The Green Button helps with purchasing sustainable textiles

Project description

Title: Green Button
Commissioned by: Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ)
Country: Germany
Overall term: 2019 to 2021

Context

The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh in 2013, which killed more than 1,100 workers, was the worst garment factory disaster in history. The disaster made the world aware of the conditions under which clothing is produced. Three quarters of Germans today say that good production conditions are important to them. Many companies have recognised this customer requirement and are already producing garments more sustainably. However, many continue to operate as before.

In many developing and emerging countries, 14-hour shifts, low wages and the use of hazardous chemicals without protective clothing are not uncommon. Child labour is also still widespread. To change this situation, the Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) founded the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles in 2014. This partnership of companies, trade unions, policymakers and civil society aims to improve conditions in textile production worldwide – from raw material production to disposal.

At present, sustainable fashion is not always visible at first glance in German shops. The Green Button is changing that. As a state-run certification mark for textiles manufactured sustainably in line with social and environmental standards, it provides guidance when making purchasing decisions. The Green Button identifies clothing that has been produced in accordance with high standards relating to labour and the environment.

Objective

The Green Button provides guidance when purchasing textiles manufactured in line with social and environmental standards. It raises awareness of sustainable textile production and supply chains among companies and consumers.

Approach

The Green Button audits the companies themselves and the products they manufacture. In order to obtain certification, companies must meet high standards with regard to their production and working conditions.

Company audit: Companies must demonstrate their level of responsibility with regard to human rights, social standards and the environment. The Green Button has developed 20 criteria for this purpose. The criteria are based on the United Nations' Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and sector-specific recommendations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The criteria for companies correspond to five core elements:

  • Aligning corporate policy: Companies must be committed to respecting human rights and protecting the environment.
  • Identifying and prioritising risks: Businesses need procedures to identify adverse impacts of their operations on human rights and the environment.
  • Taking effective action: Measures must be taken to avert potential negative impacts. In addition, companies need to verify that these measures are effective.
  • Reporting transparently: The company must report and communicate transparently 
  • Responding to complaints: The company must have a complaints mechanism in place.

Product auditing: A product must comply with 26 minimum social and environmental standards. Companies can demonstrate compliance with the product criteria through existing, recognised and credible certification marks. The most important production criteria include:

  • A ban on chemicals
  • Biodegradability
  • Pollution thresholds for waste water
  • Less air pollution through CO2
  • Natural fibres tested for harmful substances
  • Chemical fibres tested for harmful substances

An auditing body audits the production stages on the basis of recognised and credible certification marks that companies must demonstrate. A product must meet all the specified social and environmental criteria for the production stages of garment assembly and textile finishing in order to be awarded the Green Button.
In the introductory phase, compliance with the criteria can be demonstrated exclusively on the basis of product certifications (certification marks) that have already been issued.

Results

  • Better working conditions on site: 32 companies have received Green Button certification so far.
  • Rethinking within the textile industry: Over 100 companies have already expressed interest in certification. 
  • A strong response from the media: The Green Button has been discussed in more than 77 television features, printed and online articles as well as on radio. Print media include the Frankfurter Rundschau and Augsburger Allgemeine daily newspapers, the weekly Bunte magazine, and many more.
  • Presence at events: The Green Button was presented at various events, including the trade fairs Heimtextil and NEONYT and the International Green Week.
  • Guidance for purchasing choices: consumers have a reliable certification mark that provides information about the manufacturing conditions and helps them to make a purchasing decision.
  • Increased awareness: Consumers and companies are developing a growing awareness of sustainable textile consumption.

More information