What is better now than it was 3 years ago?

Interview mit Dr. Jürgen Janssen, Leiter Bündnissekretariat | © GIZ

Dr. Jürgen Janssen, Director Partnership Secretariat

Dr. Jürgen Janssen: Many things. For the first time, the crucial societal groups are working together to make the textile sector fairer and more environmental-friendly. Economy, politics, civil society and unions are learning from each other, they optimize processes and business practices of companies here in Germany and they are working on specific problems in production countries that none of the actor groups would be able to solve alone. This triad is a first!

The roughly 150 members have handed in their annual plans for the first time this year. With this, they committed to individual goals. This makes 150x improvements: – in business practices, in the education of workers or also in the management of hazardous chemicals.

 

Isn’t this process way too slow?

Janssen: I, too, wish for an everything-will-be-fine-key which would resolve all problems in the textile sector immediately. But unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. A multi-stakeholder approach is surely not the fastest way, but in my view the most effective and, above all, the most sustainable. Of course, every beginning is difficult: to negotiate common goals, to tie down criteria no one needs to hide behind, but which everyone can go along with, to develop a mechanism for the verbalization and verification of goals that is both ambitious and feasible – for all members and types of companies –, these are mammoth tasks. Therefore, the first run for the formulation of the annual plans is naturally a learning process. In the following years, the processes are going to be smoother and the steps in the right direction will be bigger and more visible.

But what is actually getting through to the seamstress?

Janssen: That cannot be answered in a general way. The textile supply chain is complex and changes are not immediately entering all ramifications. But: what we are now setting in motion with the Textiles Partnership thousandfold, is passed on wavelike to the overall system and will bring about noticeable improvements for all in the long run. In addition to the structural change of the overall system, which is indeed going to take some time, the Textiles Partnership also created the lever of Partnership Initiatives: here, several Partnership members address particular problems in the production countries instantly.

Would it not be easier to just raise the price for a t-shirt to solve the problem?

Janssen: I’m afraid not. It’s a structural problem that again is connected to the complexity of the supply chain. Especially when it comes to fashion wear, production costs are only a small fraction of the final price. You need to add design, advertisement, expenses for base materials, transport costs and taxes, middlemen and, last but not least, expenses for sales and marketing in Germany. Therefore, the price of a t-shirt is unfortunately also not a good indicator for social and ecological production. Credible seals are offering good indicators for this, but increasingly there is also good information by the brand manufacturers and trading houses which are reporting in a transparent way on origin, conditions of production and their activities. The Textiles Partnership is going to publish the first annual plans of its members starting from July 2017. This is also an important step towards a socially and ecologically fairer textile production.

 

The interview with Dr. Jürgen Janssen in its original version in German can also be found at umweltdialog.de.