Textile Certification Guide

The Sportswear Inc. guide to textile certifications and standards for sustainability. There are many certifications and standards out there helping us consider the environment and ethical work environments. Read up on the certifications in this guide and determine which are important to you and your brand. Also, ask your customers to keep their eyes open for these certifications as a way to guide them to better product choices.

Now, October 2017,  we have updated the guide with standards from the ISEAL Alliance.

Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)

It exists to respond to the current impacts of cotton production worldwide. BCI promotes measurable improvements in the key environmental and social impacts of cotton cultivation worldwide to make it more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.




Indicates all the input streams from raw materials to chemical components and resources used are assessed on their ecological impact. It is essentially a label that helps identify fabric and apparel producers that have analyzed their manufacturing chain and are constantly investing in research and development in an active effort to reduce their ecological footprint.



Cotton Made in Africa

Indicates that the cotton is sustainably grown by African farmers in collaboration with the Aid by Trade Foundation. This initiative is meant to provide African cotton farmers with the knowledge and practices for sustainable cotton farming, and to improve their quality of life as farmers. The initiative works with retailers that are demanding sustainably produced cotton.



Cradle to Cradle

Indicates a product that is either completely recyclable or biodegradable, and made with the lowest impact manufacturing processes that are not harmful to people or the environment in any way. The certification program applies to materials, sub-assemblies and finished product and is a chance for companies to demonstrate eco-intelligent design. Textiles from Pendleton Woolen Mills, Greenweave Fabrics and Sunbury Textile Mills have received this prominent certification.



Fair Trade

The symbol indicates that the product has met certain social, environmental and economic criteria that support the sustainable development of small-scale producers and agricultural workers in the poorest countries in the world. The Fair Trade organization essentially gives consumers the opportunity to help reduce poverty and instigate change by purchasing Fair Trade cotton and several certified food items.



Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

Indicates that the product is definitely organic through every stage or production from ginning to the labeling of the final product. This includes all aspects of manufacturing from use of biodegradable and toxin-free dyes, to low impact waste treatment and water supply systems in factories, fair labor practices and final products that are free of allergenic, carcinogenic or toxic chemical residues. This officially and internationally recognized standard is currently one of the most trusted organic textile certifications.



Global Recycle Standard

Indicates that the product contains recycled content of some sort. This is often in the form of recycled polyester or rPET, which is often found in sportswear and cotton/rPET fabric blends.




It is a non-profit organisation based in Washington, DC that seeks to end exploitative child labour in the carpet industry and offer educational opportunities to children and support to communities affected by exploitative practices. They do this by certifying carpets and rugs free from exploitive production. In order to earn the GoodWeave label, rug exporters and importers must be licensed under the GoodWeave certification programme and sign a legally binding contract to adhere to the no-child labour standard. Importers agree to source only from GoodWeave certified exporters in India, Nepal and any other country in which GoodWeave rugs are available. In the United States and other rug-importing countries, only licensed importers are legally permitted to sell carpets carrying the GoodWeave label.



Made By

The sign is a label that indicates a fashion company’s environmental responsibility and fair labor practices throughout the entire supply chain. The Made-By organization works with brands that use organic cotton and work with sewing factories with enforced social codes of conduct.




Indicates that a product is made from 100 percent organic fiber that has been tracked and verified throughout the entire production chain. Textile Exchange awards the certification.




The standard indicates that the textile product is free of certain groups of harmful substances, ensuring that all certified products are harmless to health. The certification standards fall into three levels: 100, 1000 and 1000 plus as the highest and indicates that everything from fabric, threads, interlinings, hook-and-loop closures, hooks etc. have met the criteria.



Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS)

Supports social responsibility by ensuring the implementation of credible social standards designed to protect people and their communities. SAAS evaluates and accredits auditing organisations to assure they are qualified to hold their clients accountable to such social standards. SAAS is the only global accreditation body whose mission is to support implementation of social and labour standards.


SCS Certification

Measures the amount of recycled content that has been diverted from the waste stream in a certain product. The SCS organization also grants certification to companies the meet certain criteria for in-house recycling schemes.



USDA Certified Organic

Is often recognized for food labeling, but accounts for all agricultural crops. These include cotton, wool and other natural fibers that come from animals that have not been given antibiotics or growth hormones and receive organic feed, and plants that have not been grown with pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or ionizing radiation. All products that are labeled as USDA certified organic have to meet the standards whether or not the raw material was grown in the U.S. or somewhere else.




Indicates responsibly manufactured and environmentally safe wool. Wool with this accreditation has been produced in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable manner, to high animal welfare standards, and is traceable back to its source. Most Zque wool is merino wool raised and produced in New Zealand.