VAUDE Takes on Responsibility - from the thread to the finished jacket

How can we ensure that our products are absolutely environmentally-friendly and made under good working conditions? By scrutinizing the entire supply chain down to the last detail – including all materials, small components, manufacturing processes and working conditions. VAUDE has been dedicated to this goal for years, allocating significant resources to its accomplishment. Today, 99 percent of its production volume is manufactured in facilities that have been audited by the Fair Wear Foundation. Approximately 80 percent of the company’s apparel collection features environmentally-friendly production that meets the VAUDE Green Shape criteria. When it comes to our product materials, a large percentage is also certified in accordance with the strict bluesign® System environmental standard. Now VAUDE is delving even deeper into the supply chain and putting its material suppliers under the microscope. The company has launched a pilot project to ensure environmentally-friendly production processes and safe working conditions among suppliers. Experts from NGOs, government and industry who met for a stakeholders' workshop at VAUDE in September see great opportunities for the entire textile industry in this approach.

This project is an important step toward meeting VAUDE’s goal of making the global supply chain environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and transparent. The supply chain can be divided into two levels: Producers (Tier 1), that fabricate VAUDE products, and Material Suppliers (Tier 2 and beyond) that provide the components for these products.

High standards for producers established
An outdoor jacket consists of approximately 50 components such as linings, membranes, laminates, zippers, drawcords, buttons, thread and labels. In the production plants that turn these components into finished products, VAUDE has established high environmental and social standards with external partners in recent years. For example, 99% of production volume is manufactured in facilities that have been audited by the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF). VAUDE has received Leader Status with the FWF due to its exemplary level of commitment. Approximately 80 percent of the VAUDE Apparel Collection consists of environmentally friendly Green Shape products – made from sustainable materials, resource-conserving and fair production. "Now that we have achieved our goal of all Tier 1 Production featuring eco-friendly manufacturing under fair working conditions, we are turning our attention to ensuring that the components in our products are consistently produced with environmentally friendly and fair manufacturing as well," said Antje von Dewitz, VAUDE CEO. The majority of VAUDE’s material suppliers are certified in accordance with the strict bluesign® System environmental standard, which is like an "Ecological Purity Law" that permits only approved materials. Currently, VAUDE has a limited ability to influence the manufacturers of component parts for its production processes since it has no direct relationship with these suppliers – especially in the upstream stages of production. The manufacturing steps of spinning, weaving or dyeing are often very resource-intensive and harmful to the environment. It is therefore important to VAUDE to implement high environmental and social standards in this area as well. "This is a huge task that we are now tackling as part of the pilot project," said Antje von Dewitz.
Providing expertise and raising awareness
One year ago, VAUDE launched the project "Environmental Stewardship in the Supply Chain", which is supported by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and funded by the Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) within the "develoPPP.de" program. What is unique about this program is that expertise and an awareness of environmental and sustainability issues is transmitted directly to suppliers. Together with external experts, VAUDE will be training its main Asian suppliers intensively in the fields of environmental, chemical and safety management and social standards over a period of two years. The suppliers will become empowered and motivated to autonomously implement measures in these areas. This can often reduce operating costs, which provides further incentive for management. Participating companies, accounting for approximately 80% of the material volume at VAUDE, are gladly welcoming this support. Bettina Roth, Head of Quality and Chemicals Management at VAUDE explains: "In our experience, when suppliers develop an understanding and awareness of pollution prevention and environmental protection, they implement new practices thoroughly. This is a long-term, sustainable approach that works much better than mere testing of products."

Best Practices for the textile industry
The project is intended as an example of "best practices" which will be presented to the "Alliance for Sustainable Textiles" and provide momentum for the whole textile industry. VAUDE is a founding member of this alliance, which brings industry associations, civil society, government and many manufacturers in the textile industry together. "We want to use this project to demonstrate how the upstream stages of production can be clean and responsible. If enough manufacturers follow suit, we can establish significantly higher environmental and social standards throughout the textile industry," said Antje von Dewitz.
Stakeholder Workshop at VAUDE
In September, VAUDE invited experts from the field of politics, research, the outdoor industry, and specialized journalists to participate in a discourse of this project. Present were representatives of the Federal Environmental Ministry, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany’s Investment and Development Company (DEG), as well as Nicole Espey, Executive Director of the Federation of German Sporting Goods Industry and Pamela Ravasio, CSR Manager from the industry association, European Outdoor Group. "This project precisely identifies sticking points in the supply chain: building awareness and competence in the Far East. Together, we should tackle this issue in the industry. VAUDE deserves great credit for being a pioneer in this issue,” said Nicole Espey. The DEG, which is supporting the project financially, is also convinced: "We believe that the combination of knowledge transfer and awareness of environmental and sustainability issues are instrumental for improving working conditions in one of the largest and most important industries in developing countries. We are pleased to be supporting VAUDE in this pilot project," said Yvonne Veth, Investment Manager DEG. Antje von Dewitz also gave a positive verdict on the stakeholder meeting: "We invited important stakeholders to the table and received very positive feedback and valuable impetus for further development of the project. It is clear that fostering dialogue on strategic issues makes sense because by working together, we can achieve a lot more."

The ecological and social commitment at VAUDE in its Sustainability Report: http://csr-report.vaude.com/
More on the pilot project:

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