What sustainability challenges do you find yourself confronted with abroad, and how do you deal with them?
Textile production in Europe meets the highest global standards. Thus, exporting textiles produced in Europe is not generally a problem. Importing clothing, especially from South-East Asia, is a different matter. Here we certainly have to be very careful. My company is a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, because I stand by my responsibility for sustainable production. And other business leaders take the same view. We anchored sustainability issues in our own company policy years ago. This matter will gain further importance in the future.
How do you expect the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles to contribute to resolving existing problems?
It is important for all parties involved to work together in order to improve international production conditions. Some of the difficulties lie exclusively in the responsibility of governments: lack of rule of law, lack of division of powers, and lack of enforcement of rules, which are widespread problems in developing countries, can only be addressed by the state. German companies have virtually no influence, nor do they have any democratic legitimacy to get involved in these matters.
What do you expect politically from German and EU politics?
My expectation is that the Partnership will succeed in anchoring standards internationally, so that German companies are not left at a competitive disadvantage. The umbrella organisation of the German textile industry has had its own Code of Conduct for many years, which it revised and modernised in 2015. Many companies reference it in their contracts with business partners. Voluntary compliance is more targeted and hence more effective than legislation.
Ingeborg Neumann is managing partner of Peppermint Holding and President of the Gesamtverband der deutschen Textil- und Modeindustrie. She is also a member of the Presidential Board of BDI and engaged in the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles.