Raw materials and other materials from sustainable sources
Our products must meet high standards: they must be well-made, be in line with current trends, and at the same time be durable. But for us, quality also means that the raw materials they contain are obtained from sustainable sources. We are therefore continually expanding the proportion of raw materials and other materials processed in our products from responsibly managed sources. We work with independent standard organisations and reliable partners. For materials for which no recognised certificates or accreditations exist yet, or where the existing certificates do not go far enough for us, we advocate the development of new standards and innovative solutions.
Our consumer goods are rarely made of just one material. They usually made of several components - as is the case with a children's raincoat or a parasol, for example. This complexity requires a systematic approach when it comes to designing products sustainable as a whole. That's why in 2016 we further developed our strategic approach to sustainable resources and products:
We include all the materials used in our focus on sustainability - with textiles and hardware. In doing so, we initially focus on the materials that are processed in our products that make up the highest proportion in order to achieve the greatest possible impact. We will discuss the other materials below. Here we take into account the ‘closed loop’ capability of the materials and products, in other words the use of recycled materials as well as the longevity and recyclability of the products. Our goal is to source all of the main materials we process in our products from more sustainable sources by 2020.
Natural fibres, synthetic fibres and materials of animal origin
With textiles, we distinguish between four categories of fibre: natural fibres (nearly exclusively cotton in our case), cellulose-based manmade fibres, synthetic manmade fibres, and materials of animal origin.
1. Natural fibre: Cotton
Cotton farming has an impact on people and the environment. Conventional cotton cultivation often consumes a lot of water, harmful pesticides are used, and cotton workers frequently work under difficult conditions. We therefore consider the use of cotton from sustainable farming as the only way. In the 2016 sales year, around 80 % of the cotton used in our clothing and home textiles came from more sustainable sources. The majority of our sustainable cotton is certified as organically grown and is either certified according to the Organic Content Standard (OCS) of the international non-profit organisation Textile Exchange or the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). We also support the Aid for Trade Foundation’s Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative and obtain sustainable CmiA cotton from sub-Saharan Africa. To supplement our collaboration with international organisations, we also work on our own, direct partnership projects, such as the Appachi ECO-LOGIC Project in southern India. By 2020, we intend to exclusively use more sustainably grown cotton in our clothing and home textiles.
Achieving this goal requires solutions to the systemic challenges associated with growing organic cotton. That is why we are a founding member of the 'Organic Cotton Accelerator' initiative, established in 2014, which is committed to the cultivation and use of organic cotton at sectoral level. We work together with other well-known clothing companies in this multi-stakeholder initiative to promote a prospering cotton sector that benefits everyone: from the farmer to the consumer.
Organic cotton (in accordance with the Organic Content Standard):
Tchibo is the world’s third-largest customer of organic cotton. We are a member of the Textile Exchange, a non-profit organisation that campaigns worldwide for a more sustainable textile industry. To do this, it brings together brands and retailers with manufacturers and raw material suppliers, cotton farmers and major stakeholders. We use the Organic Content Standard (OCS).
Organic cotton (according to the GOTS standard):
To continuously develop our product assortments in line with our sustainability standards, in 2014 we were certified according to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). The Global Organic Textile Standard starts with the controlled organic farming of natural fibres and covers all processes in the supply chain: from harvesting the raw materials, to environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, which includes printing and dyeing, through to the finished product. In 2015, we first began selling GOTS-certified textiles. In 2017, we launched our first GOTS-certified baby collection.
Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA):
Cotton made in Africa is an initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation. Its goal: to improve the living conditions of smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa and promote eco-friendly farming methods. The farmers attend local training sessions to learn efficient and sustainable farming methods that help them to achieve better yields while protecting the environment and their health. Tchibo supports the initiative as a consumer of CmiA cotton and as a partner in community projects.
ECO-LOGIC cotton from the Appachi ECO-LOGIC Project:
We first worked with Appachi ECO-LOGIC Project in southern India in 2015. Deliberately turning the supply chain ‘upside down’, we started with the raw material: Appachi ECO-LOGIC cotton, which is produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable way. For processing it, we built up the supply chain, especially in India. Production is handled by manufacturers from the Tchibo WE supplier qualification programme. The first three Appachi ECO-LOGIC products were offered in 2016. In 2017, our first collection of ECO-LOGIC cotton from the project was launched at the ‘Tchibo Green Carpet’ event in Hamburg, to which we invited customers, journalists, bloggers, Tchibo employees and our partners from India.
2. Cellulose-based manmade fibres: Viscose, Modal and Lyocell
In the area of the cellulose-based manmade fibres viscose, Modal and Lyocell, Tchibo also takes care to ensure sustainable sources. Two factors are important with cellulose fibres: where the cellulose comes from, and how the raw material is processed into a textile fibre, because the production of the fibres requires a lot of energy and water as well as chemicals.
In 2016, more than 80 % of the cellulose used by Tchibo for its apparel textiles was obtained from more sustainable forestry, and a major share of it was also processed in an eco-friendly way.
To obtain sustainably produced cellulose-based synthetic fibres for apparel and home textiles, we work with the company Lenzing. Lenzing not only procures the wood for producing the fibre from responsibly managed sources, but also focuses on environmental standards in production. We currently use Lenzing Viscose®, Lenzing Tencel®, Lenzing Modal® and Lenzing MicroModal® fibres, and are currently working on using Lenzing’s new, more environmentally friendly viscose fibre.
With our share of cellulose-based manmade fibres from more sustainable sources, we made it to #5 in the Textile Exchange's international Preferred Fibres and Material Benchmark 2017.
3. Synthetic manmade fibres (polyester, polyamide, etc.)
Oil-based synthetic fibres require the use of a non-renewable resource. Their production also consumes a lot of energy and water. However, as we cannot do without synthetics in many textiles, such as raincoats or other outdoor garments, we are working on the use of recycled fibres and materials. We will launch the first products at the beginning of 2018. In this way, we save oil resources, minimise energy consumption, and reduce the use of water.
4. Materials of animal origin
In addition to economic, ecological, social and societal aspects, we believe that a sustainable business also includes animal welfare. We firmly believe that animals should be treated ethically and in a species-appropriate manner and strictly reject unsustainable conditions of housing, slaughtering and production. Therefore, in the long term, we only want to use materials of animal origin for our products if we can ensure together with suppliers, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders that no animal is exposed to unworthy conditions. At the same time, we are working on offering alternatives.
We have already reached milestones on this path. Since 2008, we have not sold any products with real fur. To confirm this, we became a member of the international ‘Fur Free Retailer Program’ in 2013. The ‘Fur Free Retailer Program’ is an initiative of environmental and animal welfare associations, such as the animal welfare organization VIER PFOTEN. Our products with artificial fur are accordingly labelled with the Fur Free logo.
Since the beginning of 2014, we have no longer offered any products containing angora wool, as we cannot guarantee the proper keeping of angora rabbits.
For our merino products, we explicitly exclude mulesing, a common practice in Australia and New Zealand where strips of skin are removed from around the tailwithout anaesthetics to prevent infestation with maggots (myiasis),which spreads in the skin folds of merino sheep. Beyond the prohibition of mulesing, we have supported the development of an industry-wide standard for sustainable wool, the 'Responsible Wool Standard' (RWS), and are working on selling the first RWS-certified wool products in our Winter 2018 assortment.
We oppose down and feathers from sources that use live plucking or force-feeding. In the field of apparel textiles, we have promoted the use of synthetic materials that are qualitatively comparable to ‘real down’ while reducing our range of products containing down and feathers. In our home textiles assortment, we will from now on use the „Responsible Down Standard“ (RDS), which we have been certified for since 2015.
Concurrently to our efforts for responsible materials of animal origin, we are working to further expand our range of plant-based and synthetic alternatives.
Wood and paper from responsibly managed sources
Many of our products are made from wood and paper. To verify that the wood used comes from legal sources, we apply the ‘Forest Tracing System’ (FTS), which we developed with the support of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), for all wood and paper products. In addition, in 2015 around 40 % of our wood and paper products were certified in accordance with the strict guidelines of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®).
Exclusion of sandblasting
In order to achieve the popular ‘distressed’ or vintage look in jeans, a processing technique called sandblasting can be used. This involves blasting the garments with fine sand dust. The method entails considerable health risks for employees. Inhaling the fine-grained dust can cause silicosis – a disease that destroys the lungs. When the health consequences of sandblasting became known in 2009, Tchibo promptly informed all suppliers about the health hazards. Since 2010, we have banned sandblasting in the production of clothing and only buy from factories that do not use this process.
Chrome-free tanned leather
For the manufacturing of leather, animal skins are tanned to make them durable. The most common method is chrome tanning, since it yields top quality and takes little time. Most of the leather products currently available on the market are chromium-tanned. However, during this process, chromium-VI compounds which are particularly harmful to the environment and health can be formed and released. That is why we worked together with our partners to use chromium-free processes without impairing the functional properties of the leather and since 2016 have tanned all products made from and with leather using a chrome-free process.