It’s easy to get lost in the sea of labels, certifications and all the hifalutin promises regarding sustainability and environmentally-friendly production. I mean, there are so many manufacturers out there, working tirelessly to establish sustainability in both their product line and their value chain. A very welcome development, if I do say so myself. Of course, as it is with every movement, you’ll find some brands spearheading the movement.
One such brand is the German company known as VAUDE. The outdoor company from Tettnang is not only a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles but have even created their very own label called Green Shape, in accordance with which over 97% of the company’s products have been manufactured. The criteria for Green Shape, which have been strict from the beginning, are continuously being developed.
Green Shape is VAUDE’s proof that it is possible not to burden nature unnecessarily in the production of outdoor equipment: Environmentally friendly. Fair. And functional.VAUDE
In the following, we’re going to talk about both Green Shape as well as VAUDE’s other environmental endeavours.
The Green Shape label
The Green Shape label is the result of the desire to introduce a uniform quality evaluation system for ecological products geared toward all parts of the product lifecycle as opposed to only certain areas. In other words, the focus is not only on environmentally-friendly fabrics and socially-acceptable products but also on the recyclability of the products, easy and gentle care as well as a long lifespan and repair service.
The four principles for awarding the seal
With this seal, VAUDE ensures the effective development, environmentally and socially-conscious production and sustainable use of their products at the various stages in the product life cycle. They follow four basic principles when awarding the seal:
- A product only receives the Green Shape seal if it has passed all the checks.
- There is no graded version of the Green Shape Seal, which means that all certified products meet all the requirements of the seal.
- The Green Shape label is a living concept. It is constantly being developed and expanded to include the latest environmentally friendly processes. In addition, the minimum requirements will be constantly increased.
- The standards depend on the product group. For example, in terms of product care, different requirements are placed on clothing than on shoes.
For VAUDE, the cycle of a product begins with the design: All Green Shape products are developed so that they are durable and repairable. This means you can enjoy your product for longer and don’t have to buy a new one when it needs a minor repair.
The second step is the selection of the material: only materials that have been demonstrably produced in an environmentally friendly way are used. This is ensured by various sustainability certificates (e.g. bluesign, STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX, etc.) and guarantees that the materials do not harm humans or the environment. In addition, no hazardous substances or technologies are used, but rather environmentally friendly alternatives.
For example, PVC, fluorocarbons (e.g. PTFE), bleaching agents containing chlorine and hypochlorite, nanotechnology, prints containing solvents or genetic engineering are expressly excluded. If there is not yet an appropriate alternative for environmentally harmful substances, research is being carried out. VAUDE not only makes use of existing environmentally friendly technologies, but also actively promotes research itself. For example, the PFC-free coating “Eco Finish” was developed in cooperation with chemical suppliers.
VAUDE also applies the strict criteria not only to fabrics and textiles, but also to yarns, zips, buttons and everything else needed to manufacture a product.
Since summer 2022, all newly developed Green Shape products must also be made predominantly from bio-based or recycled materials. From summer 2024, this will even apply to all Green Shape products. This is intended to avoid even more emissions and further promote the development of a circular economy.
During production, too, strict attention is paid to ensuring that people and the environment are not harmed. The manufacturing companies are independently inspected for working conditions and wages. All suppliers have received and continue to receive intensive training in environmental, chemical and occupational safety management and social standards. Printing processes are environmentally friendly and free of harmful substances.
Repairs and recycling
Green Shape’s responsibility doesn’t end with production, because even if you have already bought the product, VAUDE helps you to extend the life of the products. All products can be washed at low temperatures without dry cleaning. If something should break, the repair service will help.
VAUDE is also a pioneer when it comes to recycling. Because a product cannot be repaired forever, the problem of disposal arises at some point. VAUDE therefore evaluates all materials used according to their recyclability. The use of materials that are difficult or impossible to recycle, such as elastane, should be reduced or, if possible, avoided altogether.
VAUDE gives itself the seal, isn’t that self-praise?
In fact, for Siegelklarheit.de, this circumstance is the reason why the seal does not make it into the Green category. However, the standards (bluesign, Fair Wear, etc.) required for the award of the seal are very high. Both the environment and social conditions are in the focus of Green Shape. Here, many aspects are combined in one seal and offer you as a customer the security of buying a sustainable and fair product that will continue to be looked after by VAUDE after purchase in the form of repair or resale.
In the meantime, VAUDE is striving for external accreditation of the Green Shape seal, so that the value and significance of the seal is also confirmed by an independent body. This goal is being worked towards with external partners, consultants, scientists and other experts.
VAUDE’s dedication goes far beyond jackets, trousers, shoes as well as their employees and suppliers. In fact, it extends throughout all areas of the company, something VAUDE calls the “green theme”. The company’s headquarters in Germany is “climate neutral” and has an in-house childcare centre and organic cafeteria. Plus, the products are transported in an environmentally-friendly way. And, they even have their own repair service that customers can contact if there happens to be a problem with one of their products. There’s also a VAUDE second-hand shop on eBay where old products are sold.
As was already mentioned, VAUDE is a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles and a bluesign system partner. They’re also an affiliate of the Fair Wear Foundation, which supervises the supply chain and working conditions and helps to uphold social standards. In collaboration with the Economy for the Common Good, VAUDE regularly creates a balance sheet that assesses their contribution to the common good as well.
One of VAUDE’s many partners is the WWF. As a partner, VAUDE supports various projects, such as the removal of so-called ghost nets (fishing nets) in the Baltic Sea, and even supplies WWF employees with clothing and gear. Along with myclimate, VAUDE also works tirelessly on reducing emissions. Since 2002, the company has also been the main sponsor of DAV (German Alpine Club).
VAUDE’s commitment extends far beyond jackets, trousers and shoes, employees and suppliers. The company itself calls this “the green thread”. The company’s site in Germany is climate neutral, its products are climate neutral worldwide (global greenhouse gas emissions are systematically reduced. Currently unavoidable emissions are fully offset via “myclimate” through certified Gold Standard carbon offset projects), there is an organic canteen and even a children’s house. The products are transported in an environmentally friendly way and with the in-house repair service there is a helpful address that customers can turn to if there is a problem with a piece of clothing or equipment. There is also a VAUDE second-hand shop on the Ebay platform where old products can be offered for sale.
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