Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice

Summary of the Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice, available shortly.

FAQs about the Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice

Why do we need the Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice? 

The SFA developed this code of practice to reduce the environmental impact of cashmere fibre processing. We wanted to ensure that harmful chemicals, specifically alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs), are eliminated from the scouring (washing) and dehairing process.

The use of APEOs has been banned by manufacturers in the European Union for many years. However, now this ban also covers textiles that are manufactured outside the EU and imported in.

A code of practice for the scouring and dehairing process is critical since it is currently a largely unregulated process. Without it, manufacturers, brands and retailers, further down the supply chain may test imported fabrics, only to discover that APEOs have been used at this initial stage of processing. This has both legal implications and impacts the claims that can be made regarding the sustainability of the product.


What are APEOs?

APEOs are common agents used in the textile industry and include NPEOs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) and OPEOs (octylphenol ethoxylates), which are known for their cleaning properties. NPEOs are the most ubiquitous across the industry and are commonly used as detergents in the scouring of raw (greasy) cashmere fibre.

These cleaning agents are pollutants that are discharged by factories and washed out of the final products. They end up in the environment where they are are highly toxic to aquatic organisms, affecting the fertility of fish and other organisms and impairing aquatic ecosystems. AEPOs are also known to have adverse effects on human fertility.

It is a minimum requirement of the Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice that processing plants do not use hazardous substances.


What is the scope of the Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice?

As well as controlling the use of chemicals, the Clean Fibre Code of Practice also encourages other environmentally-responsible practices such as efficient use of water and energy to combat air pollution and climate change.

The code of practice also monitors labour and business practices, ensuring respectful and secure working environments where people are safe and treated fairly. In combination with the Rangeland Stewardship and Animal Husbandry Codes of Practice, it provides a tool for cashmere processors to demonstrate that their fibre is both sourced and processed in a way which values people, livestock and the environment.


How has the Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice been developed?

To create the code of practice, a Standards System Improvement Committee (SSIC) was formed, that represents all potential stakeholders, including industry representatives, environmental experts and human resource practitioners.

The SSIC developed the key components and related requirements of the Clean Fibre Code, taking into account best practice with consideration of regulatory requirements and the need for realistic and auditable criteria.


What process does the Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice cover?

The code of practice can be applied to processing plants that sort, prepare scour and/or dehair cashmere fibre along with the environmental, social and supply chain elements of the business that run alongside these operations. It is split into different units for each of these processes, and processing plants must achieve compliance in all units that are relevant to its function.

Compliance is based on continual improvement and is ranked bronze (minimum requirements met), silver and gold (fully compliant with requirements). 

The Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice is not intended to replace the legal or regulatory requirements of any country. It is the responsibility of each operation to demonstrate compliance with all applicable laws and regulations related to marketing, labour, and business practices.