Below list includes some of the most used sustainability certifications and standards. Knowing and understanding these certifications will help you identify sustainable products and companies that strive to operate by the highest social and environmental standards
*Most of the content in this lits is courtesy of Supply Compass – sustainable fashion software solution for product development, sourcing and production management. You can find their full Certifications & Standards and Sustainable Materials guides here.
GOTS is the leading textile processing standard for organic fibres. The aim of this tandard is to define worldwide, recognised requirements that ensure organic status of textiles – from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, and up to labelling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer. Textile processors and manufacturers are enabled to export their organic fabrics and garments with one certification accepted in all major markets. The standard covers all textiles made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibres, mainly focusing on cotton, wool and silk.
The Organic Content Standard (OCS). There are two types of OCS:
OCS-100 – applies to any non-food product containing 95-100 percent organic material. 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 Blended – applies to any non-food product containing 5-100 percent organic material. It verifies the presence and amount of organic material in a final product. Further OCS tracks the flow of a raw material from its source to the final product. This process is then certified by an accredited third party.
The Responsible Down Standard is a global standard recognizing the humane treatment of ducks and geese used for collecting down insulation. It is an independent, voluntary standard developed by a team headed by the Textile Exchange, a global non-profit, in association with relevant stakeholders. This ensures complete traceability across the supply chain. Prohibited practices including live-plucking, moult-harvesting and force-feeding and the Five Freedoms for animals are recognised. The RDS is used by companies for apparel, outdoor gear and homewares.
Similar to the RDS, the Responsible Wool Standard is also an independent, voluntary standard administered by the Textile Exchange and developed with relevant stakeholders including farmers and animal welfare and land conservation experts to recognize the best practices in sheep welfare and land management for growing wool. Like the RDS, the Five Freedoms for animals are recognised.
The Leather Working Group (LWG) is a not-for-profit membership organisation for stakeholders across the leather supply chain. They developed audit protocols designed to certify leather manufacturers according to their environmental compliance and performance capabilities. LWG aims to promote sustainable business practices and create alignment on environmental priorities throughout their membership and the industry as a whole. The group is made up of brand and retailers, leather tanners, traders of part-processed and finished material, suppliers of chemicals, machinery and testing, garment and product manufacturers, and technical experts.
Standard 100 is a worldwide certification system for raw, semi-finished, and finished textile products at all processing levels, as well as accessory materials used. It mainly focuses on testing for substances like toxic chemicals that can be harmful to humans. Examples of articles that can be certified: raw and dyed/finished yarns, woven and knitted fabrics, accessories, such as buttons, zip fasteners, sewing threads or labels, and ready-made articles of various types.
Bluesign® is a certification for the textile industry focusing on legal compliance in relation to environmental health and safety. The certification standard combines aspects of consumer safety, water and air emissions and occupational health, with a particular focus on the reduction of harmful substance usage at early stages of production. bluesign® APPROVED is used for individual components including raw materials and dyes, while bluesign® PRODUCT can only be used for products with 90% bluesign® APPROVED textiles and 30 % bluesign® APPROVED accessories, requiring brands to fully commit to the certification process.
Global Recycled Standard is an international, full product standard that verifies the recycled content of products and responsible social, environmental and chemical practices in their production. The goal of the certification is to increase the use of recycled materials in products and reduce/ eliminate the harm caused by its production. GRS sets the requirements for third party certification of recycled content, chain of custody, social & environmental practices and chemical restrictions across each stage of production. All recycled materials entering the supply chain must have a valid transaction certificate issued by the approved control board. The products being certified must contain at least 20% recycled materials.
The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) is used as a chain of custody standard to track recycled raw materials through the supply chain. As per label grade RCS offers two logo varieties: RCS 100 (minimum 95% recycled material content) or RCS blended (minimum 5% recycled material content). The RCS verifies the presence and amount of recycled material in a final product. It can be used as a B2B tool to give companies the means to ensure that they are selling quality products and getting what they pay for. It is also used as a way to ensure accurate and honest communication with consumers.
Cradle to Cradle Certified™ is a globally recognized measure of safer, more sustainable products made for the circular economy. To receive certification, products are assessed for environmental and social performance across five critical sustainability categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. A product is assigned an achievement level (Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum) for each category. The standard encourages continuous improvement over time by awarding certification on the basis of ascending levels of achievement and requiring certification renewal every two yearsIts label requires achievement across multiple attributes.
Fairtrade Foundation is about better prices, decent working conditions, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in developing countries around the world. Fairtrade Foundation works with small farmers, producers, and traders worldwide who meet strict standards. The Mark is only used on products certified in accordance with internationally agreed Fairtrade Standards. This certification aims to empower disadvantaged producers in developing countries by tackling injustice in conventional trade.
World Fair Trade Organisation is the largest global network of Fair Trade Organisations. Their direct impact includes 965,700 livelihoods supported through the operations and supply chains of these enterprises. 74% of these workers, farmers and artisans are women and women make up the majority of the leadership. They pioneer upcycling and social enterprise, refugee livelihoods and women’s leadership. To be a WFTO member and get verified as social enterprises that practice Fair Trade, an organisation must demonstrate that they put people and planet first in everything they do.
Fair Wear Foundation works with brands, factories, trade unions, NGOs and governments to verify and improve workplace conditions in the garment industry. FWF represent over 120 brands, bringing together the key components needed for sustainable change to improve workplace conditions. FWF verifies whether companies comply with its Code of Labour Practices, by keeping track of the improvements made by the companies it works with. Every year, FWF publicly reports on the companies’ progress through the Brand Performance Checks.
The Forest Stewardship Council is an international, non-governmental organisation that certifies any product made from responsibly managed forests and/or recycled sources, using their wellknown tree-tick logo. FSC certification for fabric is particularly used for viscose that does not come from ancient or endangered forests, as well as natural latex, cork and bamboo. The are three main labels:
- FSC 100% – all the fibre in the product comes from an FSC certified forest.
- FSC Mix – a mixture of fibre from some/all of FSC certified forests, reclaimed/recycled fibre and virgin fibre from FSC Controlled Wood.
- FSC Recycled – all fibre must be pre or post-consumer reclaimed
The Carbon Trust Standard is an independent verification for organizations that measure and reduce their environmental impacts year on year, against indicators including water, waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Separate CTS’ exist for carbon, water, waste, zero waste to landfill and supply chain. Along with verification, the CTS also consults businesses and governments to develop sustainable operations by providing specialist analysis and knowledge.
The B Corp certification is one of the most trusted and coveted, certifying the company’s contribution to creating a sustainable global economy while conducting business with purpose. Using a triple-bottom-line approach to ensuring people, planet and profits go hand-in-hand with business, B Corp is used in over 70 countries by over 3000 brands. B Corp certified businesses are expected to meet the rigorous social, environmental, transparency and accountability standards set out for them, while working towards healthier jobs and communities for stakeholders throughout the supply chain.