The Grüner Knopf (Green Button) textile seal

The 'Grüner Knopf' (Green Button) textile seal

The German government has formally launched its 'Grüner Knopf' (Green Button) textile seal, a certification mark that indicates products comply with a number of social and environmental requirements.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) – which owns the Grüner Knopf – says the scheme is the first state-supervised certification mark that sets requirements for both products and companies.

Products like T-shirts, bed sheets or backpacks have to meet 26 demanding social and environmental standards – from limits for chemical residues and a total ban on dangerous chemicals to minimum wages and no child or forced labour. In addition, each company that signs up to the initiative is scrutinised on 20 other criteria, including: Does it disclose its suppliers? Do seamstresses have recourse to complaints mechanisms where they work and live? Does the company eradicate any shortcomings that are found?

To begin with, the scheme will cover the two most important production stages: sewing and dyeing. Over the next few years Green Button will be expanded to cover other stages of production, such as cotton growing. The social and environmental criteria will also be continuously developed, for example towards promoting living wages. An advisory board with representatives from business, science and civil society is providing support.

Launched on Monday (9 September), 27 companies have already signed up, having successfully passed scrutiny for the new label. Another 26 companies are currently going through the process.

"With the Green Button label we are setting a high standard and we are showing that fair supply chains are possible. After today no one will be able to deny that any more," says German Development Minister Gerd Müller. "That is what makes the Green Button special: the entire company is scrutinised. It is not enough for it to have a few products 'for show'. No other label applies this depth of scrutiny."

Companies that have already signed up to the scheme include Aldi Nord, Aldi Süd, Brands Fashion, Kaufland, Lidl, Melawear, and Rewe Group. Those going through the scrutiny process include Hugo Boss, the Otto Group and some smaller businesses such as Socks4Fun.

Click here to read more about the Green Button initiative, including concerns that voluntary product certification and product labelling is not the right approach to achieving sustainable and structural improvements in environmental and social risks within the global supply chain.