Can you spot greenwashing? Every company knows that the majority of today’s consumers care about climate change and the environment. To appeal to customers, some companies use slogans and gimmicks that make you feel like they are environmentally friendly. And perhaps some of their practices are pro-environment, like using recyclable packaging or “natural” ingredients. But don’t be fooled. Their marketing game might be on point, but their sustainability game is way off. A great example of this is Unilever’s Love, Beauty And Planet product offering. Unilever is jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, but it has a long way to go before it can call itself a sustainable brand. (Just take a look at the havoc they have wreaked on places like Indonesia with palm oil harvesting and deforestation: www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/17/biggest-food-brands-failing-goals-to-banish-palm-oil-deforestation.)
Truly sustainable brands recognize that every part of their business has an impact on the environment and a big part of their overall mission and ethos is to reduce their environmental footprint. This means examining the entire lifecycle of a product - from design, sourcing and raw material production, manufacturing, transport and logistics, warehouse and storage, packaging and shipping, marketing and final sale, use, reuse and recycling. There are a lot of ways for brands to be sustainable. While there are no set criteria for defining sustainability in fashion, and different brands have different targets and methods, the shared goal is to implement processes and practices that prioritize environmental responsibility and never put profit over the future of the planet. Sustainable brands also measure and are transparent about their environmental impact.
Here are some strategies sustainable brands use to reduce their environmental footprint:
ORGANIZATIONS, CERTIFICATIONS AND SYMBOLS: An easy way to tell if a brand or company is sustainable is to look on the package for any labels or certifications that indicate a company complies with certain predetermined standards or meets preset requirements. For a full list of certifications and standards, check out Ecolabel Index’s alphabetical index of 107 ecolabels @ http://www.ecolabelindex.com/ecolabels/?st=category,textiles
Some common certifications include:
Textile Exchange owns and administrates the Global Recycle Standard (GRS), Content Claim Standard (CCS), the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS), the Organic Content Standard (OCS), the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), and the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). These standards are designed to ensure chain of custody for preferred materials, and to provide labeling tools for final product claims. Textile Exchange’s mission is to accelerate sustainable practices in the textile industry. This acceleration only happens when steps have been taken to ensure that actions taken toward sustainability result in real and meaningful change. This requires a strong understanding of the issues and a plan to substantiate the claims being made. Certification to a third-party standard accomplishes this.
The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled Content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices, and chemical restrictions. The goal of the GRS is to increase use of Recycled materials in products and reduce/eliminate the harm caused by its production. The Global Recycled Standard is intended for use with any product that contains at least 20% Recycled Material. Each stage of production is required to be certified, beginning at the recycling stage and ending at the last seller in the final business-to-business transaction. Material Collection and Material Concentration sites are subject to self-declaration, document collection, and on-site visits.
The goal of the Organic Content Standard (OCS) is to ensure trust in organic content claims. The OCS accomplishes this goal by verifying the presence and amount of Organic Material in a final product. It provides a strong chain of custody system from the source of the organic raw material to the final product through certification. It allows for transparent, consistent, and comprehensive independent evaluation and verification of Organic Material content claims on products by an accredited third-party Certification Body (CB). As a business to business tool, the OCS may be used to ensure that products companies purchase actually contain Organic Material. The Standard does not cover the certification of the raw material itself, which is verified independently of the production process certification. It also does not address processing inputs (e.g. chemicals), environmental aspects of processing (e.g. energy or water usage), social issues, safety issues, or legal compliance.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is an internationally recognised organic textile standard. Since its introduction in 2006, GOTS has demonstrated its practical feasibility and is supported by the growth in consumption of organic fibres and the demand for a unified processing criteria from the industry and retail sectors. GOTS ensures the organic status of textiles from the harvesting of the raw materials through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing all the way to labelling, in order to provide credible assurances to the consumer. The standard covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading and distribution of all textiles made from at least 70 percent certified organic natural fibres. The final fibre products may include, but are not limited to, yarns, fabrics, clothes and home textiles. However, this standard does not set criteria for leather products.
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and nonprofits alone. The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment.
The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard guides designers and manufacturers through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five quality categories — material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. A product receives an achievement level in each category — Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum — with the lowest achievement level representing the product’s overall mark. Product assessments are performed by a qualified independent organization trained by the Institute. Assessment Summary Reports are reviewed by the Institute, which certifies products meeting the Standard requirements, and licenses the use of the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ word and design marks to the product manufacturer. Every two years, manufacturers must demonstrate good faith efforts to improve their products in order to have their products recertified.