By Lisa Wagner
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela coined this quote during his fight for racial equality and it is more relevant than ever. In fact, education is a human right. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 reads: Everyone has the right to education. (…) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Today the value of education is an integral part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are intended to ensure sustainable development worldwide on an economic, social and ecological level. SDG 4 reads: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all and includes a set of associated targets. A well-educated population is the basis for combating poverty and inequality, sustainable economic growth, and social development. Education has a positive effect on health, strengthens the role of women and enables social and economic participation. Yet according to the SDG Report 2023 progress towards quality education is slower than required to achieve the target by 2030.
At OEKO-TEX® we share the United Nation’s vision that quality education is a key enabler for sustainable development. Since the early 1990s OEKO-TEX® has focused on education of the industry. Back then when the globalization of textile and leather supply chains made them more and more complex and opaque, we started with educating on harmful substances based on scientific principles and latest legal bases. To this day the OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 provides security to brands and manufacturers along the global supply chain as well as end consumers around the world that every component of their article, i.e., every thread, button and other accessories, has been tested for harmful substances and that the article therefore is harmless for human health. And we did not stop there. Today the OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 is part of all our product labels like OEKO-TEX® MADE IN GREEN as well as our facility certification OEKO-TEX® STeP.
Brands and manufacturers we work with frequently confirm that we help them close their knowledge gaps and ultimately make their business more transparent and sustainable. Our extensive auditor training, which takes place several times a year with webinars and once a year in person, is also an integral part of our educational measures. On the other hand, consumers can rely on our product labels to make more sustainable purchasing decisions. One way to bring awareness to the end consumer is by our OEKO-TEX® Label Check: By a unique product number everyone can check the validity of their OEKO-TEX® label. When checking a product labelled with OEKO-TEX® MADE IN GREEN you can even trace the product’s journey and learn details about where exactly it was produced as well as who is the label owner.
To profoundly change the industry education needs to start early. That is why we support students at various universities with scholarships to promote their journey towards a more resourceful future. OEKO-TEX® scholarship owners later work in various fields of the industry supporting the holistic approach of sustainability. The key factor is to give them a wide picture of where the challenges come from and what the goal for a healthy future is. Education is indeed a powerful tool to change the world. And while the current situation of the industry comes to a head, we are coming back to Nelson Mandela and encourage everyone to live and work by another famous quote of his: "It always seems impossible until it's done."