding member, and the ÖTN 100 became a STANDARD 100. It is fascinating to look back at the 25 years of success of the OEKO-TEX® Association and see the situation nowadays: With 18 OEKO-TEX® testing institutes and with roughly 17000 active certificates worldwide, which can be traced on the oeko-tex.com website, we keep on growing in numbers and recognition. That means that people from all over the world can feel safe with garments and home textiles tested by OEKO-TEX®. And, in my opinion, it’s a great success story.
Kohan Textile Journal: Which group of companies in these countries are mostly interested in your services and how your services can help them?
OEKO-TEX® standards are being vastly recognized all over the world, but the highest recognition levels can definitely be spotted in Europe. According to the latest surveys done by OEKO-TEX® Association, around 50% of consumers in Europe recognize the logo.
Apart from that, many big retailers in the EU give preference to the products certified with OEKO-TEX® label: Lidl, Aldi, Kik and many others. Therefore, it is safe to say that the companies that are most interested in our services are ones that are exporting their production towards the EU, though the recognition of the certifications is growing worldwide.
Apart from that, the geographical spread is playing in favor of the companies that want to certify their products. Let’s take a t-shirt as an example. If all the materials like yarns, fibers, and threads are already certified, the final certification will be much cheaper. Therefore, the more certified companies there are, the easier it is to choose a supplier for your next product from the already certified suppliers.
Kohan Textile Journal: Why is it important that the textile companies are moving towards the sustainability in textiles?
It is important that the manufacturers embrace the idea that sustainability is not optional. If you do not act sustainably today, there might not be enough resources to sustain your business tomorrow.
With the textile industry being one of the biggest environmental polluters and labor laws violators, the European consumers are no longer indifferent to such obvious problems. The consumers want to trust the products they consume. They want to be sure that if they buy a T-shirt, a blanket, a mattress or a carpet, that they are free from harmful substances and that they have been manufactured by using environmentally friendly processes and under safe and socially responsible working conditions. With the emergence of modern technologies, people have become even more curious and even more cautious about what they wear and where it was manufactured. We do just that. We give them confidence.
Special thanks to :
Ehsan Ekrami, PhD. (Regional Representative of OEKO-TEX Association)