Sustainability Certification Guide

Sustainability Certification Guide (2024)


Sustainability certifications play a crucial role in the clothing industry, serving as a symbol of a company’s commitment to responsible and environmentally-friendly production practices. With the increasing demand for ethical and sustainable fashion, these certifications have become an important factor in helping consumers make informed purchasing decisions. 


Here are few reasons why sustainability certifications are so important in the clothing industry.
  1. Assurance of sustainable production practices. Sustainability certifications ensure that the production and supply chain practices of a company meet established environmental and social standards. This gives consumers the peace of mind that the products they are purchasing are not harmful to the environment and were produced ethically.

  2. Reduction of environmental impact. The clothing industry has a significant environmental impact, from the use of water and energy in production to the disposal of clothing waste. Sustainability certifications help to reduce this impact by promoting environmentally-friendly production practices, such as using eco-friendly materials and reducing waste.

  3. Promotion of fair labor practices. Many sustainability certifications also promote fair labor practices, such as safe working conditions and fair wages. This is important because the clothing industry has a history of exploitation, particularly in developing countries. By promoting fair labor practices, sustainability certifications help to improve the lives of workers in the industry.

  4. Raising awareness about sustainability. Sustainability certifications help raise awareness about the importance of sustainability and the impact of the clothing industry on the environment and society. This increased awareness encourages consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions and helps drive positive change in the industry.

  5. Demonstrating commitment to sustainability. By obtaining a sustainability certification, companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability to customers, stakeholders, and investors. This helps to build trust and credibility with consumers and can be a key factor in attracting and retaining customers.

Apparel Entrepreneurship’s guide to textile certifications, standards & organizations for sustainability.

There are many certifications and standards out there to help 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.



Better Cotton

Better Cotton is the world’s leading sustainability initiative for cotton. It exists to respond to the current impacts of cotton production worldwide. Better Cotton 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. It unites the entire textile value chain to reduce the impact on people and the planet.  With a holistic approach, Bluesign works together with system partners including brands, manufacturers, and chemical suppliers, to develop unique solutions.





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. It is the leading science-based multi-category standard used globally across industries by designers, brands, and manufacturers for designing and making products that enable a healthy, equitable, and sustainable future.


Cradle To Cradle


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. Fairtrade’s approach enables farmers and workers to have more control over their lives and decide how to invest in their future.  As a leader in the global movement to make trade fair, Fairtrade supports and challenges businesses and governments while connecting farmers and workers with the people who buy their products.


Fair Trade



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. GOTS is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibers, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. GOTS-certified final products may include fiber products, yarns, fabrics, clothes, home textiles, mattresses, personal hygiene products, as well as food contact textiles and more.





Textile Exchange

Textile Exchange is a global non-profit that works closely with its members to drive industry transformation in preferred fibers, integrity and standards and responsible supply networks.





It is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that seeks to end exploitative child labor 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 labor 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.






OEKO-TEX® standards enable everyone to make responsible decisions and protect natural resources.

Products bearing the OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 and OEKO-TEX® LEATHER STANDARD labels have been scientifically tested for the presence of harmful substances and are a better and safer choice for your health.

Textiles and leather carrying the OEKO-TEX® MADE IN GREEN label are produced more sustainably in socially responsible workplaces.

The OEKO-TEX® STeP certification and the DETOX TO ZERO analysis set the highest standards for social and environmental aspects of textile and leather production.

Chemicals and treatments that meet the OEKO-TEX® ECO PASSPORT standard have been tested and analyzed against strict criteria, for a lower environmental impact.

OEKO-TEX® RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS supports you on preventing or mitigating existing and potential negative impacts of business operations within your own activities, your supply chains and your further business relationships.



Social Accountability International

Social Accountability International (SAI) is a global non-governmental organization advancing human rights at work. SAI’s vision is of decent work everywhere—sustained by an understanding that socially responsible workplaces benefit business while securing fundamental human rights. SAI empowers workers and managers at all levels of businesses and supply chains, using its multi-industry SA8000® Standard, as well as Social Fingerprint®, TenSquared, and other training and capacity-building programs. SAI is a leader in policy and implementation, working together with a diverse group of stakeholders, including brands, suppliers, governments, trade unions, non-profits, and academia.




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.




World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO)

The WFTO is the global community and verifier of social enterprises that fully practice Fair Trade. Spread across 76 countries, WFTO members all exist to serve marginalised communities. To be a WFTO member, an enterprise or organisation must demonstrate they put people and planet first in everything they do. We are democratically run by our members, who are part of a broader community of over 1,000 social enterprises and 1,500 shops. We are their global community. WFTO = social enterprise + Fair Trade The WFTO focuses on both social enterprise and Fair Trade. Its Guarantee System is the only international verification model focused on social enterprises that put the interests of workers, farmers and artisans first. Through peer-reviews and independent audits, WFTO verifies members are mission-led enterprises fully practicing the 10 Principles of Fair Trade across their business and supply chains. Once verified, all members have free use of the WFTO Guaranteed Fair Trade product label.



Fair Wear Foundation

Fair Wear Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with brands, factories, trade unions, NGOs and sometimes governments to verify and improve workplace conditions for garment workers 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. FWF’s more than 80 member companies represent over 120 brands, and are based in Europe; member products are sold in over 20,000 retail outlets in more than 80 countries around the world.



Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)

The ETI has a very simple mission: protect worker’s rights in global supply chains.

The Ethical Trading Initiative adheres to nine base code provision which include “employment is freely chosen, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected, working conditions are safe and hygienic, child labour shall not be used, living wages are paid, working hours are not excessive, no discrimination is practiced, regular employment is provided, and no harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed.”




B Corporation

B Corporation is a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corporations are unlike traditional responsible businesses because they meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards, institutionalize stakeholder interests, and build collective voice through the power of a unifying brand. B Lab is the nonprofit network transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet.




Sourcemap supports sustainable decision-making through their platform for supply chain transparency, where producers share detailed information about their processes with their buyers and their buyers’ buyers, all the way to the end consumer. A Sourcemap ecolabel points to information on a product’s components and their origins, as well as optional environmental and social footprints.




Cotton Made In Africa

Cotton made in Africa is an initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) that helps African smallholder cotton farmers in Africa to improve their living conditions. Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) is an internationally recognised standard for sustainable cotton from Africa. Since 2005, CmiA has been committed to protecting the environment while improving working and living conditions for smallholder farmers and ginnery workers.




Responsible Down Standard

The Responsible Down Standard is an independent, voluntary global standard, which means that companies can choose to certify their products to the RDS, even if there is no legislation requiring them to do so. The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) incentivizes the down and feather industry to treat ducks and geese humanely and rewards organizations leading the way. The standard also gives companies and consumers a way to know what’s in the products they buy. The standard recognizes and rewards the best practices in animal welfare.




Responsible Wool Standard

 The Responsible Wool Standard aims to improve the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on. The Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) requires all sites, from wool farmers to the seller in the final business-to-business transaction, to be certified. RWS farmers and ranchers must meet animal welfare, land management, and social requirements.



People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world, and PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally.  PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview, and focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: in laboratories, in the food industry, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment business. PETA also works on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of rodents, birds, and other animals who are often considered “pests” as well as cruelty to domesticated animals. PETA works through public education, investigative newsgathering and reporting, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.




Fashion Revolution

Fashion Revolution is a global movement that wants to unite people and organizations to work together towards radically changing the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed so that our clothing is made in a safe, clean and fair way.

Who made your clothes? If you want to ensure that the garments were produced ethically, look for clothing brands that participate in the Fashion Revolution. This will mean that their manufacturing processes ensure fair wages to all employees, and production stages are fully traceable and transparent. Fashion Revolution doesn’t yet provide an actual certification.




Sustainable Apparel Coalition

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is the apparel, footwear, and textile industry’s leading alliance for sustainable production. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s vision is of an apparel, footwear, and textiles industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities.



Higg Index

Developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the Higg Index is a suite of tools that enables brands, retailers, and facilities of all sizes — at every stage in their sustainability journey — to accurately measure and score a company or product’s sustainability performance. The Higg Index delivers a holistic overview that empowers businesses to make meaningful improvements that protect the well-being of factory workers, local communities, and the environment.




Ecolabel Index

Ecolabel index is the largest global directory of ecolabels, currently tracking 456 ecolabels in 199 countries, and 25 industry sectors.




Outdoor Industry Association

The Outdoor Industry Association is a membership-driven trade organization for the outdoor industry. In collaboration with our members, we are a force for the industry in recreation and trade policy, sustainable business innovation, and increasing outdoor participation.



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