On 9 September 2019, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung – BMZ) introduced a new, state-regulated environmental label for “Green Button” (Grüner Knopf) certified textiles with a press release, available here. The BMZ also launched the official Green Button website, which is available in German at http://www.gruener-knopf.de/.

In a nutshell

The Green Button is a logo that serves as evidence that the textile products concerned were manufactured and placed on the market in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner. The state is responsible for determining the requirements for Green Button certification.

The Green Button is intended to help consumers and public procurement agencies in identifying such textile products. The logo can be attached directly to certified textile products to demonstrate that the products meet the demanding social and environmental requirements.

How it works

Green Button certification is available to companies that produce or market textile products under their own brand. In total, 13 classes of goods and services are covered by the Green Button.

The Green Button is the first state-regulated environmental certification to combine product-related and company-related requirements: Textile products must have social and environmental characteristics. In addition, companies must incorporate specific business procedures into the relevant supply chain (chain of custody) to demonstrate a duty of care for human rights and concern for the environment.

The Green Button requirements are based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector. If a company wants to obtain Green Button certification for its products, 26 product-related criteria and 20 company-related criteria need to be fulfilled and fulfillment must be confirmed by a competent and independent auditor on a product-by-product basis. The German Accreditation Body (Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle) ensures reliable testing. However, during an introductory phase until 30 June 2021, assessment will only cover certain production stages, i.e. “cutting and sewing” and “dyeing and bleaching”.

Audits are expected to be as efficient as possible. To that end, companies may rely on existing evidence, such as documentation produced in the course of certification for other environmental logos.

Companies may use the Green Button logo globally. In addition, since certification for the logo is based on internationally harmonized ISO standards, it can be used for sustainable public procurement in the European Union. The Green Button logo is also protected under German trademark law as a so-called certification mark (Gewährleistungsmarke).

Initial feedback from the industry

While 27 companies have already obtained Green Button certification and several other companies are currently in the certification process, the feedback from the industry has been mixed. In particular, there has been criticism of the choice of certification criteria and the reduced scope of assessment during the introductory phase. Concerns have also been raised that the Green Button may be utilized as a tool for “green washing.”

In a press release on 9 September 2019 (available in German here), the Textile+Fashion Confederation (Gesamtverband textil+mode), the German industry association for the textile industry, gave negative feedback and concluded that, for the time being, companies should not use the Green Button.

However, the Green Button also has many supporters from all walks of life.