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Top Sustainable Certifications You Need To Know About In The Fashion Industry

Zilingo Editorial Team
Consumers, today, are becoming more conscious of the brands they buy from. Many customers make their purchasing decisions based on the brand’s values regarding environmental and social issues.

Due to the change in consumer perspective, many apparel brands are incorporating sustainability criteria in their business decisions. But as a clothing brand, how do you know which sustainability certifications to choose to build your brand reputation? This article will cover what sustainability certifications are and introduce you to some of the commonly used sustainable certifications in the fashion industry.

What is a Sustainability Certification?

Sustainable certification is a type of standard where a company can voluntarily choose to comply with predefined processes, objectives, or criteria set forth by the certification provider. To be sustainably certified, you will need to demonstrate that your business practices and products meet specific criteria to show that you are committed to good environmental, ethical, and social practices.

Features of Sustainability Certifications

The following are some features of sustainable certifications in the fashion industry:
  • Sustainability certifications are issued by independent third parties. The criteria, standards, and requirements for each certification are also developed by third parties.
  • Sustainability certifications are voluntary. They are not legal requirements or standards and are not issued by governments.
  • The companies that meet the predefined requirements are certified.
  • Certifications that are assessed and verified by independent third parties are more reliable compared to those that rely on self-assessment and self-reported results.

Benefits of Sustainability Certifications for Fashion Brands

According to a Pew Research Center report in 2021, “71% of
Millennials and 67% of Gen Z said that climate should be a top priority to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations.”

Sustainability certifications are more than ‘doing right’ for fashion businesses. They are a business’s commitment to making decisions and following practices that make an impact. The following are some of the top advantages of sustainability certifications:
  • Sustainability certifications serve as a great means to assess your brand’s environmental, ethical, and social impact. This evaluation can help you enhance your best practices.
  • Increase your brand’s trust and credibility.
  • Show your customers that your brand’s values address their concerns related to sustainability.
  • Increased sales and revenue.
  • They can provide you with an edge against the competition.

Top Sustainable Certifications In The Fashion Industry

Here are the 5 certifications that you need to know as a clothing brand. An understanding of these certifications will help you decide which certification is right for your business.

1. GOTS (Global Organic Textile Certification Standard)

Introduced in 2006, GOTS is an international standard that validates that textiles are organic at every phase of the product life cycle. Right from the production of raw materials to processing, manufacturing, labeling, packaging, and distribution of products, GOTS ensures environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing.

Key Highlights of GOTS (Global Organic Textile Certification Standard)
  • GOTS Certification Products: The final products may include fiber, yarns, fabrics, clothes, home textiles, mattresses, personal hygiene items, and other textiles produced with organic natural fibers.
  • Focus: This standard focuses only on mandatory requirements. It does not lay down criteria for leather products.

Product requirements:
  • A minimum of 70% certified organic fiber.
  • 10% synthetic or regenerated fiber [exception: this percentage can go up to 25% for sports goods].
  • Blending organic and conventional fibers of the same type in the same item is prohibited.
  • No genetically modified fiber.

2. GRS (Global Recycled Standard)

GRS label is a voluntary, global textile standard. Intending to increase the use of recycled materials, this certification sets requirements for third-party certification of recycled content, social and environmental processing, and chemical restrictions.

Key Highlights of GRS (Global Recycled Standard)
  • GRS ensures the company's verification of the recycled and recyclable ingredients in the products while also validating the environmental regulations, social responsibility, and chemical use.
  • Focus: Increasing the use of recycled materials.
  • Who Can Apply for GRS Certification: Companies operating in ginning, spinning, knitting, weaving, dyeing, printing, and stitching in over 50 countries. Brands, distributors, and recyclers who want their recycled products and responsible practices recognized by an international label.
  • Chain of custody – maintain the identity of the recycled material from the recycler to the final product.
  • Responsible production.
  • Engagement of stakeholders.
  • Transparent communication - brands can label their products meeting all standard requirements with the GRS logo.

Objectives of GRS
  • Aligning recycled definitions across different applications.
  • Verifying recycled content in products.
  • Increasing percentages of recycled content in products.
  • Enabling consumers to make informed decisions.
  • Reducing the negative impact of production on the environment and people.
  • Ensuring that products are processed more sustainably.

3. OCS (Organic Content Standard)

OCS is a global, voluntary standard that lays down requirements for third-party certification of certified organic input and chain of custody. It validates the existence and amount of organic material in a final product. It also tracks the movement of the raw material from its source to the final product.

OCS applies to any non-food product with approved organic material. It helps businesses ensure that they are selling quality products and receiving what they pay for.

Key Highlights of OCS (Organic Content Standard)
  • Focus: Increasing organic agriculture production.
  • Product Requirements: Non-food products containing at least 5% of raw materials that meet the recognized organic standards.
  • An OCS Blended product may have a 5-94% of certified content.
  • An OCS 100 product may have 95-100% of certified content.
  • Transparent communication – brands can label their products meeting all standard requirements with the OCS logo.
  • Engagement of stakeholders – considers the input of recyclers, suppliers, brands and retailers from across the world.

Objectives of the OCS
  • Offers a tool for businesses to verify the organically grown content of the products.
  • Offers a tool for businesses to communicate organically grown content claims.
  • Helps organic fiber farmers with access to the international organic market for their products.
  • Chain of Custody – ensures that the identity of the organic content is maintained from harvesting to the final product.
  • Credible Certification – because a third-party certification body audits every phase in the supply chain.

4. Fair Trade Certification Standards

Fairtrade provides an unconventional way to trade that is based on the partnership between producers and consumers. Fair Trade Certified products support responsible companies, farmers, fishers, and workers and are considerate of the environment.

Under the Fair Trade Certification, different standards, such as Agricultural Production Standard (APS), Factory Standard, and Trade Standard cater to the different parts of a business’s supply chains. These standards enable brands to meet their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals.

Key Highlights of Fair Trade Certification
  • Safe working environment
  • Sustainable livelihoods
  • Protection of the environmental
  • Community Development Funds

5. RCS (Recycled Claim Standard)

RCS is an international, voluntary standard that lays down requirements for third-party certification of recycled input and chain of custody. The goal of this standard is to increase the use of recycled materials.

Right from the recycling stage to the last seller in the business transaction, every stage of production is certified. It is not focused on social or environmental aspects of processing, manufacturing, quality, or legal compliance.

Key Highlights of RCS (Recycled Claim Standard)
  • Focus: Increasing the use of recycled materials.
  • Certification Products: Products with at least 5% recycled material.
  • Chain of custody throughout the supply chain.
  • Responsible production.
  • Engagement of stakeholders.
  • Transparent communication – items meeting all standard requirements can be labeled with the RCS logo.

Objectives of RCS
  • Aligning recycled definitions across different applications.
  • Confirming recycled content in products.
  • Offer a tool for consumers and brands to make the right decisions.

6. RDS (Responsible Down Standard)

RDS is an international, voluntary standard concerned with animal welfare in the duck and geese supply chain. It makes sure that animals are not unnecessarily harmed for the production of textiles containing feathers or down.

Key Highlights of RDS (Responsible Down Standard)
  • Focus: To drive demand for strong animal welfare practices.

Objectives of the RDS
  • Ensure that down and feathers do not come from animals who have been unnecessarily harmed.
  • Reward and influence the down and feather industry for following practices that treat ducks and geese properly.
  • Enable businesses to know what is in their products and to make the right claims.
  • Ensure a strong chain of custody for certified materials throughout the supply chain.
  • Encourage continuous improvement of best practices.


Sustainability concerns have increased significantly over the last few years and certain sustainable practices have become essential to shoppers in making their purchasing decisions. As clothing brands and shoppers become more conscious of sustainable strategies, it can be challenging to identify which certifications actually fulfill what the brand is claiming.

We hope this guide will help clothing brands on their journey to providing sustainable clothing to their conscious buyers.

Zilingo can help you connect with trusted sustainable suppliers
and manufacturers for all your clothing needs. Feel free to
get in touch with us for all your sustainable fashion

Zilingo Editorial Team
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