The list of human and labour rights violations and environmental destruction in textile and garment producing countries is long - and at the expense of the weakest links in a long supply chain.
Exploitation? No thanks!
Dibella decided many years ago to phase out the exploitative systems in Asia's textile and garment industry. Since then, we have successively switched to fibres and textiles from production sites that are certified according to high sustainability standards.
Disclosure of the supply chain and at least one valid social and environmental certificate are prerequisites for entering into a business relationship. We prefer vertically producing suppliers who, if possible, have spinning, weaving, dyeing and sewing under one roof. In this way, we work with a manageable number of suppliers. Our declared goal is long-term cooperation based on trust. In concrete figures, this means that 95% of the total turnover in 2020 was generated with nine strategic suppliers. Business relationships with eight suppliers have existed for years. All Dibella suppliers sign our anti-corruption principles as well as the supplier contract, which, among other things, excludes child and forced labour. We take responsibility for the effects of our actions, and we think about reparation.
Every year, we draw up a supplier evaluation which, in addition to the usual market criteria such as service, reliability and price/performance, also includes certifications of the production partner. One criterion with a high weighting are certificates that are categorised according to environment/chemical management or social management/raw materials. The evaluation is carried out by the purchasing department in consultation with the management. The results of the evaluation are communicated to the suppliers and discussed with them. With the help of our supplier management, we recognise where our suppliers need further support. If there is a concrete need for action, we define a corresponding improvement plan together with the production partner. Dibella follows up on the implementation of this plan and is happy to actively support it if desired.
Certification according to high standards is a reliable criterion for assessing whether suppliers share our values. However, they are not the only criterion. Personal exchange with production partners is just as important to us, which is why we regularly visit them on site. In addition, our purchasing manager and our textile engineer are at the production sites. They advise suppliers, jointly define environmentally friendly, technological adjustments and, if desired, implement these together in the production facilities. Personal exchange not only with the supplier's management, but also with workers in the production facilities is important to us. In this way, we learn at an early stage where the shoe pinches. Of course, we are aware that language barriers present clear limits here. For a more comprehensive impression, we developed the "Suppliers CSR Checklist Visit Report". The checklist covers issues around safety at work, health and environmental aspects and documents our visit. Again, we are aware that completing the checklist reflects our subjective perception and there is still room for improvement. In times of limited travel, we are in regular contact with our suppliers by phone or exchange information via online meetings. From autumn 2021, we will meet our suppliers in person again.
Despite our commitment, we also see challenges in our supply chain, the biggest of which we explain below:
For textiles, the natural fibre cotton offers unsurpassed skin comfort coupled with a soft, warm feel. We refer to this raw material appreciatively as "white gold" and consciously distinguish between conventional and sustainable cotton fibre. From an environmental point of view and with regard to social components, conventionally grown cotton brings problems with it.
By purchasing genetically modified seeds, cotton farmers become financially dependent on biotech corporations, from which they often cannot escape on their own. The pesticides used during the growing season are deadly to pests, but also to many beneficial insects and microorganisms. Soils lose their fertility. Pesticides also damage the health of farmers because the necessary protective equipment is often lacking. The vital resource water is used to water the plants in the hot and dry cotton growing countries and is no longer available to humans and animals in sufficient quantities. The use of defoliants to harvest cotton poses health risks for farmers and also damages the fertility of the soil. Another problem is child labour and forced labour in the fields.
To improve living and working conditions in the textile chain, Dibella is committed to sustainably grown cotton and strict certifications that allow traceability down to the fibre level.
We find that the linking of the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and Fairtrade textile labels that we use offers a very good solution to largely address all social injustices and negative environmental impacts of the cotton industry. However, price-sensitive markets are currently not ready to appreciate the added value of the products in monetary terms. Due to the manifold effects of the Corona pandemic on our industry, we can assume that price sensitivity will continue in the coming months. We see the use of CmiA (Cotton made in Africa) certified cotton as another suitable and more price-conscious alternative. The label meets our strict specifications. We will therefore switch our core range to cotton with this label in the long term.
(see explanation of Dibella's certificates below).
Our raw fabrics are finished in the dye house, because hotel guests expect clean textiles in bright, long-lasting white. We also supply the health sector with boil- and chlorine-resistant dyes. We are particularly concerned with the proper handling and use of environmentally friendly chemicals.
In developing and emerging countries, wastewater from dyeing plants is often discharged untreated into rivers and thus returned to the water cycle. Chemical residues damage the environment and threaten the ecological balance. As a result, diseases spread among local residents who use the contaminated water as drinking water.
In the textile factories, improper handling, inadequate storage and lack of labelling of chemicals lead to accidents. Residues of harmful chemicals in textiles are also suspected of causing skin irritations or serious diseases.
For us, the Made in Green by Oeko-Tex label is a guarantee for materials that have been tested for harmful substances and produced in environmentally friendly factories and at safe and socially acceptable workplaces. As proof, textiles must meet the Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex and production sites must be certified according to Sustainable Textile Production (STeP) by Oeko-Tex. The latter also offers a high level of transparency, as a product ID can be used to trace the production plants and countries.
As part of a joint project with a Pakistani supplier, training was provided in the area of chemicals management. The aim of the project was the successful SteP certification of the production partner, which the supplier obtained with good results. The SteP certification system enables us to take a holistic view of production, combined with a dynamic improvement process.
For us, supply chains are human chains. We have the claim that people involved in the production of our products can live from their work and achieve an adequate standard of living. Living wages are based on actual costs, in contrast to minimum wages, which are usually set by law. Housing, food and transport are included. In addition, there is a 10 % surcharge for expenses such as education and health
In reality, wages in most countries of textile production are below the subsistence level. Wages and salaries have been checked with our production partners. We are currently unable to assess whether these take our demands into account. Further steps lie ahead of us.
95 % of our products are labelled Made in Green. The label stands for compliance with strict requirements, including wages and working hours. The minimum requirement in the area of social compatibility is the payment of equal wages. Thus, the label remains too vague in its demand for living wages. The same applies to the GOTS standard, which is why Dibella links GOTS certified textiles to the Fairtrade standard. This standard has made a name for itself in particular through its fair pricing policy. Cotton farmers receive a minimum price for their cotton that covers the costs of sustainable production. In addition, a premium is paid, which often flows into projects for the village community. Our close cooperation with the Chetna cooperative in India also enables us to carry out our own education and training projects on site. In 2016, we established our own foundation - the GoodTextiles Foundation (www.goodtextiles.org) - to implement these projects. The projects are open to participation by third parties.
We want to counteract climate change and reduce our CO2 emissions to protect the environment. To calculate the emissions, we use the CO2 calculator from Climate Partner, which is tailored to our supply chain.
The cultivation and processing of the natural fibre cotton we use takes place mainly in Asia. Energy is needed for textile production, which causes CO2 emissions. The transport route from Asia to Europe is long and causes further CO2 emissions. It is important to continuously identify and implement potential savings. For this purpose, we query and evaluate the (alternative) energy use of our suppliers.
We prefer to cooperate with vertical production companies. The so-called in-house production, i.e. many production steps under one roof, goes hand in hand with short distances.
For our MADE IN GREEN/SteP-certified products, compliance with prescribed emission limits to reduce the CO2 footprint at the production sites is mandatory.
Our textiles are shipped by container, we avoid air freight. We also cooperate with the environmentally conscious logistics partner Heppner. To offset our own CO2 emissions, we have set up the Dibella Forest reforestation project in India.
Education is the key to a self-determined life. We are against child labour and promote school education, especially for the children of the cotton farmers of the Chetna cooperative.
Children support their low-income parents and make a financial contribution to their livelihood by working in cotton fields or textile factories.
Schools are often located far away from the mostly remote villages of the cotton farmers.
Due to a lack of financial resources, school fees and transportation to school are unaffordable for many parents. For our GOTS and Fairtrade certified textiles, we know cotton farmers and their families because we can trace our supply chain back to the farm level. Here we specifically promote school education. Due to the lack of tracking systems, this is not possible for the cultivation of conventional cotton.
We want to make our world "fit for grandchildren"; children are especially close to our hearts.
With the GoodTextiles Foundation, which we founded, we have implemented several school projects in India in cooperation with customers and the Chetna Cooperative. The particularly severe effects of the Corona pandemic and the school closures in India will prompt us to re-evaluate the school projects in the fall of 2021. Further reports will follow.
Even if we focus on the farm level, because this is where we see the best possible solutions,
we also take possible child labor in textile factories very seriously. Our products bearing the Made in Green seal are subject to the minimum social requirements of the German government, which prohibit child labor in accordance with the ILO Convention.