With a rise of sustainable fashion and consumers are more conscious about their purchases, there is also, side by side, an increase of brands aligning themselves under the sustainability badge. However, not all those labels are truly sustainable, in fact, some of them are not even close. So, in this journal, we will give you some assessments how to know if a brand is (real) sustainable.
Note: We are talking about “sustainable brand” as brands that claim sustainability is the core of their business, not about traditional fashion companies that have implemented some sustainability practices just lately.
WHAT IS A "SUSTAINABLE FASHION BRAND"?
First of all, we have to define very clearly, for once, what a sustainable brand really is. With the word “sustainable” on the label, a brand is everything from slow, fair trade to ethical and eco-friendly. *We have already clarified those terms in our previous blog post which is about sustainable fashion. as an industry. You can check it out here!
There are many aspects that should be considered when we do research about if the brand is sustainable or not:
Products offered by a sustainable brand are made from sustainable, recycled and/or eco-friendly certified materials.
Why? Because a product that made from recycled garments, recycled polyester for example, consume significantly less water and reduce a huge percentage of carbon emission within the production compared to the one made from raw materials. Besides, the “material” of recycled fabric is typically waste from previous productions or other sources (plastic bottles, fishing net collected from the ocean for instance).
There are also some natural fibers are more environmentally friendly than others, such as linen, hemp and Tencel. A sustainable brand usually opts to use those as its materials. Unlike conventional cotton, organic cotton is grown without harmful chemicals, leaving the soil, air, and water free from contaminates that cause harm; as well as produces less carbon emission.
Questions to ask:
- Does the brand use sustainable productions methods?
- Do they use chemical dye?
- Does the wastewater from production get cleaned or cooled before it’s released back into the world?
- Do they use the manufacturing technology that can reduce carbon emissions? Are they carbon neutral?
- Are the fabrics they use recyclable? What are they going to do with the leftover fabrics?
- Do they use biodegradable, compostable, or recycled packing?
FACTORY LOCATION, WAGE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The more transparent, the more sustainable the brand is. Apart from the products, we should also care about the people who made our clothes. Ethical labour and safe working environments are a human right. Brands should provide the information about the locations of their factories and how the garment workers there are paid and treated.
Go to the brand’s website and check “About us” or “Sustainability” or “Transparency” tabs, these are normally where you can find useful content.
CERTIFICATIONS AND STANDARDS
Certifications can help you recognise a sustainable brand at a quick glance. However, you should, still, be mindful and critical. Do a research about the certification itself to make sure that this certification is reliable and trustworthy!
Here are some most common certifications and standards when it comes to sustainable clothing companies:
- Certified B-Corporation: businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
- GOTS Certified: GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standard, a standard that tells fabrics labelled “organic” are sourced in the most ethical and sustainable ways.
- STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX: labels for textiles tested for harmful substances.
- Fair Trade
Size inclusivity often a part of sustainability that we overlook. Inclusive in sizing is an important aspect of the conversation about sustainability. We can’t just discriminate against an entire group of people. We can’t only fancy brands cater only for slim bodies.
When you choose a brand to support, have a look at their sizing selection. A sustainable and inclusive brand will have products offered a sizing system from XXS-6XL. Some brands produce products are more flexible and adjustable without a wide sizing range.
This is not a requirement but a plus point. As a consumer, we feel even better when we know what we paid not only serves our needs but also contributes to something bigger and more meaningful. We are not just consuming but also giving back.
In a big corporate, they will have an entire strategy for this which is known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). But for small business that has a limit budget, they often participant in social-, environmental-related projects such as cleaning the ocean, planting trees (like how we do here at NUARSWIM with 1 order = 1 tree planted), and so on.
Different brands will choose to support different projects and movements in the topics that they are caring for: climate change, Black Life Matter (BLM), anti-racism, feminism, etc.
It is not sustainable if we are shopping impulsively even we purchase from sustainable fashion brands. Remember that each item you buy produces a certain amount of carbon emission, regardless how eco-friendly the materials and the production are. The only way to move towards a sustainable future is to avoid overconsumption and make things last longer.
Blog: Inspiroue. How to assess a brand sustainability.
Blog: Matter Prints. How to tell if a brand is sustainable.
Blog: Pretty Green Lily. How To Know If a Brand Is Sustainable.