As important the topic of sustainability is, it’s just as complex and unclear. Many manufacturers and consumers today are interested in how a product is manufactured and what ecological and social cost are associated with it.
But although transparency is a fundamental component of every sustainable corporate philosophy, savvy with quality seals is increasingly getting lost in the shuffle.
Who knows just what label and which organization stands for what? Does “ecological” also mean “social,” and what is the difference between a certified product and a certified production?
A new system for all interested parties has been developed by ISPO MUNICH for all interested parties that will celebrate its premier at the next trade fair on February 5-8, 2017. For the first time, ecologically and socially engaged companies will be labelled with a green leaf in the catalog and at the booth.
That way, visitors can recognize at first glance which brands are engaged in the field of sustainability. Parallel to this, the many different certificates, organizations, and initiatives will be explained online.
Probably the best known labels in the sports sector are the start: bluesign® system, GOTS, and the Fair Wear Foundation.
The label “bluesign® product” is one of the most well known and strictest sustainability seals within the textile industry, and is specifically widespread in sportswear brands.
bluesign technologies AG in St. Gallen, Switzerland, was founded in 2000 and developed the integrated bluesign® system based on the principle of input stream management.
That means that it excludes pollutive substances from the production process from the beginning, and thus can equally ensure that the finished product stands up to the strictest of consumer protection requirements worldwide.
In this respect, it doesn’t just consider the individual consumer product in terms of consumer protection, but rather all of its effects on people, the environment, and consumption of resources. The goal is the reduction of the ecological footprint along the entire supply chain. From the chemical components all the way up to emissions and energy use, the system analyzes and controls all production steps.
At the foundation of the “Best Available Technique” (BAT), guidelines and processes are worked out in order to fulfill sustainability criteria on one hand and quality, functionality, and design for market requirements on the other. Chemical suppliers, manufacturers of all textile production processes, and brands are part of the bluesign® system.
The companies subjected to strict assessments in order to certify the produced chemical products and textile components, as well as their accessories. If a product is manufactured using “bluesign® approved” components, it may be distinguished with the “bluesign® product” label.
The bluesign® system is neither limited to certain raw material and fiber types nor to individual product steps, nor to certain textile consumer products.
At least 90 percent of the textile fabric must be bluesign® certified. Especially among these are the inner and outer layers of a piece of clothing, including all prints. Beyond that at least 30 percent of all components, such as zippers, buttons, and embroidery must be bluesign® certified.
The remaining maximum ten percent of textiles and 70 percent of components that are not bluesign® certified must fulfill the strict regulatory limits of the bluesign® criteria protection.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is considered the globally leading standard for the processing of textiles made of organically produced natural fibers.
It originated from the collaboration of four different international organizations that combine their respective expertise in ecological agriculture and environmentally friendly and socially responsible textile processing in the GOTS. The first version of the GOTS was published in 2005, with multiple updates since then.
Admittedly, the GOTS is primarily known as a label for the certification of organic cotton, but in reality it’s applicable to all organically produced plant- and animal-based natural fibers. Synthetically manufactured fibers made of regenerative raw materials such as viscose and lyocell, on the other hand, cannot be certified.
The standard certifies the entire product’s entire production process, from the manufacture of the input fibers up to the end product, as well as the supply chain, under ecological and socially responsible criteria. However, no living wages are requested in the social standards.
In the most general sense, only textile products that are made up of at least 70 percent organically produced natural fibers can receive a GOTS label. Beyond that, there are two label tiers.
“produced from x percent cbc/cba fibers”: This GOTS label tier requires at least 70 percent certified organically produced natural fibers – where cbc stands as an abbreviation for controlled biological cultivation, and cba for controlled biological animal farming.
No more than ten percent synthetic fibers may be used. Stockings, leggings, and sportswear may consist of up to 25 percent synthetic fibers.
“cbc/cba” or “organic”: This GOTS label tier requires at least 95 percent certified organically produced natural fibers. The components and accessories used are exempted.
The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) was founded in 1999 as a so-called multi-stakeholder organization in Amsterdam. meaning it’s a non-profit organization that’s controlled by non-government organizations (NGOs), unions, and business associations.
Their goal is the improvement of working conditions in the global clothing industry. The focus within the supply chain thus far has been primarily on manufacture, that the site where the materials are sewn together into finished textile products.
The heart of the FWF is a code for labor practices and workers’ rights, the “Code of Labor Practices,” which is based on international standards. The code regulates a total of eight points:
The FWF doesn’t issue any certificates; one can only become a member and then have the option to advertise with the FWF logo. There are currently 121 members. In principle, any brand can become a member that aligns itself with the tenets described above and is working on their implementation.
In this respect, the FWF sees itself as a so-called learning initiative. Membership with the FWF alone thus doesn’t say anything about a company’s actual status in terms of social fairness.
However, lasting membership is coupled with how successfully a member implements the code. Those who do not fulfill the basic requirements or do not correct shortcomings within a deadline will lose their membership.
At the same time, especially engaged members can achieve a “leader status.” All brands, that is both suspended and exemplary ones, are published on the website.