THE SFA CLEAN FIBRE PROCESSING STANDARD

WHAT IS THE SFA CLEAN FIBRE PROCESSING STANDARD

The Clean Fibre Processing Standard has been developed for ‘first stage’ processing plants that scour (wash) and dehair raw cashmere. The requirements are focused on the reduction and elimination of harmful chemicals such as APEOs, efficient use of energy and water, and ensuring safe and fair working environments. 

The standard 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. 

Companies operating under the old SFA Standard System can still access guidance on the Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice through the end of 2023.

The SFA Clean Fibre Processing Standard focuses on three key principles of business sustainability:

Social & Ethical Responsibilities

This principle covers the principles and values that govern activity in relation to safety, working conditions and fair labour. Processing plants must comply with all of the requirements of the standard covering health, safety and hygiene.

Environmental Sustainability

This principle covers the initiatives focused on environmental impact and management. This includes the use of detergents with minimum environmental impact and the safe use and management of chemicals and hazardous substances.

Supply Chain and Business Operations

This principle includes business practices that facilitate long-term economic growth concerning business management, day to day operations and the supply chain. It requires evidence that a supplier has proper equipment and conditions for accurate fibre analysis.

WHY DO WE NEED THE CLEAN FIBRE STANDARD?

The SFA developed the Clean Fibre Processing Standard with the goal to reduce the environmental impact of cashmere fibre processing. We want to ensure that harmful chemicals, specifically alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs), are eliminated from the scouring (washing) and dehairing process. 

A standard 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 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.