Who knows how cotton plants are grown and by whom? What a fibre capsule feels like, when and how it can be harvested? Or what processes it goes through until the individual fibres are turned into finished hotel bed linen?
Dibella makes exactly this process tangible during an entrepreneurial trip to India. The participants walk in the footsteps of the "white gold" grown by Indian micro-farmers in ecological agriculture. At the same time, they learn about the worries of the farming families at the beginning of the textile chain, but also experience how these are alleviated through targeted projects of the GoodTextiles Foundation. At the end of the trip, the participants' perspective on their laundry has changed: Knowledge about the production processes becomes secondary, while a deep understanding about the situation of the many people involved in the production of textiles comes to the fore.
That was the brief description of a business trip that took place at the end of November 2022 and to which a group of laundry owners from France and the Netherlands, the French Dibella sales team and their wives, a sustainability consultant and a photographer accompanied by Ralf Hellmann and Simon Bartholomes had set off. Ahead of them were not only the individual production stages, but also many kilometres that took them through the Indian states of Telangana and Tamil Nadu.
The journey began in Hyderabad, the lively capital of the southern Indian state of Telangana, rich in tourist attractions. After an evening visit to the pearl city, famous in earlier times for its gemstone trade, we continued the next day by car.
After a six-hour drive over humpy highways and dusty dirt roads, the 14-member group arrived at a farming village run by Chetna Organic. Here, families grow cotton, millet or maize, for example, on small plots and in crop rotation in sustainable agriculture. The guidelines that the farmers follow in organic farming are strict: the use of pesticides and artificial irrigation is not allowed, fertilisers must be obtained naturally. In addition, the human rights laid down in the UN must be followed.
Therefore, the children are not found in the fields, but in school. The travel group was able to see this for themselves, because in addition to a meeting with farmer families, a visit to the village school was also on the agenda.
The reception of the guests was a memorable experience. The villagers had strung up chains of flowers in their honour, promising good luck, and hung them around their necks as an expression of a warm welcome. Afterwards, they performed traditional dances derived from Hindu mythology and gave the visitors an insight into their lives in personal conversations.
Cyril Corria, Blanchisserie de Paris: "Economic reasons must not be the all-determining element in our business. We can change things through our commitment and responsibility. We are lucky to live in a very rich and high-consumption country, we need to balance our forces through redistribution in favour of the developing countries."
The next day, a visit to Aliguda Village and a training centre for the "Chetna farmers" was on the agenda.
In Aliguda Village, a very special attraction awaited the travellers: 50 free-roaming cattle. These are a donation from the GoodTextiles Foundation, founded by Dibella in 2017, which promotes different projects at the beginnings of the textile value chain with the support of partners. The cows also came this way to the small village in the middle of Telangana. During filming for the ZDF documentary "plan b", the Dibella team present had learned from the farmers that they need more natural fertiliser to cultivate their fields ecologically and economically. The biggest wish of each family was therefore a cow, but they cannot afford it because of the high price of the equivalent of 300 euros.
The GoodTextiles Foundation made the village's dream come true in autumn 2022 - and procured the necessary cattle for fertiliser production and to facilitate field work. On arrival in the village, the tour group was therefore greeted with great joy and almost overwhelmed by the gratitude of the families.
Afterwards, the group went to a training centre that was largely supported with funds from the GoodTextiles Foundation and built by Chetna Organic. Here, small farmers are trained by experts from the cooperative in all areas of organic agriculture, women are supported in setting up their own businesses and vocational training is offered.
Another highlight was waiting for the participants in Coimbatore, where they visited the ginning mill, the spinning mill, the weaving mill and the sewing mill. The participants were not only impressed by the bright workplaces and the high level of safety at work in the factories. They were also able to see for themselves the good working conditions for the workers, which include, for example, fair pay, high social standards and locally established grievance mechanisms.
Cyril Corria, Blanchisserie de Paris: "Being able to experience organic cotton, from the farmers, from the production of the yarn to the production of the fabric was a real revelation and gave us a new feeling about the use of textiles in our profession. We have the opportunity to source better and more responsibly for ourselves and our customers."
On the last day of the business trip, the participants had a special attraction in store for them after a two-hour drive: a visit to the "Dibella Forrest" reforestation project. Behind this is a forest project that Dibella has launched as part of its sustainability philosophy. At the beginning of 2018, the company laid the foundation stone for a species-rich forest with up to 10,000 trees on a fallow area of around 8.5 hectares in Nachikuppam in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They are intended to offset the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated during business trips by the Dibella team. Just five years after planting the first 4,000 seedlings, the growing trees will be able to absorb up to 80 tonnes of CO2 and after ten years up to 310 tonnes of the harmful greenhouse gas.
Simon Bartholomes, Dibella: "Seeing my family tree grow in India made me realise that we are all in the same boat. The same challenges and solutions worldwide, regardless of distance!"
Not all of the area has been planted yet, but the life and diversity that has already moved into the forest after just a few years left the guests speechless and euphoric at the same time. All the businesses that travelled with us have already thought aloud about setting up forest plots for their customers. There is room for it: Dibella has left the reforestation programme open for third party participation: Customers can plant their own piece of land and thus further reforest the forest.
Ralf Hellmann, Dibella: "It is no longer a vision to implement a transparent and fair supply chain from the fibre in the company. That is exactly what we showed the tour group: it is possible! So the products can be certified with the Green Button all the way to the fibre - and are thus also compliant with the Supply Chain Sourcing Act, which comes into force on 1.1.2023."