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When you’re trying to make more responsible life choices it always helps to have a little guidance. For example, when you’re looking for sustainable fabrics or clothing you might need some advice on which companies to look out for and which fabrics are legitimately better for the environment. This is particularly true right now, with a number of bigger brands using greenwashing to appear more environmentally friendly than they really are.
But the good news is there are a variety of certifications out there that can help you to easily recognise if a fabric is sustainable or not. By learning more about these labels and understanding which values are most important to you, you’ll be able to make better choices about the products you’re buying. That’s why this guide will take you through some of the best-known certifications and what they mean for the environment.
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) was founded as a result of the current impact cotton production has on our planet. BCI works to improve environmental and social factors related to the cultivation of cotton across the globe. In recent years, several big-name brands including Nike, GAP and Ikea have all been cited as sourcing Better Cotton for their products. Using the BCI website you can find a list of all retailers and suppliers that use Better Cotton for their fabrics or clothing.
If a product or fabric is certified Oeko-Tex this means that it is free from certain groups of harmful substances. This label verifies the safety of the fabric allowing buyers to feel confident that it is in no way harmful to their health. There are different levels of the certification as well as different standards such as ‘Made in Green’, ‘Leather Standard’ and ‘Detox to Zero’. Businesses or individuals that want to operate sustainably and make more responsible choices should look for textiles and products that are Oeko-Tex certified.
Fair Trade is perhaps one of the most recognisable certifications out there, in particular, we are seeing this more frequently on our food products. In order to be labelled Fair Trade, a fabric has to have met certain criteria for the social, environmental and economic impact made during its creation. One of the key ideas behind Fair Trade is to reduce poverty, give fair wages and provide better working conditions for those making or growing the products.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
A Global Organic Textile Standard certification is given to indicate that a product or fabric is definitely organic. This includes all aspects of manufacturing from start to finish, such as using toxin-free dyes to using low impact waste systems and fair labour initiatives. This is one of the most internationally recognised certifications and is therefore one of the most trusted when it comes to choosing sustainable, organic textiles.
Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC)
There are more keen environmentalists than ever before trying to find new ways to create fabrics from plants and trees. For example, rayon, modal and viscose all use this natural substance. And while this is great news, the only downside is that with more trees being used to create fabrics and other more environmentally friendly products, someone has to be keeping an eye on the forests. PEFC is a forestry certification system which ensures these wood products being used for fabrics are coming from sustainably managed forests to try to put an end to deforestation.
OE – 100
The OE certification is used to indicate that a product is made with 100% organic fibre and that this has been tracked and verified at every production point. The certification is awarded by Textile Exchange, a non-profit organisation that is hoping to change the textile industry for the better. They have a lot of focus areas such as 100% organic fabrics and control many of the certifications given to sustainable products.
Global Recycled Standard (GRS)
The Global Recycle Standard was created to indicate if a product contains recycled content in any form. This is particularly useful when it comes to buying recycled polyester, which is perhaps the most popular material right now amongst bigger brands trying to be more sustainable. This was originally set up by Control Union Certifications, but this has now changed hands and is also part of the Textile Exchange.
Two Organic Standard Certifications (OSC)
Finally, the Organic Content Standard Certification is given to verify that a product has met all the organic standards they have set out at every point during its manufacturing. When a fabric is OSC certified you can be sure that the organisation has worked closely with the manufacturers to ensure the final product is good quality and contains an accurate amount of the stated organic material.