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15.06.2021

Cabinet passes Draft on German Supply Chain Act

Passed on March 3, 2021, it will become effective as of Jan. 1, 2023 - the Supply Chain Act for companies with more than 3,000 employees. The draft law on corporate due diligence in supply chains - The Supply Chain Act - decided by the German Cabinet is expected to be finalized by the German Bundestag before the summer break.

With the fire at a textile factory in Pakistan in 2013, which claimed more than 250 victims, the topic of supply chain management and sustainable procurement received a great deal of publicity and was placed on the political agenda at various levels: companies can relocate their production abroad - but not their responsibility.

Passed on March 3, 2021, it will become effective as of Jan. 1, 2023 - the Supply Chain Act for companies with more than 3,000 employees. The draft law on corporate due diligence in supply chains - The Supply Chain Act - decided by the German Cabinet is expected to be finalized by the German Bundestag before the summer break.

With the fire at a textile factory in Pakistan in 2013, which claimed more than 250 victims, the topic of supply chain management and sustainable procurement received a great deal of publicity and was placed on the political agenda at various levels: companies can relocate their production abroad - but not their responsibility.

In recent years, a number of measures have been taken worldwide to improve the situation in global value chains. In particular, this involves compliance with human rights, social issues and environmental protection. However, the results are sobering: According to the BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), 25 million people are currently in forced labor, and 75 million boys and girls worldwide are affected by exploitative child labor.

But where does responsibility begin, and where does it end? The recently passed draft law on corporate due diligence in supply chains is a compromise decision by the ministries involved for development, labor and economy.

Experts from the accredited certification organization GUT Certification Company for Management Systems in Berlin have compiled key statements and estimations:

Which human rights do the due diligence obligations relate to?

  • Integrity of life and health
  • Freedom from slavery and forced labor
  • Protection of children and freedom from child labor
  • Freedom of association and the right of collective bargaining
  • Protection against torture
  • Fair working conditions (occupational health and safety, breaks)
  • Environmental obligations to protect human health

Circle of affected companies located in Germany and deadlines:

  • From 2023: Companies with more than 3,000 employees (over 600 companies in Germany)
  • From 2024: Companies with more than 1,000 employees (2,900 companies)

Obligations in the value chain
In addition to the affected companies' own business operations, responsibility initially extends only to their direct suppliers and service providers. Within the framework of risk management, adverse effects on human rights and environmental due diligence obligations are to be identified and documented in corresponding risk reports.

As long as there are no concrete indications of human rights violations, the monitoring of indirect suppliers is not the responsibility of the companies involved.

The documents are to be checked by the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA). In the event of violations of the law, companies will initially face sanctions in the form of fines, however, in the event of serious violations, they may also be excluded from the granting of public contracts.

Overall, the "Act on Corporate Due Diligence in Supply Chains" does not provide for a duty to succeed or a guarantee liability, but primarily requires the companies involved to take measures within the framework of an "obligation of efforts".

The law does not provide for civil liability for any human rights violations in the supply chain. However, in the event of violations of human and labor rights, foreign employees are to be given the opportunity to be represented by trade unions and before German courts.

What does a company need to do in its own business unit and with its direct supplier?
Companies must implement the following measures:

  • Pass declaration of principles on respect for human rights
  • Risk analysis: establish and implement procedures to identify adverse human rights impacts
  • Risk management (incl. corrective measures) to prevent potentially negative impacts on human rights
  • Set up complaints mechanism
  • Report transparently and publicly
  • In the event of a violation, corrective measures must be taken immediately in the company's own business area, and it is imperative that these measures lead to the termination of the violation. In addition, further preventive measures must be initiated
  • If the violation with the direct supplier cannot be terminated in the foreseeable future, a concrete plan for minimization and avoidance must be created. Appropriate measures must be taken for this purpose, starting with supplier development within a defined time frame and ending with the discontinuation of the business relationship.

What does a company have to do with the indirect supplier?
Here, the due diligence obligations only apply on an occasion-related basis. If the company becomes aware of a possible violation by an indirect supplier, it must immediately:

  • Carry out a risk analysis
  • Implement a concept for minimization and prevention
  • Establish appropriate preventive measures regarding the causer of the violation

Is that a breakthrough? Barely.
With the aim of improving the human rights situation along the supply chain of German companies and thus implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the German government passed the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP) back in 2016. This urged companies to review their business activities and relationships with regard to human rights risks and implement necessary measures - on a voluntary basis.

However, the German government's report was sobering. For example, the monitoring of the implementation status of the NAP's requirements carried out from 2018 to 2020 revealed, that less than 20% of the German companies surveyed have voluntarily fulfilled their human rights due diligence obligations to date.

Now, ethical obligations are becoming part of the compliance, at least for the big companies in Germany. The majority of the "giants" involved are already familiar with the obligation under the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation and/or the EU CSR Directive: Corporate responsibility in the supply chain is a mandatory part of non-financial reporting. However, the materiality view here is defined by size of loss and not the topicality of the problem in the supply chain.

What does the new law change? With the law passed, everything remains the same for now: Digging in deeper and developing one’s own supply chain is still not mandatory.

Status Quo
From experience in validating sustainability reports, GUTcert auditors see that many German companies of various sizes are already addressing sustainability concerns in the supply chain based on their own corporate sustainability and ethical obligations:
 
The introduction of a code of conduct for business partners is already part of everyday life in many companies. When contracts are listed for the first time and renewed, the direct suppliers and service providers must adopt certain obligations and carry them forward into their own value chain.

Documentation of the risk analysis and its results as required by law is also no longer a novelty. At the latest in the context of conventional economic concerns, it is no longer possible to imagine supply chains without risks. The pandemic had brought this topic even more into focus in the light of interrupted supply chains in many places. Many companies have already expanded the purely economic risks to include sustainability-related issues, i.e. environmental and social concerns, human rights clauses and anti-corruption rules.

What is often missing, however, is an effective monitoring of the respective performance of the business partners. Self-reporting is the common tool in demonstrating sustainability in the supply chain. On-site controls are linked with high costs and often with the lack of knowledge about the possible means of a sustainability management. Some risks therefore often remain "blind spots".

What to do?
A matrix of one's own corporate sustainability risks of the value chain related to countries, industries and products is a first step in the right direction. With or without the law: The important thing is to take a serious look at your own supply chain and set the boundaries, so that existing risks of violation can actually be addressed - step by step. This way, any company can work out the key risks and opportunities with manageable effort. Help is provided by some internationally recognized sources that can serve as a basis for risk evaluation.
 
Targets and measures should be derived from the main risks and opportunities. These can range from the company's own controls and association work in its own industry to cooperation with international organizations, platforms and certifications. There are many options if one is looking for them.

Source:

GUT Certification Company for Management Systems

(c) Fraunhofer IAP
08.06.2021

Fraunhofer IAP: Recyclable, Fiber-reinforced Material made from Bio-based Polylactic Acid

"Packaging made from bio-based plastics has long been established. We are now supporting the further development of these materials for new areas of application. If in the future the market also offers plant-based materials for technically demanding tasks such as vehicle construction, the bioeconomy will take a decisive step forward," explained Uwe Feiler, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in Potsdam. The occasion was the handover of a grant to the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP. The Fraunhofer IAP wants to develop a composite material that consists entirely of bio-based polylactic acid (PLA) and is significantly easier to recycle than conventional fiber composites.

"Packaging made from bio-based plastics has long been established. We are now supporting the further development of these materials for new areas of application. If in the future the market also offers plant-based materials for technically demanding tasks such as vehicle construction, the bioeconomy will take a decisive step forward," explained Uwe Feiler, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in Potsdam. The occasion was the handover of a grant to the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP. The Fraunhofer IAP wants to develop a composite material that consists entirely of bio-based polylactic acid (PLA) and is significantly easier to recycle than conventional fiber composites.

The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) is intensively promoting the development of biomaterials as part of its Renewable Resources funding program. More than 100 projects are currently underway, covering a wide range of topics: from plastics that are degradable in the sea to natural fiber-reinforced lightweight components for the automotive sector. The projects are supported by the Agency for Renewable Resources, the BMEL project management agency responsible for the Renewable Resources funding program.

Easier recycling of fiber-reinforced plastics
PLA is one of the particularly promising bio-based materials. The global market for this polymer is growing by around 10 percent a year. PLA is also used, among other things, as a matrix in fiber-reinforced plastics. In these mechanically resilient plastics, reinforcing fibers are embedded in a plastic matrix.

The Fraunhofer IAP project is now focusing on these reinforcing fibers: "We are further developing our PLA fibers in order to transfer them to industrial scale together with partners from industry. These fibers are ideally suited for reinforcing PLA plastics. The resulting self-reinforcing single-component composite promises great recycling benefits. Since the fiber and the matrix of PLA are chemically identical, complex separation steps are not necessary," explains Dr. André Lehmann, expert for fiber technology at Fraunhofer IAP.

Novel PLA fibers and films are more thermally stable
The challenge with this approach is that conventional PLA has a relatively low temperature resistance. Technical fibers can be produced most economically using the melt spinning process. The Fraunhofer IAP team is now using more thermally stable stereocomplex PLA (sc-PLA) for the fibers. The term stereocomplex refers to a special crystal structure that the PLA molecules can form. Sc-PLA fibers have a melting point that is 40 - 50 °C higher and can therefore withstand the incorporation process in a matrix made of conventional PLA. In the project, the researchers are developing and optimizing a melt spinning process for sc-PLA filament yarns. The partner in this work package is Trevira GmbH, a manufacturer of technical and textile fiber and filament yarn specialties that are in demand from automotive suppliers and contract furnishers, among others. Furthermore, the development of a manufacturing process for sc-PLA reinforced flat films is planned. The international adhesive tape manufacturer tesa SE is participating in this task, and will test the suitability of sc-PLA films as adhesive foils. In a third work package, the Fraunhofer IAP will finally process the filaments in a double pultrusion process to produce granules suitable for injection molding.

Bio-based solutions for the automotive and textile industries
The scientists led by Dr. André Lehmann are certain that the self-reinforced PLA material can conquer many new areas of application. The automotive and textile industries are already showing interest in bio-based materials that are also easier to recycle. In terms of price, PLA would already be competitive here, and now the material is also to be made technically fit for the new tasks.

Professor Alexander Böker, head of Fraunhofer IAP, says: "The steadily growing demand from industry for sustainable solutions underlines how important it is to develop biobased and at the same time high-performance materials. With our research, we are also actively driving the development of a sustainable and functioning circular economy and therefore very much welcome the support from the federal government."

Information on the project is available at fnr.de under the funding code 2220NR297X.

Volker Nienstedt, Coco Ruch, Frithjof Rödel (c) Marcel Krummrich. Volker Nienstedt, Coco Ruch, Frithjof Rödel
01.06.2021

Textile Art: People need Art - Art needs People

With her textile project "kunst.werke" [art.works], artist Britta Schatton draws attention to Thuringia's diverse art and cultural landscape. Together with photographer Marcel Krummrich, she portrays nine members of the Thuringian art world. The decisive and binding accessory is a hand-dyed and hand-printed scarf made of merino wool-silk-felt, that is individually produced for each artist - each unique piece is created from the personal perception of the respective wearer.

The pandemic has forced many artists to look for another, a virtual audience, due to the restrictions. This was not always successful. Therefore, it is part of the project to give all portrayed a voice about their personal situation in the time determined by Corona. These statements are to be heard on virtual stages.

With her textile project "kunst.werke" [art.works], artist Britta Schatton draws attention to Thuringia's diverse art and cultural landscape. Together with photographer Marcel Krummrich, she portrays nine members of the Thuringian art world. The decisive and binding accessory is a hand-dyed and hand-printed scarf made of merino wool-silk-felt, that is individually produced for each artist - each unique piece is created from the personal perception of the respective wearer.

The pandemic has forced many artists to look for another, a virtual audience, due to the restrictions. This was not always successful. Therefore, it is part of the project to give all portrayed a voice about their personal situation in the time determined by Corona. These statements are to be heard on virtual stages.

Britta Schatton emphasizes: “We all share the basic need to regularly experience and create art and culture as an integral part of life - even in times of pandemic. People need art - art needs people. Especially in pandemic times, when art and culture are increasingly threatened existentially."

The freelance artist prefers to work with felt and has completed her education at the Filzschule Oberrot in Baden-Württemberg under the guidance of Inge Bauer, Beatriz Schaaf-Giesser and Lyda Rump. Since 2012, qualifications with national and international textile artists such as Liz Clay (GB), Pam de Groot (AU), Britta Ankenbauer (DE), Ricarda Aßmann (DE) and Ute Herre (DE) followed. In 2014 she became a member of the artist group TAT Textil Art Thüringen.
          
In 2021, she received a special grant from the Free State of Thuringia for the "kunst.werke" project and was assigned to design the honorary awards for the Bundesgartenschau (Federal Garden Show), which will take place in Erfurt in 2021.

An exhibition of the portraits can be seen in the store gallery ARTenVielfalt of Britta Schatton in Erfurt. Part of the revenue from the sale of the scarves and loops from the limited series will be used to support an institution for the promotion of youth art.

Photo: pixabay
25.05.2021

Water Saving Solution for Textile Industry EC Project Waste2Fresh

The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT, with its long-term expertise in nanotoxicity and nanosafety testing, contributes to a new EC project for water saving solutions for textile industry. This industry uses a vast amount of water for different steps in the textile dyeing process. It also produces a lot of wastewater, which contains a range of chemicals and dyes.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT, with its long-term expertise in nanotoxicity and nanosafety testing, contributes to a new EC project for water saving solutions for textile industry. This industry uses a vast amount of water for different steps in the textile dyeing process. It also produces a lot of wastewater, which contains a range of chemicals and dyes.

Breakthrough innovations are needed in energy intensive industries to recycle water and create closed loops in industrial processes. 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from textile manufacturing. To reduce the high amount of freshwater used in textile industry, the EC-funded Waste2Fresh project will develop a closed-loop process for textile manufacturing factories in which wastewater is collected, recycled and used again. Novel and innovative catalytic degradation approaches with highly selective separation and extraction techniques will be developed, based on nanotechnology. According to the European Commission, such “closed loops“ would significantly reduce the use of fresh water and improve water availability in the relevant EU water catchment areas, as outlined in the Water Framework Directive.

Closed loop recycling system for wastewater from textile manufacturers
Waste2Fresh meets the above challenges and industry needs by developing and demonstrating (to TRL 7) a closed loop recycling system for wastewater from textile manufacturing factories; to counteract freshwater resource scarcities and water pollution challenges exacerbated by energy intensive industries which are major users of fresh water (for e.g., processing, washing, heating, cooling).

The Waste2Fresh technology is developed to reduce current use of freshwater resources and considerably increases the recovery of water, energy and other resources (organics, salts and heavy metals). The result is a 30% increase in resource and water efficiency compared to the state-of-the-art. The system will ultimately lead to considerable environmental improvements and accordingly reduce the EC and global environmental footprint.

Fraunhofer IBMT expertise in human-toxicity and -safety testing
The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT will be primarily responsible for performing nanotoxicity and nanosafety testing during the whole technology process (from development to demonstration), ensuring that the developed system and processes meet relevant safety regulations. The Fraunhofer IBMT collaborates with all consortium partners developing and using to develop approaches for ensuring that the developed nanomaterial-based components meet relevant health and safety standards during their use.

For the hazard assessment of the developed nanomaterials, the Fraunhofer IBMT will perform a set of in vitro toxicity studies using commercially available human cell lines. The results of this toxicity studies will be the basis for the development of relevant safety procedures for handling and using the developed recycling technology.

 

Project funding: H2020-EU.2.1.5.3. - Sustainable, resource-efficient and low-carbon technologies in energy-intensive process industries

Duration: 12/2020- 11/2023

Coordinator:
KONYA TEKNIK UNIVERSITESI, Turkey

Project partners:
CENTRE FOR PROCESS INNOVATION LIMITED LBG, United Kingdom
ERAK GIYIM SANAYI VE TICARET ANONIM SIRKETI, Turkey
FRAUNHOFER GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FOERDERUNG DER ANGEWANDTEN FORSCHUNG E.V., Fraunhofer-Institut für Biomedizinische Technik IBMT, Germany
INNOVATION IN RESEARCH & ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS, Belgium
INSTYTUT MOLEKULYARNOI BIOLOGII I GENETYKY NAN UKRAINY, Ukraine
L'UREDERRA, FUNDACION PARA EL DESARROLLO TECNOLOGICO Y SOCIAL, Spain
NANOFIQUE LIMITED, United Kingdom
NANOGENTECH LTD, United Kingdom
PCI MEMBRANES SPOLKA Z OGRANICZONA ODPOWIEDZIALNOSCIA, Poland
STIFTELSE CSDI WATERTECH, Norway
THE OPEN UNIVERSITY, United Kingdom
ULUDAG CEVRE TEKNOLOJILERI ARGE MERKEZI SANAYI VE TICARET LIMITED SIRKETI, Turkey
UNIVERSIDAD INDUSTRIAL DE SANTANDER, Colombia
UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI TRENTO, Italy
VEREALA GMBH, Switzerland
VSI SOCIALINES INOVACIJOS SVARESNEI APLINKAI, Lithiani