Maybe it’s me, but it seems that sustainable and ethical clothing brands are springing like weeds from the soil. One sustainable brand after another is being launched. The one claims to be more sustainable than the other. Personally, I applaud this trend. Yet I also wonder: how sustainable are these brands really?
A growing demand for sustainable clothing
The fact that sustainable clothing is becoming increasingly popular, is evidenced by the recently published research from Grand View Research. Their research showed that the demand for sustainable textile fibers such as organic cotton, bamboo, paper, and wood will increase by 7.3 percent in 2025.
This rising demand is partly prompted by the global increasing emphasis on sustainable consumption. Large fashion chains such as C&A, Zara and Mango are responding to this increasing demand by bringing sustainable collections onto the market. These collections consist of clothing made from sustainable materials. More and more, these collections become the added value of the big brands.
Of course, it is a positive trend that the big players in the field are responding to this increasing demand. However, sometimes these collections do not seem to tell a complete story. The mere fact that sustainable materials are being used, does not make the production process environmentally friendly. The large quantities of clothing that are produced by fast fashion brands are still damaging to the environment. The use of sustainable materials does not eliminate the fact that people and animals are exploited in the process.
Clothing brands spray a “green layer” on their sustainable initiatives, so the consumer thinks that these brands are a sustainable and ethical choice. In fact, it could be that the brand isn’t as green as one would think. This phenomenon is called greenwashing and is observed more and more.
How can you distinguish the real sustainable brands from the fake ones?
So, how can you, as a consumer, distinguish the real green brands from the fake ones? Keep in mind the things listed below:
Brands can tell great stories about their collections and intentions, but at the end of the day, what counts is what they can actually make tangible.
So please, do not only rely on great stories about sustainable textiles but research what makes a brand substantiate. Look to their production, working methods and working conditions.
Check whether sustainability and performance reports of the brand are publically available. And if so, what does it say? Are the results substantiated and analyzed? Or is it only a story about good intentions and wishes? If that is the case, then a report still does not say much. So, be critical and do not accept everything you read as the truth.
An example of a good report is this Brand Performance Check from Fillipa K. It clarifies exactly what they did and did not do in 2017.
The degree of transparency can also provide insight into how sustainable and fair a brand is. Does a brand give information about its production process on the website? Do they tell you in which factories they produce? Are the rules that the factories have to comply shared with the public? To what extent does it provide insight into what is going on in the production chain and the way in which this is anticipated?
Transparency can also be measured with things like photos, films, and stories about the workplaces of the garment workers on the website. After all, if a brand takes good care of their workers and the environment, they will probably want to show that!
Another way to distinguish the real from the fake is by checking whether a brand is certified by a reliable organization. Generally, these certifications are only granted if a brand meets up to strict requirements.
The Fair Wear Foundation is a good example of such a reliable organization. Every year, brands must provide insight into what they have done to protect human rights in their production process. The Fair Wear Foundation monitors this strictly and publishes the results on their website. A certification like this actually says something about the performance and intentions of a brand.
Do you want to know more about how your clothes are produced? And does the website of the brand not answer this question? Contact the brand and ask the questions you have. And remember; be critical of the answers and ask for proof that supports their statements.
Rank a Brand
Rank a Brand is an independent and reliable brand comparison site. They assess brands in various sectors and compares them to sustainability and social responsibility.
Many clothing brands are also ranked by Rank a Brand. If you are curious about a clothing brand, you can always check whether they have already been ranked by Rank a Brand.
Palace of Bliss Fair Fashion Brand Guide
I have examined all brands that are included in the Palace of Bliss Fair Fashion Guide. If you want to know if a brand s ethical and sustainable, you can always check out the guide. You can always contact me with your questions about a brand by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we will definitely get out!
How do you determine whether a clothing brand is sustainable and ethical?