Government-run textile certification label The Green Button
The Green Button helps consumers find sustainably produced textiles. The Green Button symbol will be visible 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 these items have been produced in line with social and environmental standards.
Which companies are carrying Green Button items in their product range?
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 linen.
A full list of the companies can be found here (External link).
How are consumers responding to the label?
A representative survey of 1,000 people carried out by the market research institute GfK in 2020 concluded: “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.
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. In 2010, by contrast, the German organic label achieved roughly two per cent in its first years. Today, everyone knows this label.
What does the Green Button have to do with the supply chain law?
“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.”
Gerd Müller, German Development Minister from 2013 to 2021
What does the Green Button stand for?
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.
What is special about the Green Button?
The Green Button is the first government-run label to lay down requirements to be met by the product (for example T-shirts or bedding) and by the company. A product needs to fulfil 26 social and environmental criteria.
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: Are due diligence obligations regarding human rights and environmental protection being met along the textile supply chain? Does the company eliminate any shortcomings that are found? Are effective complaints mechanisms in place for its garment workers?
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?
When the Green Button was launched, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, as the scheme owner, announced that the label would gradually be further developed in cooperation with civil society, academia and the private sector. This process is currently taking place 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.
- Taking the first steps towards paying a living wage: At present, employers are required to pay the statutory minimum wage or industry standard (when higher).
- Improving product transparency: There is already a QR code or a link on every certified product, enabling consumers to access transparent information about the audited company and the certified products. More information will be made available as the Green Button is developed further.
For more information on the Green Button, visit: www.gruener-knopf.de/en (External link)