has never been a passing fashion

This May – the month of the year when nature really starts coming to life again – we want to remind ourselves and everyone else that consideration and respect for people and nature has always been one of the cornerstones of what we do. And that has probably even been the case since before the word 'sustainability' existed in its modern form.

Here at ETERNA, we have been living and breathing sustainability across all levels of our business for decades. CEO Henning Gerbaulet has been steering the Passau-based shirt and blouse specialist for over ten years. In an interview, the ETERNA CEO reveals his approach to sustainability, unveils what is still on the to do list for ETERNA, and tells us whether he lives by the same values in his private life.

Sustainably convincing

All sewn up – Henning Gerbaulet on ETERNA's consistent sustainability strategy.

For over 20 years now, we at ETERNA have succeeded in building trusting, long-term working relationships with consistently certified suppliers, opening up our entire value chain to scrutiny, and successfully passing all the necessary inspections time and time again.

As early as the year 2000, ETERNA was the world's first and only fashion producer to be granted the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 plus certification – the organisation's highest award that corresponds to the MADE in GREEN product label by OEKO-TEX® today.

Such an achievement was a real rarity, especially within the fashion industry. For Henning Gerbaulet, this is proof that ETERNA was not only far ahead of its time (just as it is today!), but also that the fashion producer still has something very special to offer the world. And as we all know, this is something that now fits the times we live in more perfectly than ever before.

Sustainably visionary

In 1981, the idea for the first non-iron shirt made of pure cotton sprang up from an extraordinary thirst for invention. But even at that point in the company's history, it was already obvious that ETERNA was not only concerned with commercial success alone. "A sense of responsibility for the environment, for people and for nature was already at the heart of the company's activities back then," says Henning Gerbaulet. "For example, we took care to reduce the use of harmful chemicals in our textile finishing processes, avoided monoculture farming practices in cotton cultivation, and kept transportation distances as short as possible to save tonnes of emissions each year – all things we continue to do to this day."

Sustainably demanding

Sustainability is a deeply held conviction at ETERNA. In fact, it forms part of the company's DNA. Nevertheless, Henning Gerbaulet knows that sustainability alone is not enough to convince customers to choose the company. In an interview, the CEO explains why he hopes that customers will recognise and appreciate this and to what extent the company's commitment to sustainability is also reflected in its prices.

Sustainably committed

How ETERNA puts its own convictions into practice every single day.

A small but very real example of sustainability at ETERNA is the strapping machine that prepares packages for shipping. This is yet more evidence of the typical ETERNA inventive spirit at work – this time thanks to the resourcefulness of conscientious employees who asked themselves how the company could save plastic and replace it with something more sustainable. Henning Gerbaulet tells us how over 600 km of plastic strapping is saved in this way each year.

Sustainably responsible

For Henning Gerbaulet, sustainability means far more than "just" protecting the environment.

As well as demanding sustainability from the products and from the company itself, the CEO is deeply convinced that a brand can only be a success when short-termism gives way to long-term thinking. This drives him and the ETERNA team to keep growing in all areas of sustainability.

A few facts about sustainability at ETERNA:

No matter where they are in the world, everyone who contributes to the production of ETERNA shirts and blouses is paid fairly, receives social benefits and has regulated working hours. Child labour, forced labour and discrimination are not tolerated.
ETERNA builds trusting, long-term working relationships with consistently certified suppliers. Since 2015, we have also succeeded in opening up our entire value chain to scrutiny. This means that every customer can use their garments' EAN codes to trace each shirt and blouse's journey from raw materials to manufacturing and, finally, to the shops.
Here at ETERNA, we use "Green Levels" to divide our shirts and blouses up into three sustainability tiers. This is our way of making sustainability even more transparent. In fact, this classification system makes it easy to see just how much environmental awareness, responsibility and fairness have been woven into your ETERNA shirt or blouse. Green Levels show which seals and certificates a product holds as proof of its sustainability.
This classification system helps you make a decision and works a bit like the traffic lights you see on food. The difference? All our products are sustainable, so the traffic lights never go below green.
High – our lowest level – already comes with a guarantee that all the materials have been tested for harmful substances and that the entire value chain is open to scrutiny by anyone.
As you might expect, the shirts and blouses that meet the criteria for our next level – "Superior" – fulfil all the same sustainability requirements you get with products that bear the label "High". In addition, "Superior" products use offsetting to make their production processes climate-neutral. If you choose the Green Level "Outstanding", you get even greater levels of sustainability on top of all these other benefits thanks to the use of recycled fibres or Tencel lyocell fibres that serve as a more sustainable alternative to cotton.

As well as a host of other certifications and labels confirming that its production processes are environmentally friendly and fair, ETERNA is also the holder of the German government's "Green Button" seal. 
This is the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development's way of confirming that ETERNA has an exemplary, holistic commitment to sustainability. In addition to meeting various product-related standards, companies that hold the government seal must also fulfil certain requirements themselves. 

In fact, in order for a textile to be awarded the Green Button, the company in question also has to comply with an exacting array of 26 additional social and ecological product criteria, ranging from water pollution limits to forced labour bans.

These criteria are met by holders of the MADE IN GREEN product label by OEKO-TEX® – an award that has long been granted to ETERNA's shirts and blouses. 

The fact that ETERNA products now come with the Green Button certification means that customers can be doubly sure that ETERNA is living up to its responsibility towards people and the natural world.

Since 2020, ETERNA has been a proud member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). This is a non-profit organization that aims to improve global cotton production. 
The initiative hopes to have a positive impact on the cotton farming industry's environmental and working practices around the world, creating better conditions both for the people who produce the cotton and for the environment in which it grows.

As a result, the Better Cotton Initiative trains farmers to use water more effectively, to care for natural habitats and the health of their soil, to reduce their use of harmful chemicals, and to respect the rights and welfare of their workers. 

The BCI label lets customers know they are getting an excellent product.

Around 70 per cent of the cotton sourced by ETERNA is more sustainable. This includes Better Cotton Initiative cotton, recycled cotton, fairly traded cotton and organic cotton.

As an environmentally conscious company, it is only natural that ETERNA should make use of sustainable cellulose fibres created from natural raw materials. Tencel™ is the trademarked brand name of lyocell that is produced by Lenzing, the Austrian fibre manufacturing firm. These cellulose fibres are obtained from debarked wood that provably originates from sustainable forestry sources.  

The production of Tencel fibres meets the highest environmental criteria. Particularly noteworthy aspects of the material include the low environmental impact of its manufacturing processes and the fact that Tencel fibres are both compostable and biodegradable. 
Well-loved shirts and blouses are too valuable to go to landfill. Our collaboration with Texaid means that they are reused in a sensible, considerate way and granted a second life. 
If the clothes are in good condition, they become second-hand fashion. In contrast, any clothes that can no longer be worn are turned into cleaning cloths, insulation and padding.

This is a very sensible idea – especially when it comes to such high-quality clothing as the shirts and blouses from ETERNA. That is because it reduces the need to make new clothing and therefore spares the farmland, water, energy and labour required for its production.

TEXAID is one of the leading organizations involved in the environmentally friendly collection, sorting and recycling of used textiles in Europe. TEXAID shares ETERNA's goal of keeping used textiles in the value chain for as long as possible in order to conserve resources.

The Passau-based fashion company has been producing part of its collections using climate-neutral processes since 2017. What does that mean, exactly? Producing an ETERNA shirt emits 8.7 kilograms of CO2 on average. This number is relatively low because ETERNA saves resources like energy and fuel at multiple stages in the process. Of course, you cannot make clothes without producing at least some emissions. As a result, we achieve climate neutrality via the use of offsets. This means that ETERNA provides financial support to certain climate protection projects so that an equivalent amount of CO2 emissions can be avoided elsewhere around the world. ETERNA supports two climate protection projects in Kenya and Madagascar with the help of myclimate, a climate protection foundation. This offsets up to 1,900 tonnes of CO2 each year.
Since 2013, ETERNA brand stores have been using certified green electricity from 100 per cent renewable energy sources. This has already saved many thousands of tonnes of CO2 so far. In 2015, all our plastic bags were replaced with paper alternatives. Our brand stores are not the only places where we take care to reduce waste, however – we do it in our online shop, too. In fact, our cardboard shipping boxes are almost entirely made out of recycled fibres.
As you might expect from a responsible company like ETERNA, all our business flights have been climate neutral since 2002 thanks to the use of voluntary offsets.

Want to dive even deeper into the sustainable world of ETERNA?

Head to to learn all about everything we are doing and developing here at ETERNA.

Because as far as we are concerned, sustainability is more than just a passing fashion.


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