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Code of conduct

Wilhelm Kneitz AG acknowledges its responsibility as a member of the textile industry
and adheres to the “Code of Conduct”.



The Confederation of the German Textile and Fashion Industry professes its social responsibility, independent of whether it is economically active in Germany, Europe or in other parts of the world. Borne of the consciousness for social, ecological, and economic responsibility and a sensitivity for the social, ecological and economic design of the complete value-added chain, it meets the challenges of an increasingly networked and global economy. The German Textile and Fashion Confederation and its members have developed the following Code of Conduct in order to support individual enterprises.

The Confederation recommends applying this Code of Conduct. It is to act as a voluntary instrument for companies and serves as a guideline for socially responsible business practices. The code is focused on revealing fields of responsibility for companies and to offer a framework upon which they can orientate their business politics on an individual basis. In order to implement this into the global value-added chain, the code contains basic, realistic principles that can be applied by small and medium-sized companies, regardless of their differences in business model and capacities.

The Code of Conduct orientates itself on - and expresses the internationally recognized principles for the protection of workers - as it is stated in the Human Rights Declaration of the United Nations, the ILO labour standards, the guiding principles for economic and human rights, as well as the OECD guiding principles for multi-national businesses. Additionally, the Code is based on relevant international environmental protection agreements.

These international laws fundamentally bind governments, not businesses. Therefore, its implementation is government responsibility. The companies of the textile and fashion industry support the goal of enforcing human rights, as well as social and ecological standards, in the economic value creation process. The companies can contribute by aligning their business practices with human rights agreement principles. They do this in the knowledge that this is a long-term process whose success is dependent on a pragmatic and constructive collaboration of government institutions, businesses, as well as social protagonists. 1


1 The mentioning of agreements under international law in given text is to be understood that the
companies orientate themselves on the contents as far as it is possible for private-sector organizations.


1. Basic Understanding of Socially Responsible Business Leadership

  • Compliance with the Law
  • The companies adhere to the laws of the respective countries in which they are economically active. They respect the principles of the Code of Conduct – especially in countries with weak governmental structures – and thereby embolden their business partners to do the same. In the eventuality that national regulations contradict the content of the code, or the domestic context do not make it possible to follow human rights policies without restriction, the companies should make every effort to preserve said policies and the contents of the existing Code of Conduct.
  • Social Contribution
  • The companies consider themselves a member of the society in which they are entrepreneurially active. Through their business activity they contribute by promoting well-being, advancement and sustainable development. They take into account indirect and immediate implications of their business on society and the environment, and make every effort to achieve an appropriate balance of interests in the respect of the economy, as well as social and ecological matters. The companies respect and accept the diverse laws, social and cultural backgrounds of the countries in which they are active, and respect the structure, customs and traditions of said countries. In case of conflict with the hereby-stated principles, the companies will engage in a dialogue with their business partners and work toward acceptance and understanding.
  • Ethical Management and Integrity
  • The companies follow legal business practices in accordance with competitive business practice, competition, industrial property rights of third parties, as well as cartel and legal regulations. They decline all forms of corruption and bribery - and in their own way encourage responsible and conscientious business management - as well as transparency, accountability, responsibility, openness, and integrity. Business partners are to be treated fairly and contracts are to be adhered to, insofar as that the basic principles are not fundamentally changed. Generally, ethical values and principles are to be respected, this particularly applies to human dignity and internationally recognized human rights.

2. Respect of Human Rights

The protection of human rights is the duty of the respective countries in which the company is economically active. In order to enforce this, the companies should support the duty of the government to respect these rights within their territory. Companies should avoid any activity that may compromise or have adverse effects upon human rights.

In order to comply with the respect of human rights, the company should, dependent upon size, exercise due diligence to determine the risk factor regarding the severity, context and nature of the impact upon human rights. In the event that adverse effects extend to human rights, which the enterprises caused or contributed to, as a result of, and in connection with, their business relationships, business practices, products or services, due diligence must be applied. Due diligence proceedings should encompass and include investigation, mitigation, avoidance of - and if necessary - restitution for potentially adverse effects upon human rights.

3. Labour Laws and Conditions

The companies respect the core standards of the international labour organizations and establish a safe and humane working environment.

  • Freedom of Association and the Right of Collective Bargaining
  • The companies respect the right of the workers and employers to form organizations of their own choosing - without prior authorization - which support and protect the interests of the workers. The enterprises also respect the right of workers and employers to engage in collective bargaining regarding wages and working condition. Workers may not be disadvantaged due to occupation or membership in workers’ organizations.
  • In countries where the principles regarding freedom and right of association, as well as collective bargaining, are not adhered to i.e. the practice of these rights are limited or forbidden, the companies are to allow their workers to elect representatives with whom they are able to enter a dialogue regarding workplace issues. The company should respect the rights of the workers to put forward complaints without being disadvantaged in any way. These complaints should be handled with a suitable procedure.
  • Prohibition of Forced Labour
  • The companies will not accept economic activity on the basis of forced or compulsory labour, debt bondage or servitude. This includes any type of labour or service required of a person under threat of penalty for which they have not made themselves voluntarily available.
  • Prohibition of Child Labour and Protection of Young Workers
  • The Companies are committed to the effective abolition of child labour. They heed the legal minimum age for admission to employment or work, which must not be - in accordance with the provisions of the International Labour Organization –, under the age at which compulsory education ends, and not under the age of 15.
  • In the framework of the hiring process, appropriate mechanisms should prevent child labour. In the case that an employer has determined child labour, appropriate measures should be initiated which rectify the situation and centre on the well-being and protection of the child and lead to social reintegration. Companies only hire adolescents from the age of 16, if the nature or circumstances of the work do not endanger life, health, or morals, and they receive appropriate instruction or vocational training in the relevant sector.
  • Prohibition of Discrimination in Employment and Occupation
  • All forms of discrimination, exclusion or preference which is carried out on the basis of ethnic origin, skin colour, sex, religion, political orientation, nationality, or social origin and leads to inequality in work or occupation are prohibited. In addition, the policy of ‚equal work for equal pay` for male or female workers must be adhered to.
  • Labour Hours
  • Unless any applicable national laws or applicable tariff rules set no lower maximum hours of work, the regular working hours should not exceed, at most, 48 hours, with a maximum of 12 hours overtime per week. Overtime will be paid in accordance with legal tariff regulations and is to remain an exception.
  • Companies must provide their workers the right to rest periods in each working day and observe the relevant statutory holidays. A non-working day is to be granted after six consecutive days of work.
  • Wages
  • Minimum wage must not fall below those set by the state or by tariff. The companies must note that in countries without tariff or a regulatory framework of pay for regular full-time work, pay must be sufficient in order to meet the basic needs of workers. At the same time, they understand that they cannot alone secure the human dignity and livelihood of the workers and that other state supplementary benefits or social protection measures are necessary. Wages are not to be held back and are paid out regularly in a manner suitable to the workers. Wage deductions are allowed only within the statutory or collective agreement and must be disclosed. The employees will be informed regularly regarding the composition of their work remuneration.
  • Employment Practices
  • The rules of the national labour law must be complied with. Comprehensible information regarding the essential working conditions, including working hours, remuneration, payment and invoicing, must be made available to the workers. The companies protect the right of workers to end their employment relationship with the applicable period of notice. In addition, the companies strive to promote the professional qualifications of workers.
  • Health and Safety in the Workplace
  • The companies should take appropriate measures to ensure health and safety at the workplace - taking into account national requirements in the framework of its activities - in order to prevent accidents at work and to protect the health of their workers. Valid requirements regarding health, work and workplace safety, as well as building and fire safety must be adhered to in order to reduce the risk of accidents and occupational health hazards to a minimum. Workers are to be provided with adequate personal protective equipment where necessary and appropriate. The workers have the right and obligation to immediately vacate their work place without permission. Needy persons, such as adolescent workers, young mothers, pregnant women or persons with disabilities should receive special protection.
  • Humane Treatment of Workers
  • The companies are to treat their workers with dignity and respect and will refrain from any form of unworthy treatment, abuse, harassment, intimidation or illegal sanctions. Disciplinary measures must be put in writing and in a form that is comprehensible to the workers.

4. Environmental Protection

The companies shall comply with the applicable laws, regulations, and administrative practices to protect human beings and the environment of the countries in which they are active. They should exercise their business practices in such a way that they contribute to the general goal of sustainable development. For this purpose, companies should set up a tailored system that enables them to examine their operational activities regarding harmful environmental impact, and to take all reasonable measures to reduce the burden on the people and environment, in accordance with the existing regional laws and regulations, and to avoid environmental damage and provide relief within the framework of its possibilities.

The companies are committed to the continuous and long-term improvement of their environmental performance by promoting the introduction of appropriate technologies and production processes which allow the efficient use of natural resources and energies, as well as a reduction of emissions. They seek an evaluation of the chemicals used, and choose them according to occupational safety, health, and consumer protection aspects and replace especially harmful chemicals. The proper disposal of waste, as well as the possible reuse of materials, are important if the local conditions allow for this.

5. Consumer Interests

The companies take appropriate measures to ensure the quality of the products they offer. They ensure that their products comply with all legal regulations regarding the health and safety of consumers, and that they are safe and harmless for the intended purpose. The companies take into consideration consumer interests, sales information and activities by promoting fair business, marketing, and advertising practices.

6. Animal and Species Protection

The companies observe the species-appropriate principles of animal protection, husbandry, and usage within their business activities and acknowledge the Washington Convention (CITIES) for the protection of plants and animals and align their business practices accordingly.

7. Communication

The companies communicate the content of the Code of Conduct to their workers, contractual partners, and where appropriate, third parties. It should be transparent for the contractual partners in order to assure basic compliance. Disclosure of confidential or sensitive business, operational, and competitive information is excluded for legal reasons.

8. Implementation and Enforcement

The companies respect the existing Code of Conduct in their activities. They encourage their business partners to apply it by analogy. The companies support the development of their business partners’ supply chain in such a way that human and labour laws are respected and working conditions and continuously improved.

In the interest of good corporate governance, the companies anchor the principles of responsible corporate management to the strategic and operative management systems referred to in this code.

Updated: 6 March 2015


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