Raw materials and other materials from sustainable sources
Our products have to 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 we feel the existing certificates are not sustainable enough, 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 is why we further evolved our strategic approach to sustainable resources and products in 2016 and, like our non-food articles, divided it into two central product groups: Textiles and Hard Goods. Textiles include clothing, sports and functional wear, bed linens and much more. The ‘Hard Goods’ product group includes, for example, cleaning utensils, furniture and electrical appliances.
We are initially focusing on the main components of our products. In the case of textiles, this is mainly cotton. Our goal is to cover the main component, such as cotton, exclusively from sustainable sources by 2020. In the second step we look at the material used in the next higher proportion, such as spandex, and in the third step at the additional components, such as buttons. Concurrently to this, we examine the manufacturing process and work with more eco-friendly waterproofing for our rainwear, for example. By taking this approach, we plan to achieve a significant further increase in the environmental and social compatibility of our products by 2020.
Ways to reduce the use of resources
In designing our products sustainably, we are also increasingly considering the closed-loop capability of materials and products, i.e. the use of recycled materials, and the durability and recyclability of consumer goods. The aim is to continuously increase the proportion of recycled materials, especially synthetic fibres and plastics. In 2017, we therefore produced products made from recycled, relatively environmentally friendly polypropylene (PP) – a material that we also use for the recyclable Tchibo Cafissimo and Qbo coffee capsules. In addition, we are continuing to work on the nationwide establishment of take-back and recycling solutions. To this end, in 2017 we signed a cooperation with the non-profit umbrella organisation FairWertung e. V. to take back used textiles.
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 fibres 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 2017 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 purchase sustainable CmiA cotton from sub-Saharan Africa. To supplement our collaboration with international organisations, we are working on establishing our own direct partnerships with projects such as the Appachi ECO-LOGIC project in southern India.
In the October 2017 edition of the Textile Exchange’s annual Organic Cotton Market Report, we were named as the third-largest organic cotton vendor for the third year running. We also were #2 in the WWF, Pesticide Action Network UK and Solidaridad’s 2017 Sustainable Cotton Ranking of the 75 largest cotton processing companies worldwide. This placement underscores our integrative approach to promoting sustainable cotton cultivation and thus improving the livelihoods of many farmers, their families and workers.
By 2020, we intend to exclusively use cotton that is more sustainably grown in our clothing and home textiles. However, this will only be possible if supply chain integrity, transparency and a positive impact of the market structures are given – as a basis for improving the living and working conditions of the people in the cotton sector, and for more environmental protection during cultivation.
Achieving these improvements requires solutions to the systemic challenges that are associated with growing organic cotton in particular, but also with sustainable cotton cultivation in general. That is why, since 2016, we have been a member of the 'Organic Cotton Accelerator' (OCA) initiative, 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 (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) for our organic cotton products.
Organic cotton (GOTS standard):
To continuously develop our product assortments in line with our sustainability standards, we have been working, since 2014, on increasing the share of GOTS-certified products in our assortment. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) 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 expanded our range of textiles certified in accordance with the GOTS standard and launched our first GOTS-certified baby collection. Besides GOTS-certified baby textiles, a large proportion of our bed linen range is also GOTS-certified.
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 has supported the initiative since 2008 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 the 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 Tchibo’s supplier qualification programme WE (Worldwide Enhancement of Social Quality). We introduced the first three Appachi ECO-LOGIC products to our range 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. In 2018, the cotton from the project will be processed in two collections.
2. Cellulose-based manmade fibres: Viscose, Modal and Lyocell
Likewise, Tchibo takes care to ensure sustainable sources when it comes to the cellulose-based manmade fibres viscose, Modal and Lyocell. Two factors are important in the context of 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 2017, approximately 78 % 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 make our apparel and home textiles containing cellulose-based synthetic fibres more sustainable, we source man-made cellulose fibres from the Lenzing group. Lenzing not only procures the wood for producing the fibre from responsibly managed sources, but also focuses on environmental standards in production. Besides viscose made by Lenzing, we currently use the Tencel®, Lenzing Modal® and Lenzing MicroModal® fibres. We are also working on using Lenzing's EcoVero™ in products for the 2019 sales year.
With our share of cellulose-based manmade fibres from more sustainable sources, we made it to fifth place among our international peers in the Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fibres and Material Benchmark 2017.
3. Synthetic manmade fibres: polyester, polyamide, etc.
Oil-based synthetic fibres require the use of mineral oil, 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, functional wear, and 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 reduce the use of non-renewable resources like mineral oil and facilitate the re-use of materials that have already been produced.
4. Materials of animal origin
In addition to ecological, social and societal aspects, we believe that a sustainable business also extends to 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 program is an initiative of environmental and animal welfare associations, such as the animal welfare organisation VIER PFOTEN. Our products with artificial fur are accordingly labelled with the Fur Free logo.
Beyond this, 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 products made from merino wool, we explicitly exclude mulesing, a common practice in Australia and New Zealand that involves removing strips of skin from around the merino lamb’s tail without anaesthetics. This serves to prevent infestation with maggots (myiasis), which proliferate in the skin folds of merino sheep. Beyond banning mulesing, we supported the development of an industry-wide standard for sustainable wool, the 'Responsible Wool Standard' (RWS) by being part of the Review Group. We are currently working on selling the first products with RWS-certified wool in our 2019 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 significantly reducing our range of products containing down and feathers. In the past, our home textiles assortments were certified according to the ‘Traumpass’ standard. As we felt its requirements with regard to the relevant animal welfare aspects were not stringent enough, we are currently working on switching to the new, stricter ‘Downpass’ standard. The standard stands for the exclusion of live plucking and of product from foie-gras production as well as for monitored breeding. Our bedding range will meet the Downpass standard as of the third quarter of 2018.
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 use the ‘Forest Tracing System’ (FTS), which we developed with the support of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) for our all wood and paper products. In addition, in 2017 around 58 % of our wood products and all our garden tables and chairs, as well as all our papers, such as packaging papers and cardboards, and crafts papers, were certified in accordance with the strict guidelines of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) or purchased from regional sources.
Environmentally and socially responsible processing
In the manufacture and processing of textiles, work steps are still being used that pose considerable health risks for factory employees. To counteract this and protect employees, Tchibo prohibits such methods and asserts the following.
Exclusion of sandblasting
One way to achieve the popular ‘distressed’ or vintage look in jeans is a processing technique called sandblasting. This involves blasting the garments with fine sand dust, a method that 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 its health hazards. Since 2010, we have banned sandblasting in the production of clothing and buy only from factories that do not use this process.
Exclusion of chemical blasting for denim articles
Since 2012, not only sandblasting, but also chemical blasting – i.e. the spraying of denim items with chemical bleaching agents such as potassium permanganate (KMnO4) or sodium hypochlorite (NaHClO2) – has been excluded for Tchibo products. Although the use of these chemicals for creating a fashionable used-look effect is highly market-relevant, it poses risks to occupational safety and the health of users. For example, adequate occupational safety is often not guaranteed. In 2017, Tchibo therefore included these two substances on the Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) for this area of application as part of its Detox Commitment. Instead, we prescribe that the used look of our products must be produced mechanically.
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.