From Chaos to Clarity: Navigating the Landscape of Sustainable Certificates in the Fashion Industry

B Corp Sustainable materials Social sustainability Sustainable communication
Do you ever feel confused about the current certificate landscape? Don’t worry you’re not the only one! As conscious consumers seek responsible alternatives, brands are turning to sustainable certificates to validate their commitment to ethical and environmentally responsible practices. But, as a business, how can you know which one(s) are relevant to your sustainability practices?

Why are certificates important?

According to the EU commission there are currently a whopping 230 different “ecolabels” on the EU market! With so many labels, this can lead to consumer confusion and distrust.

Certificates are a brand's pledge to responsibility, demonstrating a strong commitment to ethical and sustainable practices. In a competitive industry, they provide a distinct advantage, assuring customers of industry-standard products. Beyond a brand's image, certificates bring streamlined procedures, showcasing a brand's efficiency and dedication. They act as trust-builders, affirming authenticity and motivating employees, ultimately offering a valuable roadmap to legal compliance.

In this article, we'll delve into 14 renowned sustainability certificates, each carrying its unique significance and positive impact for your business.

#1 Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

GOTS is a comprehensive certification that covers the entire organic textile supply chain. It guarantees that textiles are produced with organic fibres, sustainable processes, and fair labour practices. GOTS certification ensures a high level of sustainability from farm to finished product.

Example of a label including GOTS certified fibres.

Textile Exchange Owned

#2 Global Recycled Standard (GRS)

GRS focuses on the traceability and transparency of recycled materials in products. This certification verifies that products contain a specified percentage of recycled content, promoting the use of recycled materials and reducing the environmental impact of production.

#3 Organic Content Standard (OCS)

This standard certifies the organic content of products, including textiles. It ensures that the organic fibres used in a product are tracked and correctly labelled. OCS provides consumers with confidence that the organic claims on the product are valid.

#4 Recycled Claim Standard (RCS)

The RCS centres around products made from recycled materials. It ensures that items claiming to be recycled meet specific criteria, including the accurate representation of recycled content and adherence to responsible production processes.

#5 Responsible Alpaca Standard (RAS)

This certificate is dedicated to promoting sustainable and ethical practices in the alpaca industry. It covers various aspects, including responsible land management, good animal husbandry practices (health & wellbeing of alpacas), and fair labour conditions in the alpaca supply chain. RAS ensures that products made from alpaca fibres adhere to high standards of environmental and social responsibility.

#6 Responsible Down Standard (RDS)

This standard focuses on ensuring the humane treatment of ducks and geese in the down and feather industry. Products with the RDS certification indicate a commitment to sourcing down ethically, without causing unnecessary harm or suffering to the animals. RDS is particularly relevant in the outdoor and bedding industries.

#7 Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS)

Similar to RDS, the Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS) focuses on sustainable and ethical practices in the mohair industry. It addresses concerns related to the treatment of Angora goats, ensuring that mohair is sourced with a commitment to animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

#8 Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)

This standard sets guidelines for sustainable and ethical wool production. It encompasses various aspects, including animal welfare, land management, and fair labour practices. RWS-certified wool ensures responsible sourcing and production practices throughout the wool supply chain.

#9 Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)

BCI is a global non-profit organisation that focuses on transforming cotton production worldwide. The initiative aims to make cotton production more sustainable by promoting better farming practices, minimising environmental impact, and improving the livelihoods of cotton farmers.

However, be mindful when considering this certification, as it is regarded as a controversial certificate after collaborating with a Chinese organisation that human rights organisations and Western governments have accused of being responsible for the arbitrary detention and forced labour of Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities. BCI ended their partnership in October 2020, but have yet to provide an explanation for why it took them so long to take action.

#10 Cotton Made in Africa

This certification focuses on improving the living conditions of African cotton farmers while promoting environmentally and socially responsible cotton production. Cotton Made in Africa emphasises sustainable farming practices and fair labour conditions in the African cotton industry.

#11 Fairtrade Cotton

Fairtrade is a well-known certification that extends to various products, including cotton. Fairtrade Cotton ensures that farmers receive fair wages, work in safe conditions, and engage in environmentally sustainable practices. By choosing Fairtrade Cotton, consumers support ethical trade and contribute to community development.

#12 Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

FSC is a globally recognized standard for responsible forest management. It ensures that the wood, viscose and paper products come from sustainably managed forests, promoting biodiversity conservation, and respecting the rights of local communities.

#13 Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)

Similar to FSC, PEFC is another certification for sustainable forest management. PEFC promotes responsible forestry by ensuring that wood, viscose and paper products are sourced from forests that meet high environmental and social standards. It is an international certification recognized in multiple countries.

#14 The Good Cashmere Standard

Dedicated to promoting sustainability in the cashmere industry, The Good Cashmere Standard focuses on responsible land management, animal husbandry practices, and fair labour conditions. It is a key certification for those seeking to support ethical and environmentally friendly practices in the production of luxurious cashmere fibre.
As your business navigates the difficulties of sustainable sourcing and ethical production, these certifications, among others, provide important guidance! Incorporating certified products into your supply chain not only complies with corporate social responsibility, but also meets the growing need for sustainable and ethically produced goods. It also improves your brand's reputation and shows a strong commitment to addressing the changing demands of mindful consumers.

Want to learn more about certificates? Get your FREE Certificates Overview here, a valuable resource to help you navigate this complex landscape. By downloading this free tool, you'll no longer struggle with deciphering the meaning and impact of various certifications.

Ready to elevate your business to new heights of social and environmental responsibility? Register now for our upcoming B Corp Certification webinar and discover how obtaining this prestigious certification can not only enhance your brand reputation but also drive positive change in your industry.

March 01, 2024 | 13:00 CET | Register here

B Corp Services | Contact us | Follow us