It is not news that brands are unhappy with the German Stiftung Warentest (“foundation product testing”), which has a powerful voice among German consumers. Warentest does not specialize in certain product categories, but tests any type of consumer goods and financial services. The results are published in the foundation's magazine Test.
The new development is that several important brands have joined forces to write an open letter to the press to criticize the testing practices. Before, there had been some individual action – legal or other – by individual companies, which usually ended with any precise results. The open letter was sent out by Bundesverband der Deutschen Sportartikel Industrie (BSI), the German manufacturers' lobby group. The letter was signed by Adidas, Haglöfs, Intersport, Killtec, Maier Sports, Mammut Sports Group, Marmot Mountain Europe, Regatta, Salewa, Schöffel, SportScheck, The North Face and Vaude.
The letter refers to a report in Issue 8/2012 of Test that describes the testing of 17 rain jackets. The results were overall and on average not really satisfactory. BSI criticizes the comparability of the tested jackets, some of the testing methods and the analysis of the social footprint of the manufacturing companies.
Warentest's idea was to test two-layer jackets that were designed for daily use in the city or bike and hike tours in spring or autumn. The retail price ranged from €85 to €300. BSI hints that such a wide spectrum of prices comprises both advanced products and those for absolute beginners. The comparability of all those products in one single test appears to be highly suspect for the manufacturing industry.
The products were tested under extremely tough conditions, for example in a “water tower” where water pours as strong as 450 liters per square meter an hour. In Central Europe, even a heavy rainfall usually does not have more than 30 liters/sqm/h. BSI argues that a monsoon in tropical regions reaches perhaps 90 liters/sqm/h. Therefore, the testing procedures may be appropriate for professional workwear for sailors or workers on a offshore oil platform, but certainly not for jackets for the use as described above.
Warentest also put an eye on the corporate social responsibility of the manufacturing companies. BSI said it was disappointed that the test team did not appreciate the industry's efforts of investing in and working with independent monitoring bodies such as the Fair Wear Foundation or the Fair Labor Association. Instead, Warentest measured the CSR on the basis of the calculations of Asian Floor Wage. BSI says that this was a project developed by trade unions that is basically applied nowhere in the world.