Sustainability is an important purchasing argument for many consumers. But which seals are recommendable here and where does the customer get the information?

More than half of all Germans (57 percent) are very interested in sustainability. Despite the great interest, only 41 percent feel well informed about the possibilities of sustainable consumption. For brands, this is a very good opportunity to position themselves in the sustainability environment by means of appropriate advertising. Almost half of all Germans (49 percent) feel that brands advertise sustainability in a positive way. These are some of the results of the current “Spotlight: Sustainable Consumption” survey conducted by [m]SCIENCE. “In times of Greta Thunberg and the #FridaysforFuture movement, the topic of sustainability is booming like never before in Germany. In this context, there is immense potential for brand communication to address consumers with sustainable topics and products and to win them over in a targeted manner,” says Karin Immenroth, Chief Analytics Officer at [m] SCIENCE. A large number of companies rely on seals in their public image to make sustainability transparent.

BTE makes recommendations regarding seals

This recognition is intended to inspire confidence in the customer. But meanwhile there are numerous seals. Which aspects have to be taken into account? Immenroth continues: “Authenticity is particularly important when it comes to sustainability in advertising. The majority of today’s customers are very mindful and question purchase decisions thoroughly. Companies that dedicate themselves to sustainability purely for image reasons are quickly exposed as greenwashers today.” A second step is to take a look at the comparison of seals. The trade association textile recommends the initiative of the Federal Government siegelklarheit.de. This is where the labels are compared. The overview is intended to help with sustainable shopping. A corresponding app exists with which the customers can directly look up the seals during shopping. This is how manufacturers also quickly find the seals of approval that consumers should look out for.

Seal “GOTS” receives special praise

For textiles alone, siegelklarheit.de lists 30 different labels. The “GOTS Global Organic Textile Standard” seal is particularly recommended here. It is the world’s leading standard for the processing of textiles from biologically generated natural fibers. To obtain the seal, there are environmental requirements along the entire textile production chain and further requirements for the compliance with social criteria. Textile products must, for instance, consist of at least 70 percent biologically produced natural fibers. For all the chemical additives used, such as dyestuffs and Aids, there are certain environmental and toxicological criteria. The annual certification costs for companies with one production site amount to between 1,200 and 3,000 euros. So far, the GOTS seal has been granted almost 4000 times to companies from around the world. In the latest comparison by Stiftung Warentest in June this year, the GOTS certificate convinced the testers the most.

Oeko-Tex sees a change in consumer attitudes

siegelklarheit.de also declares the “Oeko-Tex Made in Green” label to be a very good choice. According to the experts, this label meets particularly high standards in the areas of credibility, environment and social responsibility. With the Made in Green label, consumers get the confirmation that the item has been tested for harmful substances. There is also an assurance that the textile product has been manufactured using sustainable processes under environmentally friendly and socially acceptable working conditions. With the product ID on the label, the customer can trace back in which countries and production facilities the labelled item was produced. Oeko-Tex recently surveyed around 11,000 consumers from over ten countries. The result was that more and more millennials are researching brands that match their values before they start shopping. More than 45 percent of the participants, for instance, stated that they prefer brands that demonstrably act responsibly. “The results of the survey show that the young generation is the driving force behind a worldwide change”, says Georg Dieners, Secretary General of the International Oeko-Tex Association.

The Blue Angel has already been awarded more than 12,000 times

The Blue Angel is a classic among sustainability labels. The Federal Government’s eco label has been in existence since 1978, and now marks over 12,000 products and services. Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze: ” An increasing number of people is looking for products that are durable and environmentally friendly. This is exactly what the blue angel stands for. For 40 years, the eco label has guaranteed high standards for the protection of our environment and health – independently and credibly.” Since this year, the Blue Angel has also been available for disposable diapers. dm was one of the first companies to have its babylove eco diapers certified. “With the babylove eco diapers, we can offer parents a more sustainable range of baby care products. Since we continuously develop our products at dm, the Blue Angel is an important label for us. It proves that we have done a good job in developing eco diapers and that we are on the right track towards more sustainability,” says dm Managing Director Product Management Kerstin Erbe.

Consumer protection portal gives an overview of seals

As another portal for the comparison of labels Label-online.de has established itself. The provider is the Association Verbraucher Initiative, the offer is promoted by the Federal Consumer Protection Ministry. Out of 15 categories, around 750 certifications were collected and rated there. For the area of sports and games there are currently 17 entries from gepa to RAL to the Blue Angel toys. There are 46 labels for clothing and shoes, including the “highly recommended” seals of alana, bluesign, cotton made in Africa, the Blue Angel textiles or the cotton fair trade seal. The portal also recommends the new brochure “The ABC of Labelling” from the RAL German Institute for Quality Assurance and Certification. On 90 pages you will find a compact overview of 74 labels.

Challenges such as new players and suppliers

It is often not easy for companies to decide on the right label. Even after successful certification further hurdles can exist. What if the supplier does not comply with the specifications and does not supply the material in the required quality? In recent months, children’s shoes with elevated chrome values, children’s mugs with formaldehyde and melamine or even shirts with increased azo dye values made it into the headlines. Here the same maxim should apply as in the case of positive news: In addition to repairing the damage, fast, comprehensive and transparent communication helps to restore confidence.

 

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Link: State-sponsored portals such as Siegelklarheit promise comprehensive and reliable information about seals.

Image: GettyImages

//KH