These days it’s hard to know which brands can back up their grand claims of sustainability, and which ones are rather greenwashing. One good way to find out if a brand is walking the walk is by searching for their sustainable and ethical fashion certifications.
It is important to know what these particular certifications mean so you have the ability to make your own decisions confidently. That’s why we have put together a list with the most important certifications with regards to materials, factories, and brands as a whole.
The independent bluesign® programme focuses on legal compliance in relation to environmental health and safety. It combines aspects of consumer safety, water and air emissions and occupational health, with a particular focus on the reduction of harmful substance usage at the early stages of production.
Fairtrade advocates for the protection of the rights of farming and worker communities all around the world. If a product carries the Fairtrade mark, they are supporting the rights and the livelihood of these workers; workers who, with the material or item they are producing, are meeting social, economic, and environmental standards agreed upon internationally.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is exactly as it sounds; it sets the standard for textiles made from organic fibres. GOTS certified products adhere to strict environmental and social criteria, and must contain a minimum of 70% organic fibres.
GOTS was developed by leading standard setters to define world-wide recognised requirements - from the harvesting of the raw materials, to environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, to labelling.
More than 1,000 companies are using the PETA-Approved Vegan logo to highlight clothing, accessories, furniture, and home decor items made of vegan alternatives to animal-derived materials such as leather, fur, silk, feathers, or bone.
RCS and GRS
The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) and Global Recycled Standard (GRS) are international, voluntary standards that set requirements for third-party certification of recycled input and chain of custody. The shared goal of the standards is to increase the use of recycled materials.
The GRS includes additional criteria for social and environmental processing requirements and chemical restrictions.
The Responsible Wool Standard is an industry tool designed to recognize the best practices of farmers, ensuring that wool comes from farms with a progressive approach to managing their land, and from sheep that have been treated responsibly. On farms, the certification ensures that sheep are treated with respect to their five freedoms (freedom from hunger or thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom to express (most) normal behavior; freedom from fear and distress) and also ensures best practices in the management and protection of the land. The standard is globally applicable to all breeds of sheep, and mulesing is strictly prohibited.
STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®
The STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX is a third-party textile certification that tests at all levels of processing against a strict criteria. Finished or raw yarns, woven and knitted fabrics, accessories including buttons and zips, and garments of all types are examples of the materials that can be tested and Standard 100 Certified.
If a business is labelled as a Certified B Corporation it means that it has been recognised as a corporation that is playing its part in driving positive change towards a more sustainable economy. Certified B Corps balance profit and purpose, are completely transparent, and meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance. It is a long process to get the B Corp certification and includes a holistic approach towards sustainability with a detailed impact assessment, report and legal framework.
Climate Neutral Certified
Climate Neutral is a nonprofit organization working to decrease global carbon emissions. They help brands decrease their emissions with their streamlined, trusted certification process and clear measurements. Climate Neutral Certified brands are taking the lead. By measuring, offsetting, and reducing their footprints, these brands are setting the standard for corporate climate action.
BSCI provides companies with a social auditing methodology and report. It does not organise audits itself but provides a network of external accredited, experienced and independent auditing companies. Also, as part of the BSCI approach, social audits only represent one pillar of activity, complementary to capacity building and strong relations with all stakeholders of the supply chain.BSCI is not a certification scheme but provides a system that helps companies to gradually improve working conditions in their supply chain. Producers that meet all BSCI requirements are encouraged to go further and achieve the best practice, the SA8000 social management certification.
Fair Wear Foundation
Fair Wear Foundation is an independent multi-stakeholder organisation that works with garment brands, garment workers and industry influencers to improve labour conditions in garment factories. Receiving the Fair Wear stamp of approval does not guarantee any existing quality of labour standards, instead demonstrating a stated interest in actively working toward improvement and changing the industry.
Leather Working Group
Leather Working Group is a not-for-profit organisation responsible for the world's leading environmental certification for the leather manufacturing industry. As a multi-stakeholder group, LWG boasts over 1000 members from across the leather supply chain. Since 2005, LWG has identified environmental best practices in the industry and provided guidelines for continual improvement. They offer a suite of auditing tools to assess the environmental performance of leather manufacturing facilities and certify those that meet the standards.
This social responsibility standard is a code of conduct verification and factory certification program that enables manufacturers to demonstrate social compliance to buyers. Largely for apparel, textiles and manufacturing, it is the leading social certification for factories to have. It shows fair treatment of workers and abides by labour provisions within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Labour Organization. It does not have a consumer-facing label.
SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) is the most widely used social audit in the world. SMETA is Sedex's social auditing methodology, enabling businesses to assess their sites and suppliers to understand working conditions in their supply chain. SMETA audits use the ETI Base Code, founded on the conventions of the International Labor Organization, as well as relevant local laws. SMETA audits can be conducted against two or four auditing pillars. The two pillars mandatory for any SMETA audit are Labor Standards and Health & Safety. The two additional pillars of a 4-pillar audit are Business Ethics and Environment.
Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) is the world’s largest factory-based certification programme for manufacturers of clothing, footwear and other sewn products. The WRAP programme certifies facilities for compliance with the 12 WRAP Principles which assure safe, legal and ethical manufacturing processes. A WRAP certification audit inspects the entire production process.