Susan Maure Clandillon
For many of us interested in “sustainability”, the term represents incremental lifestyle changes away from over-consumption and towards conscious, considered daily habits that respect the planet and those living on it. For many big brands however, sustainability means one thing and one thing only: P R O F I T.
Big chains like H&M have spent the last few years flooding the global fashion market with intensely promoted conscious collections that are released alongside the rest of their fast fashion offering. Their self congratulatory rhetoric serving as an indication that they believe this might absolve them of the damage that their model of production does to our planet…
A brand can tell us they are sustainable because they’ve launched a range of organic cotton t-shirts or they’ve started to use recycled polyester, but if this is just a small percentage of their products, then it means very little in reality. Deception and false pretences is rampant in the fashion industry (e.g. garments with the word “organic” splashed all over them, despite the organic content only being at a mere 10% total – or less!).
While we’d always try to encourage people to opt for second-hand clothes where possible (via charity shops or the likes of Depop, Thriftify and eBay), we do appreciate that from time to time a new garment is necessary. And if you are going to buy new clothes, then there are a few truly sustainable and environmentally conscious certifications to keep your peepers peeled for.
These are credible, third party certifications that are sure to help you navigate the choppy waters of corporate greenwashing, and bring home clothes that don’t cost the earth. Being aware of these labels and certifications can help you to make smarter choices as a consumer as you celebrate brands that ensure the highest standards and are actively trying to use organic materials, protect the environment and uphold worker’s rights.
Take a screenshot of the below logos; remember what they represent; and when you must buy new, try to make it an item that flounces one of the below certifications on its label.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTs) is the leading global textile processing standard for organic fibres (such as cotton and hemp). Cotton is one of the world’s thirstiest crops (using 11,000 litres of water for every kilogram of cotton produced) and is responsible for more than 16% of the world’s pesticides. Organic cotton on the other hand, is rainfed and doesn’t use pesticides. GOTs certified ‘organic’ products must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic fibres, while GOTs certified ‘made with organic’ must contain at least 70% certified organic fibres. Brands that use GOTs certified cotton include; Organic Basics, Mud Jeans and Veja.
The independent bluesign® standard is a certification for the textile industry that focuses on legal compliance around environmental health and safety. To be able to use the bluesign® approved label, brands and manufacturers have to act responsibly towards people, the environment and resources. The must make sure that there is transparency and traceability in all of their steps from raw materials, to production and transportation. Bluesign® approved brands include; Addidas, Berghaus, Everlane, Helly Hanson, Nike, Patagonia, and The North Face.
Read the full list of brands and manufacturers.
Cradle to Cradle®
The Cradle to Cradle® certification is awarded for ecologically intelligent product design. Brands must make significant efforts across materials, recycling, renewable energy, water efficiency and social responsibility in order to be certified. Brands certified Cradle to Cradle® include; Aveda, C&A and G-Star Raw.
See the full list of brands.
EU Eco Label
The European Eco Label is a voluntary scheme that began back in 1992. Only products and services that meet very high environmental standards throughout their life-cycle can be awarded this label. This initiative also promotes a circular economy, encouraging producers to generate less waste and CO2 during production. Mostly it is textile brands that are EU Eco Label certified, such as Lenzing (they make a sustainable fabric called TENCEL™) and SeaCell (a fabric made from seaweed fibres).
We’re probably familiar with the Fairtrade mark on our chocolate, tea and coffee, but did you know that they also have a consumer label for textiles? Their standards are centred around living wages for workers, safe workplaces, empowerment of workers, health and safety, safe chemical processes and banning known carcinogens in the manufacturing process. Brands that use Fairtrade Cotton include; Dedicated, Know the Origen, People Tree and White Stuff.
The Responsible Wool Standard is a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on. Among the brands who have committed to this standard are Marks & Spencer and Patagonia. Meanwhile IKEA intends to use 100% responsibly sourced wool in its products by 2025.
The Made in Green label by OEKO-TEX® means that the garment has been tested for harmful substances (and proven to not contain any), and has been made in environmentally friendly facilities in safe and socially responsible workplaces. It is mostly textile companies that are certified as Made in Green rather than brands – but you may find this label on your clothing, so keep an eye out!