Supply Chain
of »T-Shirt«

Learn how a T-shirt makes its way from the cotton fields to the store shelf: Which challenges in cultivation and manufacturing have to be met? How does REWE Group lessen social and environmental impacts?

Dr Klaus Mayer, the Head of Quality Assurance at REWE Group, talks about REWE Group's supply chain in an interview

To the interview

Cotton production

The cotton plant is generally grown in tropical climates. The cotton is picked by hand or machine. The cotton fibre is then separated from the seeds – either manually or, in most cases, by a special machine.

Open Cotton productionClose Cotton production

Industry-related challenges

Environment

  • Water-intensive cultivation
  • Extremely high use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and defoliants
  • Loss of biodiversity and resistances created by the use of genetically modified cotton

Social

  • Lack of occupational safety
  • Health threats posed by contact with pesticides
  • Compensation below the breadline
  • Violations of human and labour rights (prohibition of unions, child labour)
  • Dependency and high costs for seeds as a result of the use of genetically modified cotton

What we are doing

Cotton made in Africa (CmiA)

To promote more sustainable cotton farming practices, REWE Group increasingly purchases cotton that has been cultivated on the basis of the CmiA (Cotton made in Africa) standard. The standard was developed by the Aid by Trade Foundation. The organisation promotes the use of environmentally conscious cultivation practices among small farmers in Africa and helps them to help themselves through trade. In this programme, cotton farmers receive training and attend courses on environmentally conscious cultivation practices. Another criterion of the initiative is rain-fed farming. This method conserves large amounts of water resources by shunning the use of irrigation. In addition, genetically modified cotton may not be used.

The world's leading cotton-producing countries are China, India, the United States and Pakistan

2700 litres
It takes about 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton used
in a single T-shirt.
400 grams
About 400 grams of raw cotton are needed to make one T-shirt.

Processing

A large number of independent companies are involved in the process that extends from the cotton fields to the sewing room. Frequently, the separate processing steps are done in different countries. In a spinning mill, the individual cotton fibres are woven into yarn. The yarn is turned into cloth in a weaving mill. The cloth is frequently finished, which can involve bleaching, dyeing or imprinting. The completed cloth is then tailored, manufactured into a piece of clothing and labelled.

Open ProcessingClose Processing

Industry-related challenges

Environment

  • High water and energy consumption, particularly in the dyeing and drying processes
  • Water pollution caused by chemicals used in the manufacturing process (particularly during bleaching and dyeing)
  • Transport-related greenhouse gas emissions

Social

  • Compensation below the breadline
  • Lack of occupational safety, health threats posed by exposure to chemicals (particularly during bleaching and dyeing)
  • Violations of human and labour rights (prohibition of unions, child labour)

What we are doing

PRO PLANET

For T-shirts that bear the PRO PLANET label, African cotton farmers are supported as part of the CmiA (Cotton made in Africa) Initiative (for more information, see step 1 on "raw materials"). The production sites where the T-shirts are made must ensure compliance with BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) and Oekotex 100 criteria (just like all producers who make textiles for REWE Group). They are also qualified to meet the more demanding social standard SA8000 as part of the PRO PLANET project. In 2016, REWE Group will add T-shirts bearing the PRO PLANET label back to its product range.

Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI)

REWE Group is a member of the BSCI, an alliance of companies committed to improving labour and social standards in risk countries. The BSCI's Code of Conduct is based on the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The key sections of the code include a renunciation of child and forced labour and compliance with statutory pay and work schedules.

REWE Group is determined to gradually increase the percentage of revenue produced with goods made by socially audited factories. In 2014, 89 per cent of revenue generated with products acquired by the company's own purchasing cooperative, REWE Far East (RFE), was attributed to goods made in socially audited factories (BSCI, SA8000).

OEKO-Tex 100

OEKO-Tex 100 is an independent testing and certification system for textiles. Certified products contain no legally prohibited or harmful substances. All T-shirts ordered by REWE Group are OEKO-Tex certified.

SITEX

In 2014, REWE Group initiated its own programme called SITEX – Safe Textiles – and also joined the DETOX campaign organised by Greenpeace. Together with its suppliers and producers, REWE Group is working to replace environmentally harmful chemicals used to produce textiles with more environmentally conscious substances.

The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety

In 2013, REWE Group signed an agreement regarding the implementation of a programme covering health and safety measures in the textile industry. By 2015, all REWE Group suppliers in Bangladesh will undergo special safety audits covering buildings, electrical systems and fire protection.

(Overseas) Transport

As a rule, T-shirts made by companies located primarily in Asia are transported by ship to Germany. They are moved from logistics centres to REWE Group stores.

Open (Overseas) TransportClose (Overseas) Transport

Industry-related challenges

Environment

  • Transport-related greenhouse gas emissions
  • Use of chemicals to fight pest infestations and mould during transport
  • Rubbish created by packaging

What we are doing

Logistics

  • Reducing the use of resources by employing optimised logistics (see Smart Logistics). For instance, REWE Group ensures that orders from Asia are shipped in bundles in a step that reduces the number of containers.

Packaging

  • Cartons are made of 100 per cent FSC-certified paper.
Total 89%
Overseas Transport 3%
Distribution in Germany 8%

CO2 emissions of a T-shirt

REWE Group Stores

In the final step, T-shirts are sold in REWE Group stores.

Open REWE Group StoresClose REWE Group Stores

7.59 billion The clothing industry's revenue in Germany totalled 7.59 billion euros in 2014.
300000 REWE Group sells about 300,000 T-shirts every year.

Industry-related challenges

Environment

  • Fair and environmentally conscious textiles are still niche products
  • Nearly 1/3 of CO2 emissions related to a T-shirt are created during its phase of use by washing, drying and ironing

What we are doing

Consumer information

  • Information about environmentally friendly use of a T-shirt (including washing instructions)
  • Raising consumers' awareness levels during Sustainability Weeks and dialogue forums

All figures that do not apply specifically to REWE Group were obtained from widely available business publications.

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