How To Know If a Brand Is Sustainable

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Don’t you love seeing more and more ethical and eco-friendly fashion brands coming up?

This means that our voice as responsible consumers is being heard and more and more brands want to sign up to sustainable fashion.

BUT we have to be careful. There are some shady brands out there that might be taking advantage of this wonderful eco-wave. Yikes.

There are even cases of well known green brands that have inflated the reality and promised things that were not quite true.

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This is called greenwashing.

Don’t be greenwashed. You deserve better.

But I believe that there’s more good than bad out there. You can also find amazing companies that are completely transparent and honest, and with one goal in mind: making our world better.

At plain sight, it can sometimes be hard to tell whether a brand is being honest or just trying to hide behind a green mask. But I got you. This is my handy-dandy guide to do it.

BTW: we’re focusing on fashion brands, but you can use most of the tips for anything else, from food to furniture.

So, how to know if a brand is sustainable?

1.  Know what you’re looking for

Let me elaborate.

‘Sustainable’ is an umbrella term under which you can find many many different categories (eco-friendly, ethical, fairtrade, …). So you should know your priorities, which definition of sustainability fits your ideals the best.

For example:

  • Looking for ethical clothing that doesn’t use animal products? Then look for vegan or cruelty-free brands
  • A brand that focuses on the human side of business? Maybe fair trade is for you.
  • What a brand that is as eco-friendly as possible? Then, look for carbon-neutral brands.

So yeah. Step one: decide which idea of sustainability is your priority.

You can learn more about this topic and find more tips on the category Sustainable Fashion 101 or downloading the Free Sustainable Fashion Beginner’s Guide here. 

2.  Visit their website

Obvious, I know.

Now you should be looking for transparency.

Some questions you want to find the answer to are:

  • What do they say about ethics and sustainability in general?
  • Are they giving information about their supply chain? All of it?
  • Do they have information about their factories? Or their workers?
  • Does the company give back? Meaning, do they collaborate with NGOs, do they offer carbon credits,…
  • Does it tell you how to take care of the garment to make it last longer?
  • Where do they get their fabrics from?
  • What fabrics do they use?
  • What dyes do they use?

Pro tip: don’t trust everything you read. Most companies will use his section in their advantage and sugarcoat reality. Wrapping a doughnut in lettuce doesn’t make it healthy, and focusing the marketing of an eco-toxic / non-ethical product around words like ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ doesn’t make it sustainable.

Pro tip 2: language is tricky. For example, handmade is not synonym with sustainable. They can use handmade fabrics produced by exploited workers with toxic materials. So be alert and be critical.

3.  Learn about the company’s story and mission

Who founded it? Why was it founded? Does it have a mission?

Anyone who starts a sustainable brand from scratch has to be a good person. Don’t fight me on this.

So learn about the creators of the brand, search interviews where they talk about their business model, what motivated them to create it,…

I love reading mission statements on brands’ websites before I buy form them.

One of the best examples is People Tree. On their About Us page, you can find everything you need to know, from their story and why they support a sustainable business model, to what they do for the environment, their certifications, the ethic guidelines they follow, and even who made your clothes.

People Tree

Or just stalk their social media, you’ll find nice info there as well.

Pro tip: if the founder doesn’t have a human name and sounds something like “holding” or “incorporation”, proceed with caution.

4.  Look for standards and certifications

You will find this info in the ‘about us’ or ‘help’ section of a website, or at the bottom of any page.

There are hundreds of certifications you can look for when it comes to sustainable clothing companies. Some of them are

Pro tip: bear in mind that saying that a product is fairtrade doesn’t mean that the company is Fair Trade Certified! The first one is mere marketing, the second one implies social responsibility.

5.  Put your FBI hat on and do some stalking

Don’t pretend. We all have some stalking experience. Now it’ll come in handy.

So unleash your inner detective and check anything that has ever been written about the brand on social media, press, blogs,…

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6.  Use apps and websites that rate sustainable brands

Cue Good on you, app and website that ranks tons of sustainable brands according to ethical and environmental aspects. They do the dirty job so that you can just relax and go on with your shopping.

I use it mostly as a tool to discover new sustainable fashion brands – they update their directory very often and are very reliable.

7.  Follow sustainable fashion Instagrammers, bloggers and magazines

And see what they say about the brand you’re interested in. Or discover new ones.

These are some of my all-time favourites

8.  Subscribe to their newsletter

Look, I’m terrible at keeping up with newsletters. I have been subscribed to tons of email lists that I never read.

That was until I got into this sustainability wave thingy, and subscribed to brands, blogs, and websites I could really connect with.

So do the test.

Subscribe to their mailing lists, hear what they have to say, and see if it goes along with your expectations.

And subscribe to mine at the bottom of this page while you’re at it 😉

9.  Ask the brand

We live in a world where you can DM Madonna if you want.

Why shouldn’t we just ask our fashion providers for that extra info we want.

Truly sustainable brands will be eager to discuss with you all the nitty-gritty of their company.

Write them an email, a Direct Message, a message in a bottle. You do you boo.


Now, why don’t you apply these tips and put your favourite brand to the test?

Do you have more tips? I’d love to know! Leave them below or head over to my Instagram to chat about them<3

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