How do you know if a brand is really sustainable? This question came up a lot for me when I started shopping sustainably. At first it seemed easy, Google ethical fashion brands and you get a list of brands. That was good enough but it wasn’t really pushing it. It’s easy to market yourself as a sustainable brand on your website, key words such as sustainability, ethical, green living and more are all over the place but how substantial are these claims? Having struggled with these notions, I’ve learnt four ways to find authentic reliable sustainable fashion brands:
1. Dig deeper for transparency
We all heard of fast fashion brands who start a sustainable or ethical line. These efforts are authentic but on a shallow level. They often focus on the easier solution, like recycled materials, initiatives like bringing your clothes back to the store…etc. Not bad, however these often giant retailers can do better. Their websites are sprawled with key words like sustainable, green, ethical without really outlining concrete actions that positively impact the supply chain.
When searching if a brand is ethical, dig into their website, search for an actual sustainable tab or section, see their concrete action towards that as well as who they associate themselves with like their partnerships or their certified labels. More detail equals more transparency. Of course, don’t hesitate to write to or email brands to asks them about their practices if it isn’t clear.
Check out Everlane's authentic and clear sustainability initiatives.
2. Fairtrade label certified and the Global Organic Textile Standard
The Fairtrade certification label is a sure sign that the clothes you are buying are made ethically. This means that the ILO (International Labor Organisation) standards are recognised and set in place. Some of the compliances required for factories are fair trade premiums where workers decide collectively how they want to use additional funds or worker voice where workers receive training as to their rights and have channels via which to report abuse of these rights, women’s right is also taken into account to promote equal pay and deal with sexual harassment. This label is usually found at the bottom of the company website.
Global Organic Textile Standard means that textiles used are composed of a minimum of 70% organic fibres. This label is found on the product but you can also look into the company’s public database which offers details like the categories of GOTS certified clothing from that company.
3. Scout the internet for helpful websites or applications
My go to website for assessing sustainable brands is ProjectJust. Project just does a great job in collecting brands and detailing their ethical engagement. It will also lead you to discover new ethical and sustainable brands or find out if that brand you love is engaging in sustainable practices. There are also useful applications such as The Good Guide, Shop Ethical! , Free2work, aVoid or the Higg Index, they all help you to pick the right places to shop and the right garments to buy.
4. Small and local is very trust worthy.
Local brands are great because simply by walking into these usually discreet stores, you can get a comprehensive understanding of their supply chain and garments life cycle by talking to the salesperson, who is often the owner of the store if you are lucky. Their websites also have a straight-forward explanation as to where and how their items are sourced and created. There’s zero blabla and a lot of straight to the point information. They usually also have great local partnerships that help them push their sustainable initiatives forward.