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Don’t you love seeing more and more ethical and eco-friendly fashion brands popping up every day?
This means that our voice as responsible consumers is being heard and more and more brands 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 that have inflated the reality and promised things that were not quite true. How crazy is that?
This is called greenwashing and it’s a marketing technique used to try and convince us that a product is green or ethical when actually it’s not.
You deserve better than that and I don’t want you to be greenwashed, so why don’t you check this post on how to spot and avoid it?
But I 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 place to live in.
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 read along and apply these tips next time you think a brand it trying to outsmart you.
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, 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.
- What a brand that is as eco-friendly as possible? Then you can for example look for carbon-neutral brands.
That easy. Step one: decide which idea of sustainability is your priority.
You can learn more about this topic and find more tips 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 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? 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?
- 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. Some companies will use their ‘about us’ or ‘sustainability’ page to 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 stay 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 its founders, try to find interviews about their business model, what their motivation is,…
I love reading mission statements on brands’ websites before I buy form them.
One of the best examples I know 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.
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
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 certifications, while big companies might show you some sketchy ones.
That being said, searching for these certifications can be your last resort. 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
- 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 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,…
Social media can actually tell you a lot if you pay attention about how the brand addresses social and environmental topics (if at all) and how they answer questions from their followers about their sustainability efforts.
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.
I use it mostly as a tool to discover new sustainable fashion brands – they update their directory very often and imo they’re 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 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, instead of getting irritated, 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 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.
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 all the nitty-gritty of their company.
Write them an email, a Direct Message, 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❤️️