The German consumer magazine Öko-Test has taken a close look at jeans for women in its current issue and discovered disappointing results. According to the magazine, neither cheap nor expensive or organic brands can be relied on for transparent and fair production. According to Öko-Test, most women's jeans also contain a substance suspected of being a carcinogen.
Women's jeans were tested from 21 textile companies including G-Star Raw, Diesel, Kings of Indigo, Lee, Levi's, Kik, Zara, H&M, C&A, Primark and Armedangels. The test procedure of Öko-Test consists of an extensive questionnaire (22 questions in total) on the production conditions of the jeans (origin, production, wages, safety, ecology). In addition, the jeans were tested for durability and harmful substances in three laboratories. The pollutant aniline was detected in 15 of the jeans tested. Aniline comes from the indigo dye and is suspected of being carcinogenic. Diesel, Lee, Mustang and Wrangler did not answer the Öko-Test questionnaire. The responses were evaluated from Öko-Test and Femnet, a non-governmental organization working for better working conditions for women in the textile industry. The evaluation of the production conditions forms the basis for the overall assessment of Ökto-Test. Depending on the pollutant result, the grade deteriorates.
The test results show: None of the companies has any proof of living wages. No one can or wants to make the entire supply chain of the jeans they buy traceable, although some suppliers are close to making all stages visible and verifiable except for cotton cultivation and ginning. Öko-Test sees Kuyichi as a pioneer here, as the Dutch company already discloses a large part of the production chain for its customers in its online shop. More than half of the companies state that they have signed the Bangladesh Accord, an agreement on fire and building safety in Bangladesh that was signed in May 2013. It is a five-year independent, legally binding agreement between global brands, retailers and trade unions to build a safe and healthy Bangladeshi garment industry. The agreement was triggered by the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in March 2013, which killed 1,133 people. As far as environmental standards are concerned, Armedangels, Hess Natur and Kuyichi's jeans are ahead on the basis of the GOTS seal, while four other suppliers state that they have signed the Greenpeace Detox commitment or at least comply with the GOTS standard for part of the supply chain.
In the overall verdict, the jeans from Armedangels, Esprit, Hess Natur, Kuyichi and S.Oliver are rated satisfactory. G-Star Raw, C&A, H&M, Primark and Zara are rated unsatisfactory and Diesel, Kings of Indigo, Lee, Levi's, Mustang, Only, Tom Tailor and Wrangler are rated unsatisfactory.
At the request of TextilWirtschaft, the sister magazine of Sportswear International, some suppliers criticized the test procedure of Öko-Test. Levi's, for example, opposed the test results and pointed out the company's commitment to environmental protection without, however, specifically responding to the accusations. Tony Tonnaer, founder of Kings of Indigo, told TW that they would like to be involved, but none of their employees speak perfect German. Tonnaer would have liked to have the questionnaire translated into English or had more time to have the technical questionnaire professionally translated.
In contrast, Armedangels deals very openly and honestly with the test result of Öko-Test. The Cologne-based company published a statement on its website, in which it says, among other things:"Challenge accepted! We take the result of Öko-Test as an incentive to make it even better. After Öko-Test made the results available to us, we not only had our Ingaas tested again, but also all other denim fabrics– by two independent testing institutes. The aim was to ensure that we could not detect any free aniline in our trousers and, of course, to reproduce the Öko-Test test procedure."
The fact that the textile and denim industry is a dirty business was probably clear to everyone involved even before the results of Öko-Test. The fact that there are efforts by suppliers to improve production conditions and make manufacturing processes more transparent is a positive development, even if the results, as Öko-Test shows, are still miles away from satisfactory. Gisela Burckhardt, author and CEO of Femnet e.V., sees a necessary step in legal requirements to make the duty of care of companies binding. Because volunteerism does not get you far.