Interview with Detlef Braun

Face2Face
Detlef Braun
Detlef Braun
Member of Executive Board
Messe Frankfurt
Messe Frankfurt

Sustainability is not a matter of company size.

Detlef Braun, Member of the Executive Board of Messe Frankfurt tells that one should adopt ethical business practices irrespective of the size of the company in an interview with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi. Synopsis: Messe Frankfurt GmbH is one of the world's largest trade fair companies with 537,000,000 Euros in sales and over 1,800 active employees. Messe Frankfurt literally means Frankfurt Trade Fair. It is present in over 150 countries. The company organises events for Technology & Production, Consumer Goods & Leisure, Textiles & Textile Technologies and various other fields. Messe Frankfurt GmbH controls the activities of the two independent 100% subsidiaries namely, Messe Frankfurt Venue GmbH & Co. KG and Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH. Detlef Braun is a Member of the Executive Board of Messe Frankfurt GmbH since October 2004. Prior to holding this position, he was Chairman & CEO for Central and Northern Europe in WPP Group, J. Walter Thompson, Worldwide. He Studied at the European Business School, Oestrich-Winkel and graduated with a degree in business management majoring in marketing and sales. Excerpts:

Messe Frankfurt is a leading textile trade fair organizer. Given this position, what percentage of its total costs is reserved for promoting sustainability and other such initiatives?

Because of the diversity of the various initiatives, we have no overall figures relating to this issue. At Messe Frankfurt, sustainability is always a fundamental part of our thinking and is instantiated in an extensive range of activities. For example, with Kap Europa, which is currently under construction and is due to open in the Summer of 2014 as an additional conference building to complement Messe Frankfurt's very successful existing Congress Center, we are extending the number of rooms available for congresses, conferences and events with smaller-scale requirements as far as floor area is concerned. As well as questions regarding the quality of the architecture, the construction of new buildings also raises issues of the ecological footprint that will be achieved. As a result, Kap Europa will be the first conference centre in the world to have been built according to the standards set out by the German Society for Sustainable Construction (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur nachhaltiges Bauen - DGNB); it has already received their gold seal at the planning stage. The new standards for congress centres have been developed as a joint initiative by Messe Frankfurt in collaboration with the DGNB and other congress organisers, and has laid down the criteria for future certification of buildings of this type. These criteria take account of the entire life-cycle and of all aspects of the building, from an environmentally safe construction site producing relatively little waste, to energy-efficient operation and eventual demolition.

Which countries are especially responsive to ethical sourcing in the textile and apparel industry?

The apparel industry is currently undergoing a re-orientation process as far as production is concerned. Because we are now seeing greater domestic consumption in China, many fashion labels are looking to new countries for their production. These include, on the one hand, states in South-East Asia; on the other hand, Eastern European countries are benefiting from the fact that fashion labels are again bringing their production back closer to the end-consumers' market place in Europe. The shorter distances involved in transport are of particular interest in cases, where only small batches are being produced, the demands on technology are high or where orders need to be met quickly. Producing goods close to where the end customers are, represents a significant contribution to sustainability, not least because of the lower energy costs involved in transporting the goods. The sensitivities of end consumers with regard to product safety, environmental protection and the working conditions of the people on site are causing more and more companies to work more closely with fewer suppliers. They are intensively involved in continuing to extend and improve the checks throughout the entire textile chain, by, for example, working closely with initiatives, organisations and testing institutions at local level. In addition, companies need to be aware that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has to be implemented from within the company. This also involves training their own staff and preparing them with checklists for what to look out for on site. Because of the complexity of the textile supply chain, however, ethical sourcing cannot always be broken down to the level of individual countries. Many nations and national associations are concerned to push their apparel industries in a more sustainable and socially acceptable direction.

In your view, which technologies in the sustainable textiles segment are expected to experience a boom in the near future? Can you tell us which technologies you think will actually be sustainable?

Technologies designed to be sustainable must take account of the entire textile value creation chain. Over the past few years, the textile industry has made great progress in the development of environmentally friendly chemicals and technologies, as well as cultivation and processing methods that are energy efficient and sparing in their use of resources. There is, however, no clearly recognisable trend towards any one single sustainable technology. Good examples of two very promising technologies are digital fabric printing and laser technology, which, in contrast to conventional printing techniques, use considerably less energy, chemicals, and water. But rather than the technologies themselves, there are other steps we can take towards sustainable textile production that are much more desirable. Working conditions in individual production countries ought to be improved. Shorter supply routes and locally-based "just in time" production increase the degree of social and ecological acceptability. Textile certification, something along the lines of GOTS or Oeko-Tex, and initiatives like Fairtrade create greater confidence and trust amongst consumers. Even the path from 'mass production' to 'mass customisation' can be taken only in conjunction with new technologies, better working conditions and greater consumer awareness. Yet the initiative must be the result of a common will shared by exhibitors, associations and politicians.

What kinds of companies are observed to be more actively participating in your sustainable and eco-fashion fairs? Are they normally big corporate businesses, or are even small and medium-sized companies equally enthusiastic about them?

Sustainability is not a matter of company size. All sorts, kinds and sizes of companies sign up to our textile fairs – the leading manufacturers at Heimtextil, Intertextile Shanghai and Texworld and the small and medium-sized fashion brands at the Greenshowroom and the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin. Volume buyers and representatives of the leading fashion houses and textile manufacturers also come to these and to our other textile fairs.
Published on: 20/02/2014

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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