Sustainability is coming to the fashion industry, bringing with it a plethora of labels.
With so many labels and so many standards, it can be hard to know what to look for—and why. After all, the reason to care about sustainability labels is their impact: what do they say about the impact of a manufacturer on the earth and on their employees?
With this in mind, here are 27 sustainability labels you won’t want to miss when buying sustainable fashion.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) was developed by leading standard setters who wanted to define requirements to ensure the organic status of textiles that would be recognized world-wide. GOTS was created to ensure that organic textiles are created from raw materials that are harvested and manufactured in an environmentally and socially responsible way.
Since it was introduced in 2006, GOTS has gone on to demonstrate its practical feasibility. It has gained universal recognition, thanks to the growth in consumption of organic fibers and the demand for unified processing criteria. Today it is visible not only on the shelves of natural textile shops but also in large-scale retailers and brand dealers. GOTS is a milestone in consumer recognition and a strong acknowledgement of the reliable quality assurance concept.
2). STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®
The STANDARD 100 label by OEKO-TEX® means that every component of the article, every thread, button, and other accessory, has been tested for harmful substances and found to be harmless to human health. The test is conducted by independent OEKO-TEX® partner institutes using the extensive OEKO-TEX® criteria catalog.
The test takes into account numerous regulated and non-regulated substances, which may be harmful for human health. In many cases, the limit values for STANDARD 100 go well beyond the requirements established by other national and international standards, in the sense that they are much stricter in order to limit exposure and protect health. Every year, the criteria catalog is updated and expanded with new scientific knowledge or statutory requirements.
3). LEATHER STANDARD by OEKO-TEX®
The LEATHER STANDARD by OEKO-TEX® is an internationally standardized testing and certification system for leather and leather goods at all production levels, including accessory materials. The LEATHER STANDARD means that the labeled article has successfully passed a test for chemicals that are harmful to human health.
The tests are carried out by independent OEKO-TEX® partner institutes, using the OEKO-TEX® criteria catalog to test the articles for hundreds of regulated substances.
4). PETA-Approved Vegan
Over 1,0000 companies are using the PETA-Approved Vegan logo to highlight clothing, accessories, furniture, and home décor items made of vegan alternatives to animal-derived materials such as leather, fur, silk, feathers, or bone. The label helps consumers identify PETA-Approved Vegan-certified items at a glance while shopping and make purchases that align with their values.
5). Fair Wear Foundation
The Fair Wear Foundation is founded on the idea that there’s a better way to make clothes. Fair Wear Foundation is based on the belief in a world where the garment industry supports workers in realizing their rights to safe, dignified, properly paid employment.
To do this, Fair Wear Foundation focuses on garment production, specifically sewing, cutting and trimming processes–the most labor-intensive parts of the supply chain. Fair Wear Foundation works with 140+ member brands, all of whom are committed to finding a fairer way to make clothes. The Foundation also engages directly with factories, trade unions, NGOs, and governments to find answers to problems others think are unsolvable.
The Blue Way by BLUESIGN represents the vision and mindset of responsible and sustainable manufacturing of textile consumer products. The system is designed to provide safer and more sustainable environments for people to work in and everyone to live in.
Powered by a holistic approach, BLUESIGN traces each textile’s path along the manufacturing process, making improvements at every stage from factory floor to finished product. BLUESIGN changes the environmental impact of textiles for good.
As a solution provider and knowledge broker, BLUESIGN acts as an independent verifier to secure trust and transparency. BLUESIGN encourages the industry to increase their efforts in sustainable processes step by step.
7). Fair Trade
The Fair Trade Certified™ seal represents thousands of Fair Trade Certified™ products, improving millions of lives, protecting land and waterways in 45 countries and counting. Purchases have sent $740 million to farmers and workers since 1998.
Fair Trade Certified™ is a market-based approach to alleviating poverty in ways that improve lives and protect the environment. It’s also a mechanism for consumers to know that their products were grown with care, and that farmers and workers were paid better prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and earn community development premiums to empower and improve their communities.
8). Better Cotton Initiative
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a global not-for-profit organization and the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. BCI exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future.
BCI works to reduce the impact of water and pesticide use on human and environmental health, to improve soil health and biodiversity, to promote decent work for farming communities and cotton farm workers, to facilitate global knowledge exchange on more sustainable cotton production, and to increase the traceability along the cotton supply chain.
9). COTTON USA™
COTTON USA™ exists to produce sustainable and fairly grown cotton. COTTON USA™ represents an association of family cotton growers who own their own land and want to protect their fields for future generations.
And in 2020, COTTON USA™ introduced the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, setting a new standard for more sustainably grown cotton. Standing behind COTTON USA™ is Cotton Council International (CCI), a non-profit trade association that promotes U.S. cotton to mills, manufacturers, Cotton USA certified brands and retailers around the world.
With a 100% tested product, and high standards of sustainability and transparency, COTTON USA™ is the cotton the world trusts.
10). Global Recycle Standard
The Global Recycle Standard (GRS) was originally developed by Control Union Certifications in 2008 and ownership was passed to the Textile Exchange on 1 January 2011. The GRS is an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of recycled content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices and chemical restrictions.
The GRS is intended to meet the needs of companies looking to verify the recycled content of their products (both finished and intermediate) and to verify responsible social, environmental and chemical practices in their production. The objectives of the GRS are to define requirements to ensure accurate content claims and good working conditions, and that harmful environmental and chemical impacts are minimised. This includes companies in ginning, spinning, weaving and knitting, dyeing and printing and stitching in more than 50 countries.
11). LENZING™ ECOVERO™
Lenzing’s new viscose-based branded viscose textile LENZING™ ECOVERO™ marks a new milestone in the company’s sustainability journey. LENZING™ ECOVERO™ viscose fibers are derived from certified and controlled sources of sustainable wood and pulp.
The fibers have been certified with the EU Ecolabel as meeting high environmental standards throughout their life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to production, distribution, and disposal.
12). STeP by OEKO-TEX®
STeP by OEKO-TEX® stands for Sustainable Textile & Leather Production. This standard is a modular certification system for production facilities in the textile and leather industry. The goal of SteP is to implement environmentally friendly production processes for the long term, in order to improve health and safety and promote socially responsible working conditions at production sites. This standard is designed to serve textile and leather manufacturers as well as STeP by OEKO-TEX® certified brands and retailers.
13). MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX®
MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® is a traceable product label for all kinds of textiles, including garments and home textiles, and leather products, as well as non-textile and non-leather accessories.
The MADE IN GREEN label verifies that an article has been tested for harmful substances. This is carried out through certification in accordance with STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® or LEATHER STANDARD by OEKO-TEX®. MADE IN GREEN also guarantees that the textile or leather product has been manufactured using sustainable processes under socially responsible working conditions. This is carried out through certification in accordance with STeP by OEKO-TEX®. The standard comes with unique product IDs on the labels to provide a way of tracing labeled articles through the countries and facilities in which it was produced.
14). ECO PASSPORT by OEKO-TEX®
ECO PASSPORT by OEKO-TEX® is an independent certification system for chemicals, colorants, and auxiliaries used in the textile and leather industry. Through a multistep process, the standard assesses whether each individual ingredient in the chemical product meets the statutory requirements, and ensures that it is not harmful to human health.
The certification ECO PASSPORT is designed for manufacturers of chemical compounds and process chemicals. The label also gives transparent proof of which articles meet the criteria for ecologically responsible textile and leather manufacture. Once per year, OEKO-TEX® updates the banned substances and limit values and expands them to include new scientific findings or statutory requirements.
15). DETOX TO ZERO by OEKO-TEX®
DETOX TO ZERO by OEKO-TEX® is an efficient verification system for the textile and leather industry which aims to implement the criteria of the Greenpeace DETOX Campaign within production facilities. In this case, instead of certification, there is an analysis tool for the optimization and monitoring of chemicals management and wastewater quality.
With DETOX TO ZERO, OEKO-TEX® provides textile and leather producers with a practical and usable analysis and assessment tool which creates transparency and control in the use of hazardous substances. The standard includes:
· Wastewater and sludge conformity in accordance with the DETOX TO ZERO Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL)
· Conformity of chemicals used in the company as per the DETOX TO ZERO MRSL
· General management with a focus on chemicals and environmental performance
When using the DETOX TO ZERO analysis and assessment tool, producers cannot “fail” or “pass” as this is not a traditional certification system. Instead, the focus is on a continuous improvement process. The situation is also analyzed in the production facilities and a robust action plan is prepared which provides for the gradual reduction in harmful substances in production processes.
16). Cotton Made in Africa
Cotton Made in Africa is an initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation, and serves as one of the world’s leading standards for sustainably produced cotton.
The goal of Cotton Made in Africa is to help people help themselves, via trade rather than donations, in order to improve the living and working conditions of smallholder farmers in Africa and to protect the environment. The organization works with a wide-ranging network in cotton-growing countries, including numerous partners throughout the textile value chain as well as both governmental and non-governmental organizations, to ensure the implementation of the standard and the proper processing of certified raw materials throughout the world.
17). The Higg Index
The Higg Index is a suite of tools that enables brands, retailers, and facilities of all sizes—at every stage in their sustainability journey—to measure social and environmental sustainability performance. Developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the Higg Index is the leading assessment for standardized supply chain sustainability assessment.
The Higg Index delivers a holistic overview that empowers businesses to make meaningful improvements that protect the well-being of factory workers, local communities, and the environment.
18). Naturtextil IVN certified BEST
Naturtextil IVN certified BEST currently defines the highest level of textile sustainability by applying the maximum currently achievable parameters to production and product.
The organization IVN (Internationale Verband der Naturtextilwirtschaft e. V.) was founded in 1999 and has developed two quality seals: Naturtextil IVN certified BEST and Naturleder IVN certified. These two seals are responsible for safeguarding and reviewing the entire textile production chain, both in terms of ecological standards and social accountability.
19). Leather Working Group (LWG)
Leather Working Group is an international, not-for-profit membership organisation and responsible for the world’s largest leather sustainability program. As a multi-stakeholder group, our members hail from across the global leather industry, including:
· Manufacturers of leather (aka, tanneries)
· Traders of part-processed and finished leather
· Manufacturers of leather garments, footwear and furniture
· Suppliers of chemicals, machinery and testing for the leather industry
· Brands and retailers that sell leather products to consumers
· Associations within and related to the leather industry.
Since 2005, LWG has identified environmental best practices in the industry and provided guidelines for continual improvement. LWG offers a suite of auditing tools to assess the environmental performance of leather manufacturing facilities – and certifies those that measure up to its standards.
20). Organic Content Standard (OCS)
The Organic Content Standard (OCS) is an international, voluntary standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of certified organic input and chain of custody. The goal of the OCS is to increase organic agriculture production.
One objective of the OCS is to provide the industry with a tool to verify the organically grown content of the products they purchase.
A second objective is to provide companies with a trusted tool to communicate organically grown content claims to the industry. A third objective is to provide organic fiber farmers with broad access to the global organic market for their products.
21). Content Claim Standard (CCS)
The Content Claim Standard (CCS) is the foundation of all Textile Exchange standards. It is a chain of custody standard that provides companies with a tool to verify that one or more specific input materials are in a final product.
Achieving CCS certification requires verification that the chain of custody principles are followed in each stage of production. The standard requires tracking of the flow of raw material from source to the final product. It also addresses product flow, documentation, volume reconciliations, and segregation of materials and products.
22). Organic Content Standard Blended
The OCS (Organic Content Standard) applies to any non-food product containing 5 to 100% organic material. It checks the presence and percentage of organic materials in the final product. It tracks the flow of raw materials from origin to finished product and leaves it to an accredited third-party verifier to certify this process.
The OCS standard relies on third-party verifiers to confirm that a final product contains the correct amount of organically sourced material. The standard provides for transparent, consistent and comprehensive independent assessment and verification of organic content claims at the product level.
This standard also covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, marketing and distribution of any product containing at least 5% certified organic material. It can be used as a B2B tool as it allows companies to be sure that they are selling or buying quality products.
23). RCS (Recycled Claim Standard)
The RCS (Recycled Claim Standard) is used as a chain of custody standard to track recycled raw materials through the supply chain. The standard was developed through work done by the Materials Traceability Working Group, part of OIA’s Sustainability Working Group. The RCS uses the chain of custody requirements of the Content Claim Standard.
24). Responsible Down Standard
The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) aims to ensure that down and feathers come from animals that have not been subjected to any unnecessary harm. The standard was founded with the hope that it can be used to reward and influence the down and feather industry to incentivize practices that respect the humane treatment of ducks and geese.
The creators of the RDS believe that education is a meaningful way to drive demand for strong animal welfare practices. The standard also provides companies and consumers with a tool to know what is in their products, and to make accurate claims.
25). Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS)
The Responsible Mohair Standard is a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of goats and the land they graze on.
The goals of the Responsible Mohair Standard are:
· To provide the industry with a tool to recognize the best practices of farmers;
· To ensure that mohair comes from farms that have a progressive approach to managing their land;
· To practice holistic respect for animal welfare of the goats, and
· To respect the Five Freedoms of animal welfare (freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury, or disease, freedom to express normal behavior, and freedom from fear and distress).
The RMS requires all sites to be certified, beginning with the mohair farmers and through to the seller in the final business to business transaction. Usually, the last stage to be certified is the garment manufacturer or brand. Retailers (business-to-consumers) are not required to be certified. Farms are certified to the Animal Welfare and Land Management and Social Modules of the RMS. Subsequent stages of the supply chain are certified to the Content Claim Standard requirements.
26). Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)
The Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) provides an opportunity for farmers to demonstrate their best practices to the public, and a means for brands and consumers to have the certainty that the wool products they buy and sell are in line with their values.
The RWS is a voluntary global standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and of the land they graze on. The RWS provides verification of the practices that are happening at farm level, giving brands a clear solution that will allow them to make claims about their wool sourcing with confidence. The standard was developed by an international working group through an open and transparent process.
27). Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation
The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is a global non-profit dedicated to transforming the safety, health and sustainability of products through the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard.
The Institute works closely with product manufacturers, suppliers, accredited assessors and other industry influencers and stakeholders to maximize the positive impacts of products and materials.
As the standard setting organization and certification body for the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard, the Institute works closely with leading organizations worldwide to guide and validate their efforts to apply the principles of material health, circular economy, carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness to product design and manufacturing.