Skip to main content

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Business & Human Rights Insights

Introducing: The Green Button

The German government's new seal for sustainable textiles

On Monday, 9 September 2019, Germany's Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller, presented a new sustainability certificate for textiles: The Green Button ("Grüner Knopf"). It is the first state-sponsored label for sustainable textiles in Germany.

What is the Green Button for?

The Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development certifies individual textile products with the Green Button. Most textile products are eligible: The list ranges from fabric covers for toasters to clothing and even covers camping beds, as long as they predominantly consist of textile materials. The Green Button symbol can be attached to the certified product, its label and packaging or used in other marketing.

What are the criteria for obtaining the Button?

To obtain the Button, 26 criteria concerning the specific product and 20 criteria concerning the company selling the product must be fulfilled.

The company-related criteria follow 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. They require the company, for example, to publicly assume responsibility for the direct and indirect impacts of its economic activities on human rights and the environment and to establish the necessary processes and responsibilities.

The product-related criteria concern social and environmental aspects of the production steps bleaching, colouring, cutting and sowing. For example, there must be no child labour in the production, minimum wages must be paid, and no substances banned under the EU REACH-Regulation may be used. However, the Green Button itself does not define the product-related social and environmental criteria in detail. For example, it does not define a maximum work time per day, it just states that working hours must be limited. Instead, it relies on credible other certification schemes to provide the details. To obtain the Button, a product must be certified with one or more labels cumulatively containing all the Green Button's 26 social and environmental product-related criteria. The Ministry for example regards the Global Organic Textile Standard as a comprehensive and credible label containing all 26 criteria.

So far, the product-related criteria only concern conditions during bleaching, colouring, cutting and sowing. The Ministry plans to add product-related criteria for other steps in the supply chain later on, e.g. regarding the cotton production.

How is compliance assessed?

Independent auditors assess compliance with the label criteria. If necessary, they conduct on-site visits at the production facilities. After the initial assessment, the audit is repeated every three years. Spot checks are conducted every year. If there are clues pointing towards irregularities, there may be unannounced audits and on-site visits.

Why is this new label significant?

The Green Button is the first state-sponsored label for sustainable textiles in Germany. As such, it could play a large role in future public procurement in Germany. The Ministry even mentioned the label's suitability for public procurement within the EU in its first press release. The "official nature" of the Green Button may also give it a larger effect on private consumers' purchase decisions compared to other labels for sustainable textiles.

What are the first reactions to the label?

Products from 27 German companies have already been certified with the Green Button, including products by Aldi, Tchibo and Kaufland. Products from 26 additional companies are currently under review, including Hugo Boss.

Civil society and NGOs in Germany have generally welcomed the Green Button as a step in the right direction. However, the potentially lacking transparency of the sub-labels used on social and environmental issues as well as the voluntary nature of the certification remain points of criticism.

Find the official announcement of the Green Button (Grüner Knopf) by the Ministry (in English) here. The Green Button website is only available in German.