Every day I see a new sustainable brand pop up in my Instagram timeline. Love to see it.
This means that responsible consumers like you and I are being heard and more and more businesses want to subscribe 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 making claims about the sustainability of their goodies that are not entirely true. How crazy is that?
This is called greenwashing, a marketing technique used to try and convince us that a product is green or ethical when it actually isn’t.
You deserve better than empty promises, and I don’t want you to be greenwashed, so why don’t you check this post on how to spot it and avoid it?
But I do believe that there’s more good than bad out there. You can also find ✨amazing✨ companies that are completely transparent and just want to make our world a nicer and cozier place to live.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell at plain sight whether a brand is being honest or just trying to hide behind a big green mask. But I got you. Just apply the tips I’m about to give you next time you think a brand is trying to outsmart you.
BTW: we’re focusing on fashion brands, but you can use most of these tips for anything else, from food to furniture.
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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, fair trade, slow,…). So you should know your priorities and ask yourself which definition of sustainability fits your ideals the best.
- 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 the business? Maybe fair trade is for you
- Want to find a brand that is as eco-friendly as possible? Then you can look for carbon-neutral brands, for example
That easy. Step one: decide which side of sustainability is your priority.
You can learn all there is about this topic on the page Sustainable Fashion 101.
2. Visit their website
Obvious, I know.
Now you should be looking for transparency.
Some questions you want to find answers to are:
- What do they say about ethics and sustainability in general? (If anything at all)
- 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? Do they collaborate with NGOs, do they offer carbon credits,…
- Does it tell you how to take care of the garments they sell? How to make them last?
- What fabrics do they use?
- Where do they get their textiles from?
- What dyes do they use?
Pro tip: don’t trust everything you read. Some companies will use their ‘about us’ or ‘sustainability’ pages to sugarcoat reality. Wrapping a doughnut in lettuce doesn’t make it any healthier, and focusing the marketing of an eco-toxic / non-ethical product around words like ‘green’ or ‘fair’ doesn’t make it sustainable.
Pro tip 2: language is tricky. For example, handmade and sustainable are not synonyms. A brand can use handmade fabrics produced by exploited workers and made of toxic materials. So stay alert and be critical.
3. Learn about the company’s story and mission
Who founded it? Why did they found it? Does the business have a mission?
Anyone who starts a sustainable brand from scratch has to be a good person. So learn about its founders, try to find interviews where they talk about their business model, what is their motivation,…
I love reading mission statements on brands’ websites before I buy form them, give that a try.
One of the best examples I can give you 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 ethical guidelines they follow, and even info on who made your clothes.
Or just stalk them on 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
This one is a bit tricky because certifications are really expensive and hard to get, so smaller businesses may be extra green but have no official certifications, while big companies might have loads of irrelevant certifications.
That being said, looking for these certifications can be used as a last resort. You will find this info in the ‘about us’ or ‘help’ sections 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 the most common ones are
- Certified B-Corporation
- Fair Trade Certified
- World Fair Trade Organization
- Fairtrade International Standards
- Global organic textile standard
- Global recycled standard
Pro tip: once again, be careful with how things are worded, and remember that saying that a product is fair favotrade doesn’t mean that the company is Fair Trade Certified. The first one is mere marketing, the second one implies actual social responsibility.
5. Put your FBI hat on and do some stalking
Don’t pretend. We all have some stalking experience. And now it’ll come in handy.
So unleash your inner detective and check anything that has been written about the brand on social media, press, blogs,…
Social media can actually tell you a lot if you pay attention to things like how the brand addresses social and environmental topics (if at all), and how it answers questions about sustainability from its followers.
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 all the difficult work so that you can just relax and go on with your shopping.
Renoon is also amazing at giving trustworthy info about your favorite susty brands.
I also use these two as a way to discover new sustainable fashion brands, and not just to check how sustainable the brands I already know are. Also, they update their directory very often and they’re very reliable.
7. Follow sustainable fashion instagrammers, bloggers and magazines
And see what they say about the brands you’re interested in. Or even discover new ones.
These are some of my all-time favorites
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 even opened – and did you know that your inbox adds to your carbon footprint? – Bad Lidia! Bad environmentalist!
That was until I got into this sustainability thingy and I subscribed to the email lists of blogs and brands that I truly resonate with. Every time I receive one of their emails, I do a little happy dance, open it and read with heart eyes all the amazing content they share.
So do the test.
Subscribe to their email lists, hear what they have to say, and see if it helps you learn about their values a bit more. .
And subscribe to mine while you’re at it 😉
9. Ask the brand
We live in a world where you can DM Madonna if you want.
So why shouldn’t we just ask our fashion providers for extra info about what we buy from them?
Truly sustainable brands will be eager to discuss with you the nitty-gritty of their business.
Write them an email, a DM, send them a message in a bottle. You do you, boo. Fashion Revolution even has a template for you to use.
Now, why don’t you follow these tips and put your favorite brand to the test?
Do you have more tips? I’d love to know! Leave them in the comment section below or head over to my Instagram to chat about them❤️️
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