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
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.
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.
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.