Neonyt Barbara Meier Grüner Knopf

Sustainably wise

There is the well-known saying: “It is easy to be wise after the event.” But one can also be wise in advance – sustainable, that is. This applies to several of the fashion labels, that can be found regularly at the Neonyt sustainability hub. They were wise enough to become sustainable, even before the introduction of the ‘Green Button’, (Grüner Knopf) the governmental meta-label for, amongst other things, fairly and ecologically produced apparel.

“We have had to adapt our documentation and communications, but, otherwise, our existing standards and corporate activity all met the ‘Green Button’ criteria already,” says Henning Siedentopp, boss of the sustainability label, Melawear, which was launched in 2014, and whose entire range has been awarded the new quality mark at a stroke. What sounds like an unmitigated success was, in fact, anything but a foregone conclusion. In order to get certification under the state-sponsored seal of approval for textiles, introduced at the beginning of September, companies had to meet no less than 46 social and environmental standards. “The state lays down criteria and independent inspectors check that they have been met,” explains German Development Minister, Gerd Müller.

Alongside the 26 criteria relating to the product that must be checked, such as the use of chemicals, waste water limits and restricted CO2 emissions, there are also 20 corporate criteria. These reflect guiding principles relating to business and human rights, as set out by the United Nations, together with recommendations for the organisation of economic cooperation and development (OECD). There are also issues such as: “Does company policy pay sufficient heed to human rights and environmental protections? Are supply chains analysed according to OECD recommendations? Do companies report transparently and publicly the impact of their corporate activities?”

Guidance and transparency
Displayed on the label, the product or the packaging, the ‘Green Button’ is intended to tell the consumer at a glance, whether the item of clothing of their choice has been produced in a way that is ecologically sustainable and in conditions that respect the dignity of the human being. “It is intended to provide guidance and transparency for purchasing decisions,” says Annette Hoffman, Managing Director of the eco fashion label Alma & Lovis. The Neonyt exhibitor was able to get over 60 products certified with the new quality mark straight away, including skirts, trousers and knitwear. “We hope that the ‘Green Button’ will help encourage the demand for sustainably produced textiles to grow in the long term,” claims Hoffman.

Fair wages, paid overtime: the ‘Green Button’ also seeks to improve the seamstresses’ working conditions / Source: Alma & Lovis

Fair wages, paid overtime: the ‘Green Button’ also seeks to improve the seamstresses’ working conditions / Source: Alma & Lovis

Push the (green) button
For some critics, the quality mark does not go far enough. Currently, only the production stages, cutting out and sewing, together with bleaching and dyeing are covered: the cultivation of the cotton, production of the fibre and the spinning and weaving processes are, however, not yet included. But Melawear boss, Siedentopp, is convinced that ‘green’ is the right direction to go in: “The new mark not only offers us the opportunity of bringing sustainable fashion from its niche onto the mass market, it will also improve the working conditions and environmental standards in the southern countries of the world. 27 companies, including many that regularly exhibit at Neonyt, have been able to meet the required conditions from the very beginning of the mark’s existence. More than 60 others are in the process of being inspected – they too will, perhaps, soon be able to ‘push the (green) button’”.

Title image Source: Neonyt / Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH

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