Government-run textile certification label The Green Button

Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller during a press conference on the Green Button
The Green Button is our sign for responsible manufacturing, because at the start of our products are people who must be able to earn a living from their work.
Gerd Müller German Development Minister

The government-run textile label, the Green Button, was initiated in September 2019 by the German Development Ministry. Its goal is to protect people and the environment throughout the textiles value chain – from the fibres to the clothes hanger.

Green Button
Still from the video 1 year Green Button

Get involved! External link

Work with us to make the textile supply chain sustainable! (in German)

The Green Button helps consumers find ethical textiles. The Green Button will be highly visible – in the form of a symbol – either on the price tag, on the product itself or on the packaging, therefore making it easy to spot.

If consumers see this label on a T-shirt, a pair of jeans, a rucksack or a bath towel, they can be sure that they are buying socially and ecologically produced textiles.


Who has already signed up to the Green Button?

Green Button – Good for people. Good for nature.
Green Button – Good for people. Good for nature.

There are already 66 companies (as at July 2021) that have items with the Green Button label in their range of products.

They include sports and outdoor brands, pioneers in sustainable production, family-run businesses and major retailers. The label has also been awarded to one non-German company, a Danish manufacturer of bed linens.

A full list of the companies can be found here (External link).

How are consumers responding to the label? 

Towel with the Green Button label
Towel with the Green Button label

A representative survey carried out by the market research institute GfK in 2020 found that "the Green Button is set to become a success story."

  • 31 per cent of people in Germany know of the Green Button textile label, with that figure rising to 38 per cent among those with a special interest in fashion.
  • 70 per cent of those surveyed who know of the label think it is trustworthy.
  • 96 per cent are in favour of the German government monitoring compliance with social and environmental standards through a government-run label.

Sales

The Green Button
The Green Button

Just one year after it was introduced, the Green Button has already become established in the market – despite the COVID-19 crisis.

  • In 2020, almost 90 million textiles bearing the Green Button label were sold.
  • That is a market share of between 1.5 and three per cent. A respectable achievement in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. For comparison: the German organic label achieved roughly two per cent in its first years. Today, everyone knows it.

What does the Green Button have to do with the supply chain law?

Federal Ministers Gerd Müller, Hubertus Heil and Peter Altmaier (from left) at a press conference on the supply chain law on 12 February 2021

“The companies participating in the Green Button certification scheme are showing that it can be done. At last, companies from all sectors are now required to ensure compliance with fundamental human rights standards such as the ban on forced or child labour throughout their supply chains.”

German Development Minister Gerd Müller

On 3 March 2021, the German Cabinet adopted the draft supply chain legislation.

What does the Green Button stand for?

Barbara Meier, textile ambassador for the Green Button and a former winner of the TV show Germany’s Next Topmodel
We should never underestimate the power we have as consumers. At the end of the day, the industry will ensure that our needs and desires are accommodated.
Barbara Meier Textile ambassador for the Green Button and a former winner of the TV show Germany’s Next Topmodel

What is special about the Green Button?

The Green Button is the first government-run label to lay down requirements which must be met by both the product (T-shirts, bedding) and the company. A product needs to fulfil 26 minimum social and environmental standards.

These cover everything from upholding labour rights to testing for chemical residues.

Furthermore, the company as a whole is audited based on 20 other criteria: Does it disclose information about its suppliers? Does it have effective grievance mechanisms in place for its seamstresses? Does it really deal with any shortcomings?

Institutional procurement

More and more hotels, hospitals, associations, and fire brigades are paying attention to sustainability when purchasing textile products. Here are some examples:

  • The German State of Bavaria and its companies will in future restrict textiles procurement to products that have been produced sustainably and have been awarded the Green Button or a similar label.
  • Germany's two major faith-based social service agencies, the Protestant Diakonie Deutschland and the Roman Catholic Deutscher Caritasverband, are opting for sustainable textiles, too. Together, they constitute Germany's largest buyer of textiles apart from the public sector. They have as many as 2.2 million beds in their 56,000 facilities, for which they need huge quantities of bedding.
  • The discounter Norma is supplying its 15,000 staff with work clothes that have the Green Button label.
  • The university hospital in Lübeck, northern Germany's largest university hospital, has switched to bed linen bearing the Green Button label.
  • Ten Bundesliga football clubs in Germany are offering fan clothing certified with the Green Button.

What happens next?

Development Minister Gerd Müller during a visit to a textile factory in Accra, Ghana, February 2019
Development Minister Gerd Müller during a visit to a textile factory in Accra, Ghana, February 2019

It is laid down in the Green Button certification programme (External link) that the label is to be continuously reviewed and developed in collaboration with civil society, academia and industry. This process is smoothly under way and is standard practice for other labels, too.

The next steps moving forward will be:

  • applying the criteria to more production stages in the supply chain;
  • living wages – so far, minimum wages or higher industry-based wages have been obligatory;
  • improving product transparency – each certified product already has a QR code or a link that leads to a database with information on the audited companies and the certified products. This information will be expanded more as part of the further development of the Green Button.

For more information on the Green Button, visit:  www.gruener-knopf.de/en (External link)

BMZ publications

Sustainable Textiles

Sustainable Textiles File type pdf Date of status 09/2019 File size 2 MB Pages 40 Accessibility Accessible

A question of responsibility

File type PDF | Date of status 09/2019 | File size 2 MB, Pages 40 Pages | Accessibility Accessible
The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles

The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles File type pdf Date of status 12/2014 File size 1 MB Pages 20 Accessibility Accessible

Booklet, December 2014 | 20 pages

File type PDF | Date of status 12/2014 | File size 1 MB, Pages 20 Pages | Accessibility Accessible