Discovering “sustainable” fabrics at MunichFabricStart made easy thanks to “Organic Selection”?

More than 500 “eco” fabrics (GOTS, GRS, BS, and others) and more than 100 “eco” additionals (GOTS, FSC, and others) from more than 50 suppliers (out of 1105 suppliers) were presented in the “Organic Selection” at the MunichFabricStart for Autumn/Winter 2014/15 from 3-5 September 2013 in Munich, Germany. This means approx. 4,5% of the exhibitors had “sustainable” fabrics in their range of products. Approx. 95,5% of the suppliers had not even a single fabric listed in the organic selection. As only some of the suppliers listed in the “Organic Selection” offered only sustainable fabrics and the large majority had only a few sustainable fabrics in their mainly conventional portfolio, the share of sustainable fabrics was probably much less than 1% of all fabrics offered. The percentage of certified organic fabrics was even lower as certified organic fabrics were only a part of the fabrics in the organic selection. The main turnover of the MFS thus very clearly comes from conventional fabrics.

Unfortunately, not all fabrics labelled as GOTS in the organic selection were actually GOTS certified fabrics.

Offering products made of recycled materials (e.g. recyceled polyester) or even new, non-renewable resources such as new crude oil (e.g polyamid) under the term “organic selection” seems to be very problematic. As the term “organic” is not regulated in the EU for textiles, it is possible to use the term here. In the USA and India, labeling these products as “organic” would be illegal according to my knowledge. If one wants to include, for example, recycled products in a range of “more sustainable products” (what can really make sense), the term “eco selection” would, for sure, be more appropriate than the term “organic selection” in order to avoid confusion of the buyers and to comply with the international business code of conduct terminology. Whether products made of polyamid deserve to be listed in an “eco selection” nevertheless remains controversial.

When we talked to conventional suppliers and asked about organic cotton, we heard many times: (1) I don`t know whether our cotton is organic, maybe it is. (2) I don`t know what organic cotton is. (3) Cotton is always organic. (4) Do you really trust in organic labels? You should not.

For buyers who are not yet very much into the topic, it was still very difficult to distinguish between really sustainable and unsustainable products.

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