Kerenzerberg Charter for Sustainable Textiles

The Making of a Charter for Sustainable Textiles, in Switzerland

When we set out on our journey to write the Kerenzberg Charter for Sustainable Textiles, we didn’t know where we were going to end. Coming from different backgrounds and organizations, the nine of us in the workgroup all had different knowledge and priorities. What we had in common was an awareness about the urgent need to clean up the textile and fashion industry in which we work, and a shared desire to bring about change. 

We realise that, based in Switzerland, we are in a privileged position whereby we have clean air, mostly fair employment conditions, a healthy economy, an educated, highly-qualified workforce and a history of making quality products. But we also know that our lifestyles and businesses rely on activities that happen in other countries, where conditions are not always fair, where industry processes are directly damaging nature and indirectly the environment at a global level. So, with the privilege of leading the comfortable life we do, and the expertise and tools we have in Switzerland, we can and should take a leading position in bringing about change in the industry.  

As most processes do, we started out asking ourselves questions. What do we want the textile industry to look like? What are the issues we want to address? We quickly came to a number of conclusions. Firstly, the issues we are facing in terms of sustainability are not linked to country boundaries; the textile industry crosses all boundaries so whatever objectives we put ourselves in terms of how our textiles are born, live and die need to take into account what is happening in other countries and how we interact with partner, supplier, clients from those other countries. Secondly, the issues we face are complex, deeply engrained and interwoven. We need to include principles related to working conditions, air pollution, water conditions, as well as animal well-being; and those related to social aspects including fair pay and worker safety. And thirdly, we all clearly saw, that no company or organization can solve the industry’s issues alone.  

Collaboration is essential. It was only through the combined experience of the workgroup’s members and the open discussions that we had, that we were able to develop the 11 principles of the charter, including the different facets of social and sustainable development, and craft the sentences in a way to convey the key messages. And among the principles, we call for this openness too. The charter asks business leaders to pose questions to suppliers, be transparent to customers (wherever they are in the chain), open to new ideas and open to collaboration in solving social and sustainability issues.

The Kerenzerberg Charter for Sustainable Textiles – June 5th 2019. (photo: Swiss Fair Trade)

Today, the Kerenzberger Charter for Sustainable Textiles is out. 

It is not a charter for which companies need to pass a test, for which they need to tick boxes to get a stamp of approval. This would insinuate that there is a final destination that brands need to arrive at. But there is no final destination. It needs to be a continuous process of seeking improvement; in the ways we make our textile products, in the ways we work with people, in the side effects of our principal activities.  We realize that it’s not easy for companies to do everything right. You know what? Today, it’s probably impossible. But we can take steps, even make leaps forward. And through collaboration we can, step by step, push forward the whole industry. 

That is why this charter provides guidelines to companies and professionals to use internally and with their partners. It reminds us of what we should be inquiring about when we buy products, it helps to inform our decisions when we decide on product features or manufacturing methods, it should be a source of inspiration to take businesses in new directions. 

As Good Brand Guru, we will continue on our journey to help professionals and businesses to connect and share knowledge. As we saw during the process of making the charter, collaboration is key to build and implement the social and sustainable strategies that are needed to make our fashion and textile industry better for people and planet.

Charter authors
Simone Matt, sustainable textile expert
Tobias Meier, ecos /MaxTex
Martin Klöti, Glärnisch Textil 
Philipp Scheidiger, Swiss Fair Trade
Martine Nieuwenhuis, Good Brand Guru

Workgroup participants 
Susanne Rudolf, Fashion Revolution Switzerland 
Jeannette Bucher, CEO Lola | Fred 
Andrea Gerber, Nähwerk IDM 
Coty Jeronimus, Tasklab