Certification schemes

Below is a list of some of the most well-known certifications to look out for, and some information on the various criteria that determine the ethical properties of a given fabric

Provenance

Supply chain transparency is key when choosing any supplier. A good supplier will be able to identify every stage of production - from seed to final product. If this information is not displayed on their website, it is advisable to contact the company directly for more information.

Certified

It is important to investigate a companies ethical credentials, and ask to see evidence (such as a certificate) to back up any claims around sustainability, eco-friendliness and safe and fair working conditions. This chapter contains a list of the most common certifications to look out for. Each certificate generally covers a specific area - some of the certificates listed cover companies and some cover the actual products. Ideally, suppliers would have a form of Fairtrade certification, which covers social issues and working environment, as well as an agricultural or environmental certificate. The GOTS certificate (Global Organic Textile Standard) is the gold standard in terms of textiles, as it identifies a fabric or product as being both organic and Fairtrade.

Un-certified

There are of course, some grey areas regarding certification. Some of the more widely known certificates such as GOTS or Fairtrade, have to be paid for by the supplier. They also require three years worth of tax returns, and naturally, require suppliers to meet exceptionally high standards. This is not always possible, or affordable, for small-scale farmers or co-operatives. However, in these instances, it is particularly important to contact a company directly and ask for more information, and consult online forums such as The Ethical Fashion Forum or The Sustainable Angle. In this directory, some listings are labelled as “un-certified organic” or “no-certification” or “fair trade”, rather than “Fairtrade certified”. That is because, having dealt with them personally, or having done a certain amount of research on the company, I feel their claims can be supported. I strongly believe in supporting small scale artisans and co-operatives, who are working to preserve and promote traditional crafts.

It is important that you identify what is most important to you in terms of ethics - be it animal welfare, artisan empowerment or organic farming, and investigate suppliers thoroughly with this in mind. Most will meet all of the above criteria, but some may focus on one over the other.

BETTER COTTON INITIATIVE [BCI]

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a not-for-profit organisation stewarding the global standards for Better Cotton, and bringing together cotton’s complex supply chain, from the farmers to the retailers. 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, by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity.

BLUESIGN®

The bluesign® certification 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. Instead of testing finished products bluesign® system is applied at the point where the production starts. This means, that suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and brands have to go through rigorous tests in order to verify compliance with bluesign® criteria. Bluesign® system guarantees the application of sustainable ingredients in a clean process at which end stands a safely manufactured product. As a result, the textile industry manages the natural resources soundly and responsibly, reduces water and air emissions, improves its waste water treatment and generally reduces its ecological footprint.

CRADLE TO CRADLE

The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard guides designers and manufacturers through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five quality categories — material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. A product receives an achievement level in each category — Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum — with the lowest achievement level representing the product’s overall mark. Fashion Positive have created a digital Materials Library: a curated collection of Cradle to Cradle Certified™ materials for fashion designers and brands. This digital resource will allow you to more easily find, research and use Cradle to Cradle Certified™ materials in your products.

EU ECO LABEL

The EU Ecolabel helps you identify products and services that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle, from the extraction of raw material through to production, use and disposal. Recognised throughout Europe, EU Ecolabel is a voluntary label promoting environmental excellence which can be trusted The EU Ecolabel scheme is a commitment to environmental sustainability. The criteria have been developed and agreed upon by scientists, NGOs and stakeholders to create a credible and reliable way to make environmentally responsible choices. The EU Ecolabel scheme is a commitment to environmental sustainability. The criteria have been developed and agreed upon by scientists, NGOs and stakeholders to create a credible and reliable way to make environmentally responsible choices.

FAIR WEAR FOUNDATION

Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is an independent, non-profit organisation that works with companies and factories to improve labour conditions for garment workers. FWF’s 80 member companies represent over 120 brands, and are based in seven European countries; member products are sold in over 20,000 retail outlets in more than 80 countries around the world. FWF is active in 11 production countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. FWF keeps track of the improvements made by the companies it works with. And through sharing expertise, social dialogue and strengthening industrial relations, FWF increases the effectiveness of the efforts made by companies.

FAIRTRADE

The FAIRTRADE Mark is a registered certification label for products sourced from producers in developing countries. FAIRTRADE are a global organisation working to secure a better deal for farmers and workers. The Fairtrade certification system is run by an independent company called FLO-CERT. By checking compliance with Fairtrade Standards, FLO-CERT ensures that the relevant social and environmental standards are met for the raw materials and products that carry the FAIRTRADE Mark and that producers receive the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Fairtrade Premium. FLO-CERT auditors are highly qualified, usually based in the countries and regions where producers are located, and familiar with local cultures, languages, and legal systems.

GLOBAL RECYCLING STANDARD

The Global Recycled Standard is intended for companies that are making and/or selling products with recycled content. The standard applies to the full supply chain and addresses traceability, environmental principles, social requirements, and labelling. Developed with the textile industry in mind, the GRS may also be applied to products from any industry. The desired effect of the GRS is to provide brands with a tool for more accurate labelling, to encourage innovation in the use of reclaimed materials, to establish more transparency in the supply chain, and to provide better information to consumers.

GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD [GOTS]

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is recognised as the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres. It defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria as well. Only textile products that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibres can become GOTS certified. All chemical inputs such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries used must meet certain environmental and toxicological criteria. The choice of accessories is limited in accordance with ecological aspects as well. A functional waste water treatment plant is mandatory for any wet-processing unit involved and all processors must comply with minimum social criteria.

ISO 14000

The ISO 14000 family of standards provides practical tools for companies and organizations of all kinds looking to manage their environmental responsibilities. The ISO 14001:2015 sets out the criteria for an Environmental Management System [EMS] and can be certified to. It maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective EMS. It can be used by any organization regardless of its activity or sector. Using ISO 14001:2015 can provide assurance to company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved. The ISO 14001 is the world’s most recognized framework for environmental – That helps organizations both to manage better the impact of their activities on the environment and to demonstrate sound environmental management.

MADE IN GREEN BY OEKO-TEX®

Made in Green is a traceable consumer label for sustainable textiles. Each item with the Made in Green label features a unique product ID and/or a QR code allowing you to trace the article’s production. Each product ID gives you visibility into the various stages of production as well as the countries in which textiles were manufactured. As proof that Made in Green labelled products are harmless to health, they must successfully pass a laboratory test and certification based on the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100.

OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100

The OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 is an independent testing and certification system for textile raw materials, intermediate and end products at all stages of production. Examples for items eligible for certification: Raw and dyed/finished yarns, raw and dyed/finished fabrics and knits, ready-made articles (all types of clothing, domestic and household textiles, bed linen, terry cloth items, textile toys and more). Items are tested for harmful substances including illegal substances, legally regulated substances, known harmful (but not legally regulated) chemicals as well as parameters for health care The requirement for certification of textile products according to OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 is that all components of an item have to comply with the required criteria without exception – that means in addition to the outer material also sewing threads, linings, prints etc. as well as non-textile accessories such as buttons, zip fasteners, rivets etc.

STEP BY OEKO-TEX®

‘Sustainable Textile Production (STeP)’ is the new OEKO-TEX® certification system for brands, retail companies and manufacturers from the textile chain who want to communicate their achievements regarding sustainable production to the public in a transparent, credible and clear manner. The objective of STeP is the permanent implementation of environmentally friendly production processes, optimum health and safety and socially acceptable working conditions. Certification is possible for production facilities of all processing stages from fibre production, spinning mills, weaving mills, knitting mills to finishing facilities and manufacturers of ready-made textile items.

SOIL ASSOCIATION CERTIFIED

Soil Association Certification is the UK’s largest organic certification body. Any product sold as ‘organic’ must comply with strict rules set at UK, European and international levels. These standards assure consumers they are buying genuinely organic products that can be fully traceable back to the farm. For textile products, the Soil Association certificate covers manufacturers, processors, packers, brand-holders, importers, exporters, retailers and wholesalers. The Soil Association standards incorporate the Global Organic Textiles Standards (GOTS); this scheme therefore permits operators to apply the GOTS logo on product packaging.

WORLD FAIR TRADE ORGANISATION

The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) is a global network of organisations representing the Fair Trade supply chain. WFTO is the home of fair traders: producers, marketers, exporters, importers, wholesalers and retailers that demonstrate 100% commitment to Fair Trade and apply the 10 WFTO Principles of Fair Trade to their supply chain. WFTO’s route to equity in trade is through the integrated supply chain. Practices used across the supply chain are checked against the WFTO Fair Trade Standard, a set of compliance criteria based on the 10 Fair Trade Principles and on International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions.

WRAP

WRAP’s vision is a world in which resources are used sustainably. Their mission is to accelerate the move to a sustainable resource-efficient economy through, re-inventing how we design, produce and sell products, re-thinking how we use and consume products, and re-defining what is possible through re-use and recycling. Their facilities certification program is based on lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing within the apparel, footwear and sewn products sector.