As people become more aware of sustainability, carbon neutrality and fair production in fashion, a lot of new sustainable fashion lines are entering the market. After all, it is the demand that determines the supply, right? But how do we know which fashion brands are really sustainable and which are just trying to greenwash? That's where labels and certifications come into play. These independent organizations check a product's eco credentials, and guarantee that certain sustainable requirements are met. At SANVT, we've checked 5 different labels, evaluated their credibility and reveal our list of the best eco-labels in fashion.
Since the terms "sustainable", "ethical" or "green" are legally unprotected with their use in the fashion industry, certifications by an independent third party serve as a trustworthy indication that those kind of words have meaning. And thanks to rigorous, regular inspections and high standards, sustainability labels in fashion guarantee responsible business practices (even if they usually do not cover the full complexity of the product). So what are the best eco-labels in fashion that guarantee a sustainable, ethical and green product?
The B Corp certification has become one of the most popular sustainability labels for for-profit companies worldwide – and with rigorous requirements. As an international certification, B Corp aims to assure a company's credibility in sustainability, ethics, and transparency across the board – from day-to-day operations to raw materials throughout the supply chain. In essence, B Corp serves as standardized proof of environmentally and ethically responsible business practices and also requires high levels of social commitment.
Like many other sustainability labels, the B Corp certification thus acts as a seal of trust, with more than 4,000 companies in 77 countries now certified. In the fashion sector, these include Patagonia, Allbirds, Vestiaire Collective, and even Chloé (as the first B Corp certified luxury brand)! In doing so, B Corp has pushed many profit-driven companies to show more commitment to climate, the environment and people, and to use their success as a driving force for good. In other words, B Corp is a sustainability label that demands not only the eco-friendliness of the product itself, but also a positive impact of the company on the world.
Another globally renowned and popular sustainability label is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). GOTS defines environmentally-friendly requirements along the entire textile production chain as well as fair social criteria. Thus, it stands for ethical and sustainable standards in the production and distribution of natural textiles. The criteria have been determined and regularly monitored by four international member organizations since 2006.
GOTS is undoubtedly one of the most significant and best eco-labels in fashion and contributes to ecological and social improvements in the textile production. It is not without reason that it is also referred to as the "gold standard" in sustainable fashion. That's why we at SANVT choose to use GOTS-certified organic cotton for our products. To learn more about the gold standard, you can read our article about GOTS.
Many environmentally conscious (and especially vegan) consumers also care about animal welfare. After all, the issue of environmental awareness, climate activism and veganism are closely intertwined – we'd even go as far as to say they're inseparable. And since the fashion industry is not only one of the biggest polluters, but also responsible for a lot of animal suffering, certifications regarding animal-friendly productions, are extremely important for conscious consumers.
Whether it's for fur, leather, silk, angora, ivory or wool, animals are often tortured in the fashion industry. However, there are now plenty of natural and vegan alternatives that convey the same sense of aesthetics without involving animals in production. So if you care about animal welfare as much as we do, look out for the PETA approved seal, which guarantees that the product contains no animal products whatsoever. You can find out why a product with the PETA seal isn't always completely eco-friendly here (and we say that as vegans and animal rights activists, by the way).
Besides GOTS, the Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 seal is probably the best known on the market. It is a standardized testing and certification system of the "International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile Ecology", which covers all processing stages for raw, intermediate and end textile products. Oeko-Tex® has built up a large network of testing and research institutes in over 40 countries resulting in a globally networked control system with authorized institutes that can continually check compliance with the criteria.
Among other things, the textiles are tested for carcinogenic and allergenic dyes, but also for pesticides, heavy metals, other harmful substances and the PH level. However, Oeko-Tex® only tests for harmful substances, but does not check what happens afterwards. Moreover, only the finished textiles are tested for pesticides, leaving out the production of the materials, the manufacture of the product, the working conditions during production and the ecological environment during cultivation. Even though products with the Oeko-Tex® label are certainly better than a fast fashion product without any certification, we think that this sustainability certification is somewhat insufficient.
Better Cotton Initiative
The world does not need cotton, it needs better cotton! With this slogan, the Better Cotton Initiative ensures improved, fairer and more environmentally friendly standards in the cultivation and production of cotton worldwide. Unlike other labels, such as Fair Trade or Oeko-Tex®, Better Cotton Initiative does not certify end products, but aims to make global cotton production and cultivation more sustainable overall. After all, conventional cotton has been declared the "dirtiest crop in the world."
This is due to the high use of pesticides, which endangers biodiversity, as well as genetically modified plants, extremely high water consumption for cultivation, and unfair working conditions on cotton plantations – often including child labor. Better Cotton Initiative is the world's largest cotton sustainability program and a global non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of cotton production. For more information on how cotton is becoming more sustainable, thanks to sustainability labels like these, click here.
The best eco-labels in fashion: conclusion
As you can see, the best eco-labels in fashion can help us make more environmentally conscious and ethical shopping decisions. And although the certifications are done by third parties and regularly checked, it is always recommended not to blindly trust eco-labels, but to do your own research on brands to see how transparent the individual production steps are documented. In that way, we can support brands that take additional measures to protect the climate, the environment, people and animals.