Dibella 'The Green Hotel Room'

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1 02 Dibella 'The Green Hotel Room' Future Shapers A Decade of Innovation in Textile Sustainability ( ) THE GREEN HOTEL ROOM BY DIBELLA A few years back, the hotel industry started going green. Many initiatives sprung up, ranging from refreshing towels only on the guest s demand, to using room cards in order to manage air conditioning and lights, to offering a selection of organic and Fairtrade food. However, not much attention has been given to the origin of the billions of bed sheets and towels, all made from cotton and / or polyester, being used each day in the hotel industry. How could a hotel improve the sustainability of the enormous amount of cotton they use? This became the mission and passion - of the German-Dutch company, Dibella; offering organic and Fairtrade organic cotton bed, bath and table linens to hotels and hospitals. p 1

2 We re also going organic and I m very proud of our companies that either sell or use organic Fairtrade cotton, such as Dibella and the town hotel Kolping. Peter Nebelo, Mayor of Bocholt All hotel rooms and conference rooms are entirely equipped with eco-friendly textiles made of organic cotton certified by GOTS. We inform our guests by presenting them brochures about the Standard and explain to them the importance and positive impact of organic hotel linen to improve the quality of life in developing countries Mr. Benedikt Meiring manager of the Kolping Hotel p 2

3 Location: Headquartered literally on the border between Germany and the Netherlands (Bocholt in Germany and Aalten in the Netherlands). The company does business mainly in Europe. Type of Business Dibella is a Business to Business company; contracting textiles suitable for industrial use: bed linens and sheets, table linens, towels, and terry goods. Turnover: 20 million euro in % of sales with laundries for hotels and hospitals (70% hotel market and 30% hospital market) Number of Employees: 25 employees. Began selling organic cotton bed linens: May Sustainability Collection: Organic Cotton, Fairtrade Cotton, Recycled Polyester, Tencel. Certifications: GOTS and Fairtrade. Targets: 10% of sales in Organic and Fairtrade cotton by Future Ambitions: Export the concept of the Green Hotel Room internationally. Recent Recognition: The UN Global Compact will report during Rio+20 about Dibella, presenting it as a best practice enterprise. p 3

4 In the Beginning End of 2010, Max Havelaar sent a video to all hotel chains (see page 2) in the Netherlands with the aim of encouraging them to buy linens made of Fairtrade cotton. This video created an unexpected buzz and hotel chains started to think about their responsibility, not only with regards to their operations but also about their daily use of linens and towels. At that time, Dibella, already had over 20 years experience in the business, selling linens to linen rental companies, who in turn rent these linens to hotels and hospitals. The company was carefully considering the sustainability component of its business. The first request for Fairtrade linens from a Dutch linen rental company came in at the end of 2010, making it the trigger for the company to start its line of entirely sustainable textiles named BREEZE, specially intended for the hotel industry. Ralf Hellmann, CEO of Dibella, immediately championed the idea and saw the potential to make a significant and impactful change in this untapped yet potentially massive market. After carrying out research on the different standards and certifications available, Dibella first achieved GOTS certified organic cotton for their linens and then a combination of organic and Fairtrade. Since May 2011, both Fairtrade and organic cotton have become an essential part of Dibella s sustainability strategy as the company endeavors to offer an entirely ecologically and socially responsible product to its customers. Key Success Factors: Tackle an untapped yet extremely impactful sector Be an omnipresent ambassador: awareness is still low. Keep on finding like minded partners to advance the concept. Longlife Textiles is the company strapline: always offer high quality products at a competitive rate. p 4

5 PHOTO: Ralf Hellmann, CEO of Dibella second left with Peter Nebelo, Mayor of Bocholt, Germany third left (by Bruno Wansing, The Journey So Far... The industry Most European hotels and hospitals outsource the management of their linens to linen rental companies. These companies provide the hotels and hospitals with crisp, fresh linen every day. This presents several advantages for the hotel / healthcare industry such as no need for investing in linens, a maintenance contract in which all the repairs and replacements of damaged linen are being taken care of and, most importantly, new fresh linens supplied whenever needed. This set-up also enables the hotel industry to adapt to seasonal fluctuations when more or less linen is needed. The hotel and healthcare industries respectively rent their linens from these specialised linen rental companies. The market In order to put the market of hotel linens in context, Germany - Dibella home market - is a good example. Germany counts 20,467 hotels and B&Bs which represents 775,000 rooms and 1,389,000 beds (this data excludes pensions, guest houses, serviced apartments and other types of vacation accommodation). These figures, for just the German market, can be multiplied at a European and global level and give an overview of this huge market. The concept of the Green Hotel Room brings together the full meaning of the impact this can have on changing the industry s current behaviour. p 5

6 p 6 The awareness While the hotel industry has been focusing on sustainability initiatives linked to energy efficiency, water conservation, development of local communities around hotels and the offer of an organic or Fairtrade food selection, few steps have been taken to address the origin of linens, and the sustainability of the raw materials, such as cotton. So far, the major challenge faced by Dibella has been the low awareness of linen rental companies and hotel chains on these topics. Dibella is continuously raising awareness on all fronts but mainly focuses on the linen rental companies since these are their customers. Additionally, a combined Organic / Fairtrade product is knowingly more expensive than its conventional counterpart, making the BREEZE line a not so easy sell in an industry increasingly putting price pressure on linens. But as Dibella argues, the BREEZE line is not about the price but about the offer of a socially and ecologically added value product for its customers and a fair redistribution of income to cotton farmers and their family. The BREEZE line Another difficult task common to all innovators is to find the right balance between the quality, the feel (crisp, comfortable), the price point and the sustainability aspect of the final product. In the industry, there is a disagreement between hotels, who would prefer linens made of 100% cotton and laundries rental companies, who prefer to include 50% of polyester in the linens due to longer life of the linens. According to Dibella, the ideal compromise would be 80% cotton and 20% polyester which would then bridge the two competing requirements. But, this represents a challenge for the certification of the product and for Dibella s philosophy of offering a completely sustainable line. Dibella is now investigating how to include recycled polyester in the BREEZE line and is making tests with its supplier to see if the recycled fabric would be suitable for bed linens. The BREEZE line is exclusively offered in white or off white colour which means that the chemical impact in the dyeing process is significantly minimized.

7 Value Chain Partners After a first start in organic cotton, Dibella very soon decided to offer an entirely sustainable product and so chose to encompass both the organic and Fairtrade components of cotton. Finding a supplier able to provide the company with both Fairtrade and organic cotton has been a challenge. Introduced by the Fairtrade organisation, Dibella works closely with an Indian company who is able to supply Dibella with the desired fabric. This fabric is then sewed in the Czech Republic by a business partner who has undergone both Fairtrade and organic certification, making it the first sewing supplier in the Czech Republic to be certified to both standards. For towels, Dibella is supplied with readymade towels made of 100% organic and Fairtrade cotton by the same supplier in India who sources their cotton fiber from organic cotton producer partners and then, spins, weaves and finishes it to final product. Making a Difference Dibella works very closely with the Fairtrade organisation who provide support and networking opportunities to the company. This is especially true with the Dutch and German Fairtrade organisation who acknowledges the enormous and untapped potential of the hotel industry. After Fairtrade s thought-provoking movie was sent to actors in the Netherlands, they started close discussions with major linen rental companies to raise awareness on the issues in the cotton industry and get the industry on board. p 7

8 Advocacy and Leadership p 8 So how do you even begin to raise the awareness of an entire industry? Mr. Hellmann decided to start this journey organically, by focusing on his company s German hometown Bocholt. There, he is in close contact with the Mayor, Peter Nebelo, in order to have all the hotels of the city (7 of them) offer at least one Green Hotel Room to their guests and make this a media event for the city, and for Dibella. In addition, a hotel from the Kolping chain newly opened in Bocholt and the entire hotel was supplied with sustainable textiles from Dibella s BREEZE line. This attracted media attention and created a buzz around this innovative concept. Mr. Hellmann s dream is for each German city to have at least one Green Hotel Room. He is also keen to expand internationally in the other markets. Besides the important fact that farmers are being respected when sleeping in these bed linens, the Green Hotel Room is a powerful way to raise awareness on these topics with hotel guests as they are explained what a Fairtrade / organic room is and why it is important. (see Kopling quote below) This is also a powerful way for hotels to diversify their sustainability programmes into innovative and leading initiatives. Telling the Story Dibella has developed an innovative communication s concept around its BREEZE line, which is the Green Hotel Room for guests whose commitment to the environment and social justice does not stop when they go to sleep. The Organic / Fairtrade products are part of a wider company Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy. Dibella is the first company in its industry to release a CSR report. Published in April 2012, this report is based on the ISO guidelines and shows that Dibella is working towards embedding sustainability in the core activities of its business. Dibella has been sourcing from the same supply base for many years and these suppliers have abided to the company s ethical requirements and policies. Every new supplier is assessed against these policies but also against the SA8000 and GOTS standards. On the environmental part of its operations, besides its organic cotton product line, Dibella works to source more sustainable office supplies and its car fleet has been partly replaced by LPG cars. The CO 2 emissions Dibella is unable to reduce are offset via Atmosfair GmbH, a climate protection organization based in Germany focused on compensating emissions generated through travels.

9 Where to Next? Dibella s target is to have 10% of its sales coming from its BREEZE line by Since starting in May 2011, already 80,000 euros of BREEZE linen has been sold to linen rental companies. The company is confident that the market will grow quickly in the near future and has already stored 200,000 euros worth of organic / Fairtrade linens. With the passion and dynamic work of its team, Dibella will ensure us a good night s sleep because our commitment to social justice does not stop when we go to sleep. By using organic and Fairtrade cotton products, Dibella is proud to be contributing to improving the living and working conditions of organic and Fairtrade cotton farmers and also protecting the environment. Ralf Hellmann, CEO of Dibella p 9

10 For more information on Dibella, please visit Textile Exchange inspires and equips people to accelerate sustainable practices in the textile value chain. We focus on minimizing the harmful impacts and maximizing the positive effects of the global textile industry. Our signature program focuses on organic cotton value chains; improving lives for farmers, stimulating markets, and supporting best practice. Website: farmhub.textileexchange.org/ Copyright. All rights reserved.

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