With no official mandate for any company to verify the sustainability of their products and practices, many different certifications and networks exist in the fashion industry. Having a renowned eco-label can aid a fashion brand’s transparency and help navigate a complex market.
These labels can evaluate brands' sustainability efforts in different aspects of production and of the supply chain, applying to raw materials, end products, and/or processes. Some organizations specialize in performing audits only, others also provide educational initiatives, business support and lobbying. Among fashion sustainability certifications, you can find ones focusing on fibre standards, chemical control, labour rights, circular standards and fair trade.
Below you can find a list of organizations which issue different sustainability certifications, and a brief explanation of what the biggest labels mean.
Australasian Circular Textiles Association - ACTA
Australasia’s first collaborative industry association to offer and facilitate complete circularity for the fashion and textile industry. ACTA provides the tools and expertise to transform the way companies manage sustainable solutions for their business.
B Lab is a leader in economic systems change, a global network which creates standards, policies, and tools for business, and certifies companies—known as B Corps—who are leading the way. To date, our community includes over 3,500 B Corps in 70 countries and 150 industries. Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. In the fashion industry they are spearheading necessary changes by putting purpose at the center of their operations, reaching out to underserved communities, and considering the planet as a key stakeholder.
Better Cotton Initiative - BCI
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. By ensuring the exchange of good practices, and encouraging the scaling up of collective action, the BCI aims to transform cotton production worldwide and establish Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity. Through BCI and its Partners, farmers receive training on how to use water efficiently, care for the health of the soil and natural habitats, reduce use of the most harmful chemicals and apply decent work principles. BCI Farmers implementing this system are licensed to sell Better Cotton. The BCI logo or packaging does not mean the product is made of physically traceable Better Cotton. It means that you’re buying a majority cotton product, from a retailer or brand that is committed to sourcing Better Cotton and investing in BCI Farmers.
BLUESIGN is an independent authority that provides solutions in sustainable processing and manufacturing to industries and brands. To bear the bluesign® label, the manufacturers and brands are required to act responsibly and sustainably with regard to people, the environment and resources. BLUESIGN checks the progress that a company has made in this effort, provides continual further development of solutions and continuously optimizes its strict criteria.
Canopy works with the forest industry’s biggest customers and their suppliers to develop business solutions that protect last frontier forests. Canopy helps the forest industry’s largest customers, from book publishers and printers to leading clothing brands and fashion designers, to shape their purchasing practices and create permanent solutions for the world’s threatened forests.
Clean Clothes Campaign - CCC
A global network dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the global garment and sportswear industries. Works to ensure that the fundamental rights of workers are respected. Educate and mobilise consumers, lobby companies and governments, and offer direct solidarity support to workers as they fight for their rights and demand better working conditions. The Clean Clothes Campaign brings together trade unions and NGOs covering a broad spectrum of perspectives and interests, such as women’s rights, consumer advocacy and poverty reduction.
Cotton made in Africa - CmiA
Cotton made in Africa, an initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation, is one of the world’s leading standards for sustainably produced cotton. The goal 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 our environment.
Cradle to Cradle - C2C
The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products Program sets the global standard for products that are safe, circular and made responsibly. Cradle to Cradle Certified is used by future-focused designers, brands, retailers and manufacturers across the value chain to innovate and optimize materials and products. The optimization reflects the world’s most advanced science-based measures for material health, product circularity, renewable energy and climate, water and soil stewardship, and social fairness.
The certifications issued by Ecocert guarantee and highlight the best environmentally friendly and socially conscious practices. Originally Ecocert specializes in organic agriculture products. As pioneers in organic textile certification, they have been promoting the use of raw materials of plant origin for the textile industry for nearly 20 years. For textiles, the ECOCERT label means the fabric is either GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), OCS (Organic Content Standard), and/or Ecological & Recycled Textiles (Ecocert Standard) certified.
Ethical Clothing Australia - ECA
An Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) accreditation not only demonstrates that a business is committed to supporting the local Australian textile, clothing and footwear industry, but also that its supply chain is transparent and ethical from design to dispatch. ECA’s accreditation program is focused on ensuring that local garment workers are being paid appropriately and are working in safe workplaces throughout the entire supply chain. An ECA accreditation certifies that third-party checks had been undertaken to ensure compliance with the relevant Australian workplace laws.
Ethical Trading Initiative
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is a leading alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers' rights around the globe, by collectively tackling issues of exploitation and discrimination that cannot be addressed by individual companies working alone. Retailers and brands with a commitment to ethical trade adopt a code of labour practice that they expect all their suppliers to work towards. Such codes address issues like wages, hours of work, health and safety and the right to join free trade unions.
Fair Trade Certified
Since 1983 Fair Trade USA has been building an innovative model of responsible business, conscious consumerism, and shared value to eliminate poverty and enable sustainable development. As fair trade has grown into a leading market-based model of sustainable production, trade, and consumption, pioneering brands and retailers in different industries have joined forces under the label Fair Trade Certified to innovate the fair trade model and create impact for farmers, workers, their families, and their communities around the world.
Fair Trade Federation - FTF
The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is a community of verified businesses that are dedicated to holistic fair trade, i.e. socially and environmentally responsible in everything they do.
- For small-scale farmers and artisans, it means they get long-term buying partners they can trust.
- For consumers, it means you get high quality, authentic products, grown & made in the traditional way.
Fair Wear Foundation - FWF
The Fair Wear Foundation focuses on garment production, specifically sewing, cutting and trimming processes–the most labour intensive parts of the supply chain. The foundation works with 140+ member brands, who are committed to finding a fairer way to make clothes, and engages directly with factories, trade unions, NGOs and governments to stitch together new solutions across the supply chain and make fashion fair for everyone.
Fairtrade focuses on fostering long-term trading partnerships that yield sustainable and decent livelihoods for the farmers and workers behind many popular products. Fairtrade Standards ensure fairer terms of trade between farmers and buyers, protect workers’ rights, and provide the framework for producers to build thriving farms and organizations. The Fairtrade Textile Standard is one component of the greater Fairtrade Textile Programme to facilitate change in textile supply chains and related business practices. This comprehensive approach engages manufacturers and workers in the supply chain to bring about better wages and working conditions, and engages brands to commit to fair terms of trade.
Fashion for Good
A platform for sustainable fashion innovation and a call for industry wide collaboration. The mission of Fashion for Good is to bring together the entire fashion ecosystem together and act as a convenor for change. Fashion for Good guides the sector with an aspirational model that all can use. “The Five Goods” (good materials, good economy, good energy, good water, and good lives) form a genuine and accountable framework with the promise of social, economic and environmental prosperity.
Forest Stewardship Council
The FSC are the world’s original pioneers of forest certification. They use expertise to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests, bringing together experts from the environmental, economic and social spheres. FSC forest management certification confirms that the forest is being managed in a way that preserves biological diversity and benefits the lives of local people and workers, while ensuring it sustains economic viability.
Fur Free Retailer
Fur Free Retailer is the world’s leading program to connect fur-free companies to consumers seeking ethical goods. The online Fur Free Retailer list provides consumers accurate information about a retailer’s fur policy, allowing them to make an informed choice when shopping. Run in over 25 countries the Fur Free Retailer program is an international initiative of the Fur Free Alliance, a coalition of more than 50 leading animal and environmental protection organisations worldwide, representing millions of supporters around the world.
Global Organic Textile Standard - GOTS
GOTS is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. The GOTS quality assurance system is based on on-site inspection and certification of the entire textile supply chain (processing and trade). Operators from post-harvest handling up to garment making, as well as wholesalers (including exporters and importers), have to undergo an on-site annual inspection cycle and must hold a valid certification in order for the final products to be labelled as GOTS certified.
Global Recycle Standard - 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.
Good On You
Ethical brand ratings. Aims to make sustainable shopping easy for millions of people around the world by being the best, most trusted source for brand ratings, articles and expertise on ethical and sustainable fashion.
Helping consumers choose the more sustainable and ethical option by showing them the positive impact they are making on websites. By providing a simple, credible and flexible impact marketing platform, Green Story is bringing a sustainable way of doing business into the mainstream.
Leather Working Group - LWG
The Leather Working Group is a community-led initiative which endeavours to promote improvement in the leather manufacturing industry by creating alignment on environmental priorities. Membership in the group is only granted while a leather manufacturing facility is covered under a periodically issued audit certificate. The LWG Audit assesses leather manufacturing facility operations in absolute terms, for example energy requirement to produce a square foot of leather, proportion of wastes recycled etc.
The Nordic Swan Ecolabel
The Nordic Swan Ecolabel works to reduce the environmental impact from production and consumption of goods, and to make it easy for consumers and professional buyers to choose the environmentally best goods and services. Since 1989 the voluntary eco labelling scheme has been an effective tool to help companies that want to go ahead with sustainable solutions in the nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The NSE applies to 60 different product groups counting more than 200 different product types.
The NSF is a global, independent organization, dedicated to protecting and improving global human health. Through standards, certification and auditing services the NSF supports the sustainability strategies of textiles, apparel, and footwear companies, among others.
- The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) and the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) verify recycled content claims, differentiating both pre-consumer and post-consumer waste.
- The Organic Content Standard (OCS) provides third-party verification of organic material content in a product. After raw material is certified as organic, the OCS tracks the use of organic content in processing and manufacturing activities.
- The Global Traceable Down Standard (Global TDS) and the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) ensure that down in garments and other products come from a responsible source that respects animal welfare, which entails prohibiting live-plucking and force-feeding.
- The Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) addresses the welfare of sheep, social accountability and land management practices, and prohibits cruelty practices such as mulesing and tail docking.
- The Content Claim Standard (CCS) verifies content claims and traceability of specific materials. It provides the manufacturers, brands, retailers, traders and organizations with a strong chain of custody system for raw materials from source to final product.
OEKO TEX and its portfolio of independent certifications supports fashion companies in acting responsibly and making sustainable purchasing decisions.
- The product labels STANDARD 100 and LEATHER STANDARD are available for textile and leather products that have been tested for harmful substances and which are thus safe from a human-ecological perspective.
- With the MADE IN GREEN label, you can identify textiles which have been tested for harmful substances and also manufactured under sustainable working conditions.
- The STeP certification and the DETOX TO ZERO analysis optimise the manufacturing process for ecological and socially responsible textile and leather production.
- The ECO PASSPORT identifies environmentally friendly chemicals, auxiliaries and colourants used in the textile and leather industry.
Organic Content Standard - OCS
The Organic Content Standard (OCS) applies to any non-food product containing 95-100 percent organic material. Relying on third-party checks, it verifies the presence and amount of organic material in a final product and tracks the flow of the raw material from its source to the final product. OCS 100 covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading and distribution of a product that contains at least 95 % certified ‘organic’ materials. It can be used as a business-to-business tool to give companies the means to ensure that they are selling quality and getting what they pay for.
Organic Cotton Accelerator - OCA
The OCA Platform brings together those who grow, supply and buy organic cotton to create the conditions for this fibre to thrive. The global collective of brands, retailers, supply chain partners, civil society organisations, philanthropic foundations and academics are united in their efforts to safeguard the future of organic cotton.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the largest animal rights organization in the world, focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time:
- the laboratories
- the food industry,
- the clothing trade,
- and the entertainment industry. PETA and it’s certifications are synonymous with cruelty free fashion (‘PETA-Approved Vegan’ Certification) and beauty (‘Beauty Without Bunnies’ Certification).
Regenerative Organic Certified - ROC
Regenerative Organic Certified™ is a revolutionary new certification for food, textiles, and personal care ingredients. ROC™ farms and products meet the highest standards in the world for soil health, animal welfare, and farmworker fairness.
Social Accountability International - SAI
Social Accountability International (SAI) is a global non-governmental organization empowering workers and managers using its multi-industry standards, tools and programs. In 1997, SAI created the SA8000 Standard - the world’s leading social certification program, based on internationally recognized standards of decent work, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ILO conventions, and national laws. It provides a framework for organizations of all types, in any industry, and in any country to conduct business in a way that is fair and decent for workers and to demonstrate their adherence to the highest social standards.
Social Accountability Accreditation Services
SAAS began work in 1997 as an independent accreditation department within Social Accountability International. It evaluates, accredits, and monitors organizations auditing companies that qualify to the SA8000 Standard. It’s the only global accreditation body whose mission is to support implementation of social and labor standards. It’s vision is a world where all people across the globe enjoy fair and safe workplaces.
The Soil Association is the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. It’s wholly owned subsidiary Soil Association Certification Limited is the UK’s largest organic certification body, responsible for making sure that every organisation working up and down its supply chain wirth the Organic label meets and proves adequate standards.
Solidaridad is an international civil society organization with over 50 years of experience in developing solutions to make communities more resilient — from supporting repressed communities in Latin America to fostering more sustainable supply chains. Currently active in over 40 countries, on five continents, through eight regional offices.
Sustainable Apparel Coalition
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is the apparel, footwear, and textile industry’s leading alliance for sustainable production. It’s vision is of an industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities. The Coalition develops the Higg Index, a suite of tools that standardizes value chain sustainability measurement for all industry participants. These tools measure environmental and social labor impacts across the value chain. With this data, the industry can identify hotspots, continuously improve sustainability performance, and achieve the environmental and social transparency consumers are demanding.
The USDA Organic certification indicates that an agricultural product has been produced through USDA approved methods and can be marketed in the United States. To maintain organic certification the certified organic farm or business will go through an annual review and inspection process. Products sold, labeled, or represented as organic must have at least 95% certified organic content. Products sold, labeled, or represented as “made with” organic must have at least 70% certified organic content and the USDA organic seal may not be used on these products.
Waste2Wear has been producing fabrics and textile products from recycled plastic bottles since 2008. The company started off as a spin-off of Vision Textiles, a company established in China since 1998 by the Dutch textile engineer Monique Maissan with the objective of producing high-quality garments in a responsible way. Nowadays we employ 80 employees, covering almost 20 nationalities and have offices in nine countries around the world.
Australian Wool Innovation is a not-for-profit enterprise that conducts research, development and marketing along the worldwide supply chain of Australian wool to increase the long-term profitability of Australian woolgrowers.
World Fair Trade Organization - WFTO
The WFTO is the global community and verifier of social enterprises that fully practice Fair Trade. The WFTO’s Guarantee System is the only international verification model focused on social enterprises that put the interests of workers, farmers and artisans first. Through peer-reviews and independent audits, WFTO verifies members are mission-led enterprises fully practicing the 10 Principles of Fair Trade across their business and supply chains. Once verified, all members have free use of the WFTO Guaranteed Fair Trade product label.
Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production - WRAP
WRAP is the world’s largest independent certification program focused on maintaining the integrity of supply chains of the apparel, footwear, and sewn products sectors. The WRAP certification is recognized around the world as proof of social compliance in the apparel industry. WRAP only certifies individual production units, allowing the auditors to get an “on the ground” perspective of each facility’s operations to ensure that they are maintaining compliant practices. All certifications require periodic renewal depending on the level, and all certified facilities are subject to unannounced follow-up visits during their certification periods.