Sustainable supply chains

Grüner Knopf textile label celebrates first anniversary

Label has become established, says Minister Müller

German Development Minister Gerd Müller, Diakonie Deutschland President Ulrich Lilie (right) and Deutscher Caritasverband Secretary-General Hans Jörg Millies (left) signing a joint declaration of intent to promote sustainable textile procurement on September 9, 2020

Press release of 09.09.2020 |

BERLIN – One year ago, German Development Minister Gerd Müller joined forces with 27 pioneers from the private sector to launch the Grüner Knopf (green button) label, a government-run textile certification mark. The label gives consumers clear guidance as they buy textiles produced in accordance with social and environmental standards. As many as 52 companies have joined the effort now, including renowned sustainability pioneers, sports labels, family-owned businesses and medium-sized companies, and also large international retailers.

Minister Müller said, "Notwithstanding the difficult economic situation, the label has become established in the market. I am pleased that as many as 52 companies are now part of the effort – twice as many as in the first year, in spite of the fact that the textile industry has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis. You are now able to dress in Grüner Knopf garments from head to toe – from hats to T-shirts to sneakers. There are also bedding items, backpacks and tents that have the label. Grüner Knopf products are available for all tastes and purses. Sustainable fashion doesn't necessarily have to be expensive."

A representative study carried out by the GfK market research institute has found that the Grüner Knopf is set to become a success story. About one-third of all Germans have heard about it – a very good rate after just one year compared with other sustainability labels. And nearly all those surveyed are in favour of a government-run label to monitor compliance with social and environmental standards. People also know what the label stands for: things such as the ban of child labour and of hazardous chemicals, and the payment of minimum wages.

This confidence is reflected in their purchasing decisions. In the first half of 2020, an economically difficult period, more than 50 million textile items with the Grüner Knopf label were sold, of which some 35 million were garments. This is equivalent to a market share between 1.5 and 3 per cent for the Grüner Knopf. To put this into context, Germany's label for organic products reached a market share of 2 per cent in its first year, and a share of 3.5 per cent after seven years.

Minister Müller added: "The Grüner Knopf is more than just a textile label – it is our sign for responsible manufacturing. We need a global transformation towards greater sustainability in global supply chains, because at the start of many of our products are people who have so far barely been able to make a living from their work. There are still 75 million children worldwide who have to work under exploitative conditions – including for our products. More and more consumers no longer want to accept this. They demand compliance with fundamental minimum standards in production. The Grüner Knopf companies are already meeting this demand. This means that after its first year, the label has also become a blueprint for a multi-industry supply chain law, because the label shows that it can be done. Even small start-up companies are able to do it." 

Now Germany's two large faith-based social service agencies, the Protestant Diakonie Deutschland and the Roman Catholic Deutscher Caritasverband, are opting for sustainable textiles, too. Together, they are Germany's largest buyer of textiles apart from the public sector. The 2.2 million beds alone which they have in their 56,000 facilities require huge quantities of bedding. On the first anniversary of the Grüner Knopf, 9 September 2020, an agreement to that effect was signed by German Development Minister Gerd Müller, Diakonie Deutschland President Ulrich Lilie and Deutscher Caritasverband Secretary-General Hans Jörg Millies.

Minister Müller said, "I am pleased that these two organisations have opted for the Grüner Knopf label. Private and public institutions can contribute a lot to fair supply chains if they systematically shift to sustainable procurement. The Christian concept of loving your neighbour also applies to the people at the beginning of our supply chains, for instance the garment workers in Bangladesh who produce clothing for us on a piece-rate basis."

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