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Sustainable Fashion: Certificates That Matter

sustainable fashion certificates

At KRSTN NDRSN, social responsibility matters.

But what does social responsibility even mean, really? It's more than just a trend or box to check off on a list.

Social responsibility is a critical part of our business and mission. It's related to the impact we make in the world through manufacturing more responsibly and more sustainably. It's about building long-lasting partnerships built on trust, respect, and communication. It means leaving the world in a little better shape than we found it in. It means treating our factory partners with the dignity they deserve because there is so much more power in working as a team that is united with one common goal. Social responsibility is our commitment to empowering ourselves, our partners, and each other to do better with this world in any way possible.

We are determined to leave a positive impact on the fashion industry and, ultimately, the world.

We believe that sustainable practices are the best practices and strive to 'Go Green' in every way we can. We also have an opportunity and responsibility to ensure all of our working relationships are as ethical and responsible as possible.

A large part of operating ethically, as a fashion designer and small business owner, is working with factories committed to sustainable and ethical practices. One way to tell which factories are socially responsible is to review and confirm the certifications they have.

It's so important to confirm each company's credentials with a certifying body because, unfortunately, certifications can be easily faked. Having a credential logo on the company's site isn't enough proof; you need to confirm.

The list below features 9 of the most important certifications that a factory could have. It's unlikely any factory you find will have all of them, but you should try to find factories with a few of them to ensure ethical operating practices. Certifications are expensive and require maintenance to keep them up to date, so you should check to ensure their certifications are in good standing.

First Up….

Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP)

sustainability in fashion

WRAP ensures that manufacturing is "safe, lawful, humane, and ethical."

In other words, WRAP basically checks to ensure that companies comply with a variety of laws and regulations. These include child labor laws, the prohibition of harassment and abuse, customs compliance, and more. WRAP is a very comprehensive certification, and it's a great sign if a factory is WRAP certified.

WRAP has high standards and 12 principles that it abides by which gives a pretty solid overview:

  1. Compliance with Laws and Workplace Regulations

  2. Prohibition of Forced Labor

  3. Prohibition of Child Labor

  4. Prohibition of Harassment or Abuse

  5. Compensation and Benefits

  6. Hours of Work

  7. Prohibition of Discrimination

  8. Health and Safety

  9. Freedom of Association & Collective Bargaining

  10. Environment

  11. Customs Compliance

  12. Security

Fair Trade

socially responsible designer

Fair Trade is a more niche certification, which is not always super common in the fashion industry. Regardless, Fair Trade aims to make trading relationships, practices, and deals as fair as possible for typically marginalized workers. Specifically, Fair Trade is a certification that establishes a fair deal for workers and farmers in developing countries. This means you can feel confident your farmers aren't being taken advantage of, as that is a frequent occurrence in non-Fair Trade operations.

You can read more here:

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

certificates to promote sustainable fashion

This certification focuses on ethical forest management and is FSC certified, which means that you're compliant with environmental and social standards in the market. As it relates to fashion? Think about your shipping boxes. Or even more, think about man-made cellulosic fabrications like viscose rayon, modal, lyocell, and all the rising upstarts within this realm. Using FSC-certified packaging, your company will be taking a more significant stance towards saving the rainforests and preventing deforestation.

Specifically, this certification "ensures that wood-based products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits." Items bearing the FSC label mean that the materials originate from legal & sustainable sources, so it's easy for consumers to identify.

OEKO-Tex Standard 100

sustainable fashion designer certificates

This international certification tests textiles for residual harmful substances left on garments after the manufacturing process. The OEKO-Tex Standard 100 certification is exceptionally rigorous, as it tests for numerous regulated (and various unregulated) substances.

So, when a garment is verified as Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, everything in it, literally everything from the lining to buttons to sewing thread - has passed testing for residual harmful substances.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

social responsibility in sustainable fashion

Making your garment GOTS certified is an exceptionally high standard for makers to meet. GOTS is specifically focused on organic fibers and has a strict focus on traceability with the product line. The organization makes sure the entire supply chain is certified and up to date to bear the mark of the logo. GOTS has both environmental criteria as well as social criteria and recently launched a 6.0 version of the standard.

GOTS is a widely used certification and aims to provide consumers with "credible assurance" that their textiles are safe, ethically sourced, and environmentally friendly.


sustainability in freelance fashion

Bluesign, on the other hand, indicates that textile consumer products are created responsibly, from start to finish. This certification focuses more on chemical use and is more relevant to things like synthetic fabrics vs organic or cellulosic. Blue Sign ensures high quality, environmentally friendly practices, and ethical working conditions by tracing each textile's path from the beginning of the manufacturing process to the final product.

If something has a Bluesign label, it means that the textile consumer product has been manufactured as ethically and eco-friendly at every level.

Cradle to Cradle

sustainability certificate

Cradle to Cradle is a globally recognized standard for products; C2C certifies products that have components that are either recyclable or biodegradable. They aim to create a circular economy for garments and textiles, meaning there is a purpose and value within each part of its lifecycle. C2C measures across 5 different categories: Material Health, Material Reutilization, Renewable Energy, and Carbon Management, Water Stewardship, and Social Fairness.

If a product has C2C, it indicates that the product was created safely and sustainably - across all 5 categories and it won't exist forever and ever because the materials are meant to biodegrade.

Global Recycled Standard

socially responsible partnerships in fashion

This international standard assesses and sets requirements for recycled content in products. The purpose of the Global Recycled Standard was to verify and trace recycled materials while increasing sustainability and improving working conditions.

If a product has the GRS stamp, it's a really great sign! It means that each stage of production has been verified through a third party, so you can feel pretty confident that your garment with recycled materials has been created as consciously as possible!

B Corp Certification:

socially responsible freelance designer

B-Corp certification is a little different from the other certifications we've explored so far. Unlike GOTS or WRAP, the B-Corp certification measures the business model of a company. Similar to GOTS and WRAP, though, social and environmental performance is measured by a B-Corp certification.

B-Corp status is hard to achieve because it means that it has been evaluated positively for its business model's impact on workers, community, environment, and customers. It's a comprehensive certification that "proves your business is meeting the highest standards of verified performance."

That's a wrap for our post on certificates, but we hope it helped enlighten you on what to look for when it comes to certificates in fashion!

Want to learn more about sustainable certifications? Check out this TedTalks video.



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