Sustainable Fashion: Standards, Certifications, and Schemes

Feb 13, 2023
Sustainable Fashion: Standards, Certifications, and Schemes

Below you can find a list of organizations which issue different sustainability certifications, and a brief explanation of what the biggest labels mean.


NSF International

The NSF is a global, independent organization, dedicated to protecting and improving global human health. Through standards, certification and auditing services the NSF supports the sustainability strategies of textiles, apparel, and footwear companies, among others.

The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) and the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) verify recycled content claims, differentiating both pre-consumer and post-consumer waste.

The Organic Content Standard (OCS) provides third-party verification of organic material content in a product. After raw material is certified as organic, the OCS tracks the use of organic content in processing and manufacturing activities.

The Global Traceable Down Standard (Global TDS) and the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) ensure that down in garments and other products come from a responsible source that respects animal welfare, which entails prohibiting live-plucking and force-feeding.

The Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) addresses the welfare of sheep, social accountability and land management practices, and prohibits cruelty practices such as mulesing and tail docking.

The Content Claim Standard (CCS) verifies content claims and traceability of specific materials. It provides the manufacturers, brands, retailers, traders and organizations with a strong chain of custody system for raw materials from source to final product.

About NSF International

Sustainable Apparel Coalition

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is the apparel, footwear, and textile industry’s leading alliance for sustainable production. It’s vision is of an industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities. The Coalition develops the Higg Index, a suite of tools that standardizes value chain sustainability measurement for all industry participants. These tools measure environmental and social labor impacts across the value chain. With this data, the industry can identify hotspots, continuously improve sustainability performance, and achieve the environmental and social transparency consumers are demanding.

About Sustainable Apparel Coalition – SAC


Cotton made in Africa - CmiA

Cotton made in Africa, an initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation, is one of the world’s leading standards for sustainably produced cotton. The goal is to help people help themselves, via trade rather than donations, in order to improve the living and working conditions of smallholder farmers in Africa and to protect our environment.

About Cotton made in Africa – CmiA

Ethical Trading Initiative

The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is a leading alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers’ rights around the globe, by collectively tackling issues of exploitation and discrimination that cannot be addressed by individual companies working alone. Retailers and brands with a commitment to ethical trade adopt a code of labour practice that they expect all their suppliers to work towards. Such codes address issues like wages, hours of work, health and safety and the right to join free trade unions.

About Ethical Trading Initiative

Social Accountability International - SAI

Social Accountability International (SAI) is a global non-governmental organization empowering workers and managers using its multi-industry standards, tools and programs. In 1997, SAI created the SA8000 Standard - the world’s leading social certification program, based on internationally recognized standards of decent work, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ILO conventions, and national laws. It provides a framework for organizations of all types, in any industry, and in any country to conduct business in a way that is fair and decent for workers and to demonstrate their adherence to the highest social standards.

About Social Accountability International

Social Accountability Accreditation Services

SAAS began work in 1997 as an independent accreditation department within Social Accountability International. It evaluates, accredits, and monitors organizations auditing companies that qualify to the SA8000 Standard. It’s the only global accreditation body whose mission is to support implementation of social and labor standards. It’s vision is a world where all people across the globe enjoy fair and safe workplaces.

About Social Accountability Accreditation Services

Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production - WRAP

WRAP is the world’s largest independent certification program focused on maintaining the integrity of supply chains of the apparel, footwear, and sewn products sectors. The WRAP certification is recognized around the world as proof of social compliance in the apparel industry. WRAP only certifies individual production units, allowing the auditors to get an “on the ground” perspective of each facility’s operations to ensure that they are maintaining compliant practices. All certifications require periodic renewal depending on the level, and all certified facilities are subject to unannounced follow-up visits during their certification periods.

About Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production – WRAP


Fair Trade Federation - FTF

The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is a community of verified businesses that are dedicated to holistic fair trade, i.e. socially and environmentally responsible in everything they do.

For small-scale farmers and artisans, it means they get long-term buying partners they can trust.

For consumers, it means you get high quality, authentic products, grown & made in the traditional way. About Fair Trade Federation – FTF

Fair Wear Foundation - FWF

The Fair Wear Foundation focuses on garment production, specifically sewing, cutting and trimming processes–the most labour intensive parts of the supply chain. The foundation works with 140+ member brands, who are committed to finding a fairer way to make clothes, and engages directly with factories, trade unions, NGOs and governments to stitch together new solutions across the supply chain and make fashion fair for everyone.

About Fair Wear Foundation – FWF

Fairtrade International

Fairtrade focuses on fostering long-term trading partnerships that yield sustainable and decent livelihoods for the farmers and workers behind many popular products. Fairtrade Standards ensure fairer terms of trade between farmers and buyers, protect workers’ rights, and provide the framework for producers to build thriving farms and organizations. The Fairtrade Textile Standard is one component of the greater Fairtrade Textile Programme to facilitate change in textile supply chains and related business practices. This comprehensive approach engages manufacturers and workers in the supply chain to bring about better wages and working conditions, and engages brands to commit to fair terms of trade.

About Fairtrade International


Better Cotton Initiative - BCI

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. By ensuring the exchange of good practices, and encouraging the scaling up of collective action, the BCI aims to transform cotton production worldwide and establish Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity. Through BCI and its Partners, farmers receive training on how to use water efficiently, care for the health of the soil and natural habitats, reduce use of the most harmful chemicals and apply decent work principles. BCI Farmers implementing this system are licensed to sell Better Cotton. The BCI logo or packaging does not mean the product is made of physically traceable Better Cotton. It means that you’re buying a majority cotton product, from a retailer or brand that is committed to sourcing Better Cotton and investing in BCI Farmers.

About Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)


BLUESIGN is an independent authority that provides solutions in sustainable processing and manufacturing to industries and brands. To bear the bluesign® label, the manufacturers and brands are required to act responsibly and sustainably with regard to people, the environment and resources. BLUESIGN checks the progress that a company has made in this effort, provides continual further development of solutions and continuously optimizes its strict criteria.

About Bluesign

Cradle to Cradle - C2C

The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products Program sets the global standard for products that are safe, circular and made responsibly. Cradle to Cradle Certified is used by future-focused designers, brands, retailers and manufacturers across the value chain to innovate and optimize materials and products. The optimization reflects the world’s most advanced science-based measures for material health, product circularity, renewable energy and climate, water and soil stewardship, and social fairness. About Cradle to Cradle - C2C


The certifications issued by Ecocert guarantee and highlight the best environmentally friendly and socially conscious practices. Originally Ecocert specializes in organic agriculture products. As pioneers in organic textile certification, they have been promoting the use of raw materials of plant origin for the textile industry for nearly 20 years. For textiles, the ECOCERT label means the fabric is either GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), OCS (Organic Content Standard), and/or Ecological & Recycled Textiles (Ecocert Standard) certified.


Leather Working Group - LWG

The Leather Working Group is a community-led initiative which endeavours to promote improvement in the leather manufacturing industry by creating alignment on environmental priorities. Membership in the group is only granted while a leather manufacturing facility is covered under a periodically issued audit certificate. The LWG Audit assesses leather manufacturing facility operations in absolute terms, for example energy requirement to produce a square foot of leather, proportion of wastes recycled etc.

About Leather Working Group (LWG)


OEKO TEX and its portfolio of independent certifications supports fashion companies in acting responsibly and making sustainable purchasing decisions.

The product labels STANDARD 100 and LEATHER STANDARD are available for textile and leather products that have been tested for harmful substances and which are thus safe from a human-ecological perspective.

With the MADE IN GREEN label, you can identify textiles which have been tested for harmful substances and also manufactured under sustainable working conditions.

The STeP certification and the DETOX TO ZERO analysis optimise the manufacturing process for ecological and socially responsible textile and leather production.

The ECO PASSPORT identifies environmentally friendly chemicals, auxiliaries and colourants used in the textile and leather industry.



Organic Cotton Accelerator - OCA

The OCA Platform brings together those who grow, supply and buy organic cotton to create the conditions for this fibre to thrive. The global collective of brands, retailers, supply chain partners, civil society organisations, philanthropic foundations and academics are united in their efforts to safeguard the future of organic cotton.

About Organic Cotton Accelerator – OCA

Global Organic Textile Standard - GOTS

GOTS is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. The GOTS quality assurance system is based on on-site inspection and certification of the entire textile supply chain (processing and trade). Operators from post-harvest handling up to garment making, as well as wholesalers (including exporters and importers), have to undergo an on-site annual inspection cycle and must hold a valid certification in order for the final products to be labelled as GOTS certified. About Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

Regenerative Organic Certified - ROC

Regenerative Organic Certified™ is a revolutionary new certification for food, textiles, and personal care ingredients. ROC™ farms and products meet the highest standards in the world for soil health, animal welfare, and farmworker fairness.

About Regenerative Organic Certified – ROC



People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the largest animal rights organization in the world, focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time:

the laboratories the food industry,the clothing trade, and the entertainment industry.

PETA and it’s certifications are synonymous with cruelty free fashion (‘PETA-Approved Vegan’ Certification) and beauty (‘Beauty Without Bunnies’ Certification).

About PETA


Global Recycle Standard - GRS

The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) and Global Recycled Standard (GRS) are international, voluntary standards that set requirements for third-party certification of recycled input and chain of custody. The shared goal of the standards is to increase the use of recycled materials. The GRS includes additional criteria for social and environmental processing requirements and chemical restrictions. About Global Recycle Standard – GRS


Clean Clothes Campaign - CCC

A global network dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the global garment and sportswear industries. Works to ensure that the fundamental rights of workers are respected. Educate and mobilise consumers, lobby companies and governments, and offer direct solidarity support to workers as they fight for their rights and demand better working conditions. The Clean Clothes Campaign brings together trade unions and NGOs covering a broad spectrum of perspectives and interests, such as women’s rights, consumer advocacy and poverty reduction. About Clean Clothes Campaign – CCC

Fashion for Good

A platform for sustainable fashion innovation and a call for industry wide collaboration. The mission of Fashion for Good is to bring together the entire fashion ecosystem together and act as a convenor for change. Fashion for Good guides the sector with an aspirational model that all can use. “The Five Goods” (good materials, good economy, good energy, good water, and good lives) form a genuine and accountable framework with the promise of social, economic and environmental prosperity. About Fashion for Good

Global Fashion Agenda

Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) is the leading forum for industry collaboration and public-private cooperation on fashion sustainability. Their mission is to make sustainability fashion’s first priority, and to mobilise and guide the fashion industry to take bold and urgent action on sustainability.

GFA is a thought leader behind the largest business event on sustainability in fashion, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, which has been leading the movement since 2009, bringing together members of the fashion industry, multilateral organisations, industry associations, policy makers, among many others to find common solutions to accelerate social and environmental sustainability. GFA also porduces many insightful reports throughout the year, including the annual CEO Agenda, and Fashion on Climate.

About Global Fashion Agenda

Good On You

Ethical brand ratings. Aims to make sustainable shopping easy for millions of people around the world by being the best, most trusted source for brand ratings, articles and expertise on ethical and sustainable fashion. About Good On You

Green Story

Helping consumers choose the more sustainable and ethical option by showing them the positive impact they are making on websites. By providing a simple, credible and flexible impact marketing platform, Green Story is bringing a sustainable way of doing business into the mainstream.

About Green Story

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