About us

Vision and Mission

A world where every company understands/ sees itself as part of the whole and measures its success based on added value for the entire planet – to put it briefly:

Sustainability as a matter of course!

This vision is the basis of our mission: not only defining sustainable economics but also making it visible to the outside world. Only then can these sustainable measures be perceived and honored by consumers. 

This appreciation is the prerequisite for a change of the current paradigm towards an economy that is fit for the future and generations to come. Following the principle “Economy should serve the people, not vice versa” we offer solutions.

Since 2011 already we are following our mission and acting on different levels. In doing so, we manage the balancing act between a profound/ strong understanding of sustainability and the mechanism of a free market economy.

The CSE standard offers you a unique and consistent criterion for corporate sustainability. In today´s world it is possible to do business in a sustainable way and to make it verifiable and transparent, as shown by our CSE standard. We support both companies in making sustainable alternatives visible and private individuals in finding them.

In various working groups and expert panels, we discuss current developments and findings and develop ways to exploit further sustainability potential. We help to make the congruence or discrepancy between theory and practice measurable and comprehensible. We help making it visible and comprehensible if there is a congruency or discrepancy between sustainability in theory and practice.

With our product and company certifications we contribute to transparency in the area of quality labels and thwart the concept of greenwashing. Beyond that, we are committed to participating in political discourses on sustainability and thus bringing in our know-how on various levels.

Our team

The core team of GfaW is backed by the advisory board, the office assistance and freelancers in the areas of marketing and IT.

Sophie von Lilienfeld-Toal
Dipl. Ing. Agrarwissenschaften, Gründerin und Geschäftsführerin

Lisa Throm
Assistenz der Geschäftsleitung, Kundenbetreuung

Prof. Dr. Hermann von Lilienfeld-Toal
Mediziner, Gesellschafter

Martin Henkemeier
Journalist, Redaktion und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit

Der GfaW-Beirat

Der Beirat untersützt die GfaW in inhaltlichen und strategischen Fragen.

Sebastian von Eltz
freier Berater und Geschäftsführer Victualium UG

Prof. Thomas Köbberling
Fachbereich Oecotrophologie, Hochschule Fulda

Dr. Annett Baumast
Dozentin für Kultur- und Medienmanagement, Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Jens Pape
Leiter Fachgebiet Nachhaltige Unternehmensführung, Hochschule Eberswalde

Working method of GfaW

GfaW is the owner of the CSE, NCP, NCS and NATURE THANX standards. With our company and product certifications, manufacturers of sustainable and ecological products can make their consistent sustainable actions and production visible and communicate them to the outside world.

Our main ambition is to support consumers on their way to make conscious and sustainable buying decisions.

Certifications provide orientation and are trustworthy as they fulfil a high standard of quality. Furthermore, they allow consumers to navigate through all the ecological and non-ecological as well as sustainable and non-sustainable produced products on the market.

GfaW develops the criteria of the standards, the procedure and the design of the labels. The intention and basis for the decision-making process is the consensus between the standard users and the experts. Practical implementations in daily business as well as regular work group meetings eventually result in finding a consensus.

What is the basis of our actions?

Realizing that changed “living conditions” require new “survival strategies” is our main motivation. Considering the global challenges that humanity is facing it may be helpful to refocus on the questions: “What actually characterizes a good life? What makes us satisfied or happy?”

Non-monetary values such as community, solidarity, responsibility, friendship, trust, relationships, etc. rank first. Sustainable management aims to promote these values and to establish a “good life” for all people.

We see ourselves as pioneers for a respective economic and cultural development. The Economy for the Common Good and the CSE standard offer a possible answer to the question of how we can change from an entirely profit-oriented economy to one that is based on ethical values and functions within existing structures. Our ecological product certifications can be an entry into a more sustainable way of doing business.

In close dialogue with committed actors from economy, society and science we are continuously working on the question of “how” sustainable economics could be put into practice. We are convinced that change can only be realized through the participation of all those who are involved in the process.

Our actions are based on a “strong” understanding of sustainability. Strong sustainability means that natural and artificial resources are not interchangeable. Therefore, the total amount of natural resources and their composition should not only be preserved but increased, if possible.
This understanding has a direct impact on business growth: the paradigm of quantitative growth has become strongly entrenched in modern civilization. Driven by capital markets and predatory competition companies also feel the pressure to grow. We at GfaW fully understand this dilemma. On the other hand, first examples of companies that focus on the growth of quality certainly show that other ways of doing business is possible (see "already aboard").

How are we organized?

How do we ensure the quality of the certification?

The quality of a a certification is determined by several factors. The basis of every certification is the scope which must be defined. To be of significance, the criteria must be clearly assigned, formulated and, above all, testable and measurable.

The quality attributes scope and significance are ensured already while developing the standard and its criteria.

Another quality attribute is the audit frequency – the regularity with which a company is audited. The last 12 months of the business´ activities form basis of the certification process. From that, prospective necessary measures can be derived.

To ensure our ambitious goals, it makes sense to implement annual audits.

Good to know: the criteria of a product certification only apply on the products themselves; the CSE certification is a combination of management, company and product certification. Thus, the certifications differ in their extent and process.

The audit process for a product certification equals every year and involves checking the qualities of the raw materials that are used during production. This includes the ingredients for the product and the packaging. Based on random samples, the qualities can be checked by means of batch traceability.

When it comes to the CSE sustainability certification the extent of the certification process can vary from year to year. Experience shows that the initial audit is very extensive since the implementation of a management system mostly takes longer than one year and doesn´t change annually. The follow-up audits serve to review the initiated process. The focus in on the compliance with the absolute criteria, the product-related criteria and, if necessary, the implementation of measures to eliminate deviations. The fourth-year audit will be a more extensive one again.

The communication with the certification bodies is another quality characteristic for us. Through regular exchange, GfaW as standard owner keeps close touch to the standard users and receives information about the reasonableness, manageability and sustainable benefit of the criteria in a timely manner. Periodically, but at least once a month we exchange information with the certification body.

Training and further education of the auditors are another important component when ensuring the quality of certifications; GfaW offers trainings at least once a year.

GfaW also assures a complaint management concerning the certifications which is a specification of the ISO 17065 for certification bodies. Complaints reaching us directly are processed personally by the management and are incorporated into our process according to the principle of continuous improvement.

How and by whom are decisions made?

When developing and defining criteria, we always act holistically while being aware of our principles defined previously.

Thus, when gathering new criteria, the added value, in terms of sustainability, is paramount to us. Thereby, a comprehensive understanding of sustainability considering ecological, social and economic aspects at the same time is a premise.

When developing a new criterion, we ask ourselves the following questions, all of which must be answered with a "yes" - whether the criterion is developed for a new standard or an existing standard that needs to be updated.

  • Does the criterion meet the related scope of the standard?
  • Does this criterion provide a distinction from a non-ecological product or a non-sustainable business practice?
  • Does the criterion minimize rebound effects?
  • Is the criterion measurable? Is it clearly assigned and specified?
  • Does the criterion meet our intention and our definition of sustainability?

We develop new and update existing standards in line with our vision and induced by impulses that are brought to us.
If daily business, research or expert discussions show that our standards need to be changed, GfaW management acts according to the following defined scheme:
The management prepares a draft, which is discussed with the participants from economy and science at the next work group meeting (if there is an urgent update that cannot be deferred, the companies that are directly affected are informed immediately in advance).

The results of the work groups are incorporated into the draft, which is sent out for comment to all stakeholders and those it affects (certification body, customers, experts). Following this final round of voting, the changes are incorporated into the updated standard; the respective version can be clearly identified by its version number.

The current standard is available online at any time on the website under downloads. If you have any queries, please contact our office. unter downloads abrufbar. Bei Rückfragen wenden Sie sich bitte an die Geschäftsstelle.

Find out about the procedure and working method in our work groups

When are standard-related decisions made?

The work group meetings take place regularly once a year and if necessary, there are additional meetings. They are convened by the managing director of GfaW.

How can the public participate?

You are very welcome to participate. You can either get in touch with us via our contact form, by email or by phone. On our social media platforms (e.g. Instagram, LinkedIn or Xing) we exchange views with stakeholders and consumers, especially on topics like our CSE label.

What do we at GfaW do in terms of sustainability?

As the developer and owner of the most ambitious and comprehensive sustainability standard, we obviously adhere to the defined principles too.

Since February 2019, the GfaW has been certified according to the CSE standard. Our certificate can be viewed here. angesehen werden.

In our office we only use items from the sustainable wholesaler memo including recycled paper. When purchasing new computers or other electronic equipment, we also buy them from memo or AfB.

Our server provider works with green electricity from hydropower and uses energy-efficient hardware.

Both our electricity and gas are sourced from Greenpeace Energy. Additional emissions from greenhouse gases are compensated with atmosfair.
In addition to the legal requirements from the existing waste separation system (residual waste, yellow bag, etc.) we reuse packaging material or paper that is printed only on one side. For room care, we use cleaning agents of our CSE pioneers Sonett and Sodasan.

And, as a matter of course, the idea of sufficiency can be found in all our operational processes – from consumables to travel expenses.
Additional emissions from greenhouse gases are compensated with myclimate.

Furthermore, we introduced a sustainability management system analogous to ISO 14001:2015.

Our employees are mainly free to divide up their working hours and have the option of working mostly from their home offices. Regular meetings ensure transparency in a structure of flat hierarchies in which suggestions and impulses of all participants are understood as potential. The personal well-being of our employees and partners forms the basis of a trusting and successful cooperation.
Beyond that, we aim to build long-term partnerships that are based on shared values.

Currently, we are investing in the infrastructure of the GfaW and the development of our certification tools and processes. As soon as surpluses or else profits are generated, they flow into a foundation for the common good, which is about to be founded.

Partners and Cooperations

Together we can achieve more than alone. To offer you the best possible support for more sustainability in your company, we work together with the following partners:

Partners, Network and Work Groups

Work Group "Lived Sustainability"

The work group “lived sustainability” regularly deals with the criteria of the CSE standard, the background of ethical actions and the tension between the desire for a sustainable economy and the actions that are actually taken. Participants are CSE-certified companies, invited experts, certification bodies and interested parties. Our expert panel consists of the GfaW, certification bodies, scientists and label users. Regular transfer of ideas and knowledge form the basis of our cooperation. Together we develop sustainable, hence social, ecological and economic requirements for companies and organizations.

Work Group "Ecological Raw Materials"

The work group “ecological raw material” deals with the requirements of ecological natural products.

Food and unprocessed agricultural products can be labeled organic. Basis for this is the EU-Eco-Regulation. Anyhow, there is no comparable eco-regulation for natural products, that are produced and processed by agriculture or forestry but are not food.

Consumers expect and claim that natural products are also produced in natural processes as far as possible. Thus, there is a huge demand for more transparency and organic quality.

The work group aims for paving the way for more transparency as well as documenting, securing and making quality visible.

A central role plays the replacement of petrochemical starting materials with plant-, sometimes animal- or fungus-derived substances. This replacement is absolutely pioneering especially performed by the producers of natural cosmetics, ecological detergents and cleaning agents as well as household articles. After all, the main aim is to guarantee or even improve the functionality of the products.

If the plant- or animal-based raw materials also come from organic farming, then a truly ecological non-food product is generated!

If you are interested in attending a working group meeting, please email or call us.

Cooperations

Consulting:

sustaineration
The sustainability consultancy sustaineration expands our range of consulting services for sustainably operating companies, especially for the implementation of ISO 14001.

ClimatePartner 
ClimatePartner cooperates with us together with the sustainability label CSE. Certified companies receive attractive conditions on CO2 calculation and offsetting.
Thereby we complete our offer of measuring, evaluating and communicating sustainability measures in a customer-friendly manner.

inci-experts
inci-experts offers expertise in the field of chemistry from lab to shelf.

Certification Bodies:

EcoControl GmbH 
A certification body focusing on the organic non-food sector.

Prüfgesellschaft ökologischer Landbau GmbH
A certification and inspection body focusing on organic food.

Memberships

We support the following institutions through our membership:

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