Powerfoods & fresh looks: BioFach revisited

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 -

Last week the Beyond Berlin team where home at the BioFach in Nuremberg. BioFach is the largest organic trade fair in the world, and it is always a bit overwhelming to “live” in this artificial world representing authentic organic businesses. The BioFach counts around 40.000 visitors and over 2.000 exhibitors. Meanwhile one sees many people meeting within their communities, such as we did in our small but legendary hub hosted by Germany’s green fashion pioneer Bernd Hausmann. And at the yearly sustainability bloggers meeting.

Beyond Berlin’s Fredericke Winkler and I moderated three panels at the Textile Forum, one on the topic of “social media”, one on “regionalization vs globalization”, and one on “green fashion commerce”. The conferences at the BioFach bring together professionals from all over the world, from Indian yarn spinners to fashion bloggers.

Where the Berlin Fashion Week stands for innovation and design, the textile area and it’s 44 exhibitors stand for a long, worldwide production experience of organic and sustainable textiles. I noticed also many new organic drinks on display, and a boom of small organic snacks and power foods. The organic food businesses are more and more attaching to a contemporary look, professional display and urban lifestyles.

Also in the cosmetics sector we see the development towards more stylish products. Especially newcomers often come with a fresh face. My collegue Fredericke had her round at the natural cosmetic platform Vivaness and spottet the Latvian cosmetic brand MADARA, and Intelligent Nutricients by Aveda founder Horst M. Rechenbücher. I checked the makers of the Hamburg based line “Stop the water while using me!” and the Berlin label Walachei, that has developed it’s own “detox bottles” that are produced after cradle to cradle criteria.

Last but not least: at the BioFach, the documentary Behind The Label had it’s world premiere. We where at the press conference with the documentary makers and protagonist Vandana Shiva. The film, made by two Italian film makers, gives a shocking report about the cotton industry in India today. Here is the trailer:

Photo by Avocadostore, TextileForum on “Green Fashion Commerce”, feat. Leonardo Langheim (Alnatura), Philipp Gloeckler (Avocadostore) and Fredericke Winkler (Beyond Berlin)

German discounters under pressure

Thursday, January 12th, 2012 -

A few days ago, the German department of the clean clothes campaign published a report, stating that they have found strong violations of working rights by the textile producers for the German discounters Lidl, Aldi and Kik. The campaign had a strong respond in the German press, with coverage in media such as ARDSpiegel,Sueddeutsche and Handelsblatt.

After earlier publications about their labor circumstances, Lidl and Kik promised to do better, and started to organize trainings in social standards with their producers.

At the end of 2011, a team of researchers went to Bangladesh and interviewed 162 workers. In their following publication, the clean clothes campaign concluded, that human rights violations are still daily business of the seamstresses.

I talked with Sandra Dusch Silva from Christliche Initiave Romero, one of the coordinators of the publication, and I asked her what the discounters should do. She states: “We need a structural change here. What these companies have done until now is not sufficient. The system itself has to change. They should change their buying practices. They should change the way the audits take place. They should become part of a multi-stakeholder initiative. The trainings should be optimized, until now only the middle management had access to the trainings. Also the workers should have access here.”

After the publication, Lidl and Kik showed their willingness to talk with representatives of the Clean Clothes Campaign. Until now, Aldi did not respond at all. Lidl stated to Spiegel: “We take this very serious. But the living and working circumstances in developing countries can’t be compared with European standards.”

It might be a big challenge to bring the discounters to the structural change that the clean clothes campaign demands. Because, after all, aren’t the discounters themselves the problem? as the Berliner Zeitung concludes pointy. Those who want to sell cheap have to buy cheap. That’s a matter also consumers should ask themselves: “who actually pays the price when I shop as cheap as possible?”