The Truth behind Sustainability Certifications

Dinesh Exports
5 min readAug 17, 2021

Sustainability is a modern problem. The accumulation of the unregulated business practices of the industrial revolution has forced businesses to adapt to a “sustainable” way of doing business.

Consumers are demanding it. In fact, they are starting to care about the way in which their products are manufactured. This includes the sourcing of raw materials, treatment of the labor, effects it has on the climate, and so on.

Just like a nutritional tag, companies are starting to adopt sustainable labeling on their products. They come on all names and designs. It is quite confusing to a consumer. What does each of the sustainability certifications mean?

In this article, we will be looking at sustainability various sustainability certifications that are available in the clothing or fabric industry.

What are sustainability certifications?

Sustainability certifications are guidelines used by businesses to demonstrates their commitment to a good environment, social and ethical practices. In today’s market, there are over 400 types of such certifications available.

The increasing number of certifications means that each of the certifications sees sustainability in a different way. Businesses choose certifications as per their product or services. It is also worthy to note the fact that these sustainability certifications are voluntarily obtained by the companies.

Sustainability certifications are often provided by NGOs and other independent third parties. This is where it gets a little grey. Some NGOs don’t follow strict verifications making it easy for corporates to leverage the label without actually implementing sustainability methods. Still, there do exist sustainability certifications that are audited thoroughly before issuing.

Let us look at the key features of sustainability certifications out there:

1. Independent:

Such certifications are developed by either an independent third-party NGO or a group of independent organizations. Here, there will be interactions between the industry and the NGOs because of the lack of knowledge NGOs have on the details of working on certain businesses.

2. Standard Based:

There are always some guidelines or standards to be met in order to qualify for the certification. It can also be a baseline score. This is a preventive measure against companies that try to outdo their competition by spurious claims.

3. Verifiable:

Certifications can be verified against practices. It is done by an independent third-party organization. Eg: ISO certificate.

4. Voluntary:

Obtaining these certifications is not mandatory for companies. It is a voluntary act by them.

5. No government regulatory requirements:

These certificates don’t come under any government making it adaptable and flexible. These are market-driven and government participation is very little to nil.

Greenwashing: Banking on climate change

As more and more consumers started to demand sustainable practices from their favorite brands, it became essential to portray them as green companies in the market.

From Apple declaring no chargers in the iPhone box to Shell corporation declaring carbon neutral are some of the PR or marketing stunts, we saw in recent years.

Greenwashing is a dirty technique used by corporations in their marketing and PR efforts to showcase them as GREEN and sustainable while they are not. Major fashion brands like H&M, Lululemon, and Uniqlo have been accused of greenwashing by the western media.

Tackling climate change and verifying that the companies are following sustainable practices are extremely difficult processes. But it is also an important thing to do nowadays. These sustainability certifications make it easy for consumers to understand and identify a green product from the other.

What are the most popular sustainability certifications?

At Dinesh Exports, we value sustainability efforts and encourage brands to adopt sustainable products. We follow some of the industry benchmarks in sustainable manufacturing. Let's understand these certifications a little bit deeper.

  1. GOTS
GOTS logo

Known as the Global Organic Textile Standard is an internationally recognized certification that certifies for organic products. GOTS uses on-site auditing to make sure textiles are organic at every stage of the production cycle. From harvesting raw materials to manufacturing and labeling. The chemical used, if any, should also meet the strict environmental and toxicology criteria.

More: https://www.global-standard.org/

2. Fair Trade International

Fair Trade International Logo

Fair Trade International is a certification given to small and medium businesses and traders to certify that they follow its guidelines. The foundation of fair trade international is price. It implies that the company pays farmers a minimum price to protect them from market price falls. It signifies that the cooperatives uses the profit to build schools and hospitals to benefit the society at large.

Read more: https://www.fairtrade.net/standard/fairtrade-standards

3. OEKO-TEX

OEKO-TEX Standards 100 logo

OEKO-TEX is another popular sustainability certification. It has three major certifications:

- OEKO-TEX Standards 100: This certification ensures that every part of a finished piece, including threads, buttons, or other accessories, has been independently tested for “harmful substances and therefore is harmless to human health”.

- Made in Green: A certification that can be applied to all textiles, including leather and non-leather goods. This label indicates that in addition to the chemical standards, it guarantees the manufacturing “using sustainable practices and under socially responsible working conditions.” It has a traceable code for consumers to find about the particular item.

- Leather: Leather standard certifies for specific chemicals that are harmful to human health.

Read more: https://www.oeko-tex.com/en/

4. BCI Cotton

BCI logo

BCI cotton is an initiative to reduce the environmental impact of cotton production and improve the livelihoods and economic condition of the cotton-producing areas. It is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world.

Read more: https://www.bettercotton.org

5. OCS

OCS logo

Organic content standard is a certification that certifies that a product is made up of 5–100% organic material. It also tracks the flow of raw material from its source to the final product.

Read more: https://shorturl.at/opGO6

6. GRS

GRS logo

Global Recycle Standard is “an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of recycled content, chain of custody, social and environmental practice and chemical restrictions.

Read more: https://shorturl.at/dyR01

In the world of certifications, I have explained only a handful of them. Do you think I have missed out on any important or popular sustainability certifications in the textile/clothing industry? Comment below, let's discuss.

--

--

Dinesh Exports

The House of Textiles. Following everyone that follows us.