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13 Sustainability Certifications and Standards You Should Know

Have you ever noticed a sustainability certification on your garments or the product description and wondered what it means?

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What often seems like a nice qualitative add-on tells you a lot about who made your clothes, whether they have worked under fair conditions and if the environment has been protected during the production and supply phase. It’s no secret that not every garment is ethically produced, and paired with frustration to find reliable sources that verify that a brand is protecting people and the planet.

Initiatives that systematically improve and introduce sustainability and prosperous work environments within the fashion industry – but what do these labels mean?

We have created a Sustainability Certifications and Standards Guide to help you make confident purchasing decisions and not fall for greenwashing traps. The guide supports you in being ahead of your sustainability game and wearing your values. But what is the difference between certifications and standards? As companies are not legally bound to transparently verify the sustainability of their clothes, sustainability certifications and standards come together to verify a broad scope of social, economic and environmental development. Everyone’s receipt is a ballot to support

Certifications occur when a third party (i.e. auditor) independently verifies that a company (i.e. producer, manufacturer, retailers) meets appropriate environmental, social and/or ethical standards. A certification statement is usually voluntary and issued to the company if the examination has been successful.

Standards are a set of (technical) performance benchmarks and frameworks that are legally or contractural required to be met to qualify and developed by bodies of experts. Other standards can be voluntary to improve conditions within the supply chain. Quality management, social responsibility, ethical practices, and sustainability are the most common categories.

As certifications and standards are often self-funded, the affordability of paying for all these labels, especially for young designers and small brands, is challenging. However, this does not preclude truthful and transparent communication about production methods and practices. Every brand must ensure that living wages are paid, that fair working conditions are contractually agreed upon, and that the people and planet don't have to pay for it.

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