Climate change is one of the biggest contemporary issues that we face and is forcing change amongst individuals and companies to minimise our collective impact on the planet. The fashion industry has not escaped this movement and has been forced to adapt in response to the climate crisis and growing consumer consciousness, as individuals are gradually opening their eyes to the impact their choices have on the planet.
Fashion is a billion dollar industry and the second most polluting after oil. Textile production produces 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually. This is more emissions than international flights, a staggering fact which is completely un-sustainable. Thankfully, there has in the past few years been an emergence of brands that are more responsible in their approach to production. This, combined with consumers shopping more ethically and being more aware of the impact of their choices, has forced existing companies to make changes to minimise their impact and retain business.
But all this change and opportunity can be overwhelming for ordinary people. How do we determine which brands are being transparent with their impact on the environment and taking their responsibility to the planet seriously?
Enter certification marks
Certification marks are a type of trade mark that signal that the goods meet a defined standard. These marks are owned by an independent certifying authority, and brands can apply to attach the certification mark to their products.
This is different from a regular trade mark which indicates and guarantees the source of a product through its brand, often to help it sell. A certification mark exists for the owner of the mark to certify the quality of goods which are sold by others under the mark(the owner of the certification mark does not produce and sell the products itself) Certification marks exist to help promote standards in consumer products. Common examples are the Red Tractor on meat produce or the ATOL mark on holidays.
A famous example of a certification is the B Corp movement, which was established in 2006 and has gained particular traction recently in response to growing awareness. Although the B Corp is a private certification and is thus not registered as a certification mark in the UK or EU, it is a very useful sign to look out for when considering which company to buy into.
Companies that are awarded B Corp status are committed to using their business towards a more sustainable, inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy. Achieving certification means that the company is putting the planet and its people before profit.
The application process is incredibly thorough and assesses all aspects of a company’s business from governance, ownership, community and the environment. Since the accreditation was launched, only about 3,500 out of 100,000 applicants have been certified, so consumers can trust that achieving the status means that the company really deserves it.
Within fashion, the number of brands which have achieved this certification is limited. Chloé was last year announced as the first luxury fashion house to achieve this certification, and other B Corp Certified fashion brands are:
Given the scale of the environmental problem in fashion, the size of the fashion industry as well as the ease with which fast fashion industries can exploit cheap labour overseas, we hope that more businesses apply for B Corp status so consumers can be reassured that they are giving their money to companies that promote ethical values.
Examples of registered certification marks to look out for within fashion are:
The following are recognised unregistered certification marks:
Green claims code:
A Consumer Markets Agency co-ordinated review of randomly selected global websites has found that 40% of green claims made online could be misleading consumers. In response to this finding, the UK government has issued its own guidance on ways businesses can demonstrate their green credentials.
The so-called green claims code sets out six points to help businesses check that claims they make are genuinely green. This does not provide companies with a certification mark, but it does enable them to help consumers identify genuine environmental claims about products and services they are considering purchasing.
They have also issued a series of tips for shoppers, to encourage individuals to question environmental claims attached to products and services, particularly of vague claims, to ensure that they are putting their money into genuinely green companies and goods.
This only serves to increase awareness of the importance individual decisions have and promote the idea of the B Corp movement.
By now, we are all aware of the impact our actions and decisions have on the planet and climate crisis; it is our individual responsibility to do what we can to promote sustainability and protect the environment upon which we all depend. Certification marks exist to enable us to make informed decisions about the things we buy – so keep an eye out for more fashion houses applying to attach these marks to their products in future so you can ensure your wardrobe follows the environmental trend.