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Green Label: "Greenwashing plays a role here, too"


Germany's first state sustainability seal should guarantee fair clothing. In the fashion industry, the Green Button has many critics - one of them is streetwear designer Jan Thelen.

From now on garment manufacturers can adorn themselves with a new seal. The green button should indicate that sustainable and fair conditions have been worked. Last year, German Development Minister Gerd Müller (CSU) announced the label, this Monday he presented the state seal in Berlin. 26 Social and environmental standards must meet products in order to carry them. Their compliance is controlled by independent testing agencies such as the TÜV. As a meta-seal, the Green Button also refers to existing seals. The launch of the Green Button involves 27 companies, including Tchibo and the Otto Group.

In the pilot phase until the summer of 2021, however, the production chains of the manufacturers are not fully investigated, but only evaluated under the aspects "sewing and cutting" and "dyeing and bleaching". Other areas should be added gradually. In a production in Europe is not controlled. Especially this testing scheme is criticized by organizations such as the Clean Clothes Campaign. There are also critical voices from companies that are already producing fairly. One of them is Jan Thelen, founder of the sustainable streetwear label Recolution from Hamburg.

SPIEGEL: A state seal as a guarantee for clothing consumption with a clear conscience. What do you think of it as a fashion designer?

Thelen: Generally this is an ingenious and necessary idea. There is a heap of private seals that only cover partial aspects. For the consumer, it is good in the end to have a state seal. It also has the potential to become extremely well-known. So: The basic idea is good.

SPIEGEL: And the execution?

Thelen: The thing is thrown half-finished on the market. This will be aware of anyone who deals with it intensively. There are two aspects that are important to a minimum entitlement to a sustainable piece of textiles: fair wages and eco-friendly fibers. The green button hides the entire fiber plane. It may be used environmentally harmful viscose fibers or Teflon-based membranes that are hazardous waste afterwards.

In other words, a normal cotton T-shirt, puddled up and down with pesticides and produced in unsightly conditions in Romania, would get the green button. That is absolute consumer confusion. The seal is up to half thought, and even half is not finished.

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Fair and ecological fashion: labels and seals

SPIEGEL: So you will not let Recolution be tested?

Thelen: To today's state by no means.

SPIEGEL: Big companies like Tchibo and Hugo Boss are already verified.

Thelen: Because the claim is different. Greenwashing also plays a role here, but the seal has high potential. Behind a state seal is a high market power and money to make it known and relevant to the consumer. If a product is recognized as fair, Tchibo wants to write the Green Button somewhere on top of it, of course. Just like all other big companies.

SPIEGEL: You have been producing sustainably since 2010. Does not the Green Button arrive late?

Thelen: Better late than never. But the green button breaks a lot. Among them are seals such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), which have done hard basic work. If it really were the endeavor to do good, one could have summarized these seals. The green button is a meta-seal, which is not apparent to the end user. For such a seal one should not claim to take advantage of the hour, but to create added value for all. That definitely does not happen here.

SPIEGEL: Which seals do you use?

Thelen: We are one hundred percent GOTS certified and produce exclusively in the EU, mostly in Portugal. At GOTS, the origin of every fiber and every detail has to be proven. That's a big hassle for both the producer and us.

SPIEGEL: When would the Green Button come into question for you?

Thelen: The seal must be thought through to the end and it must be clearly communicated that the entire fiber plane is hidden. In addition, it must be openly stated that one was not yet ready, and it was shown in detail, when and which process will be started. Then we would think about an exam.

Source: spiegel

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