These days, we check the labels on the clothes that we buy for information on the conditions under which they were produced, as well as laundry care instructions and the production location. Some “Clean Fashion” labels indicate that they subscribe to principled, eco-aware fashion. Let’s get acquainted with them.
These labels meet criteria of four different kinds:
- Environmental and ecological: to stand for protection of the environment, from water pollution to the requirement to recycle materials.
- Social: to protect workers throughout the textile production value chain. Particular emphasis is placed on fair trade, workers’ health and rights.
- Limits on harmful substances: to indicate how harmful the substances used in textile production are.
- Animal welfare: to protect certain species which are sought after for their skin or fur.
GOTS : organic textiles
Created in 2002, this is an international label that applies to organic textiles. It’s managed and awarded by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
This certification vouches for the organic nature of the textile fibres used, and provides assurance that from the production of the raw materials through to the finished item, the processes used are socially responsible and respectful of the environment. This standard covers all stages: processing, packaging, labelling, import-export and distribution of products made from natural fibres.
Level 1, “organic”, demands that the textiles be made using more than 95% certified organic fibres and less than 5% artificial or synthetic fibres.
Level 2, “made with organic fibres” demands that the textiles be made using more than 70% certified organic fibres and less than 30% non-organic fibres, with a maximum of 10% synthetic fibres.
In addition, a number of chemicals are off limits when it comes to weaving, dyeing, bleaching, printing and some processing methods. Discharge and waste must be kept to a minimum, and the rules of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) complied with.
Oeko-Tex : textiles free from harmful substances
Oeko-Tex, which was created in 1992 by two research institutes in Austria and Germany, is not an eco-friendly certification, but one that vouches for safety as regards human health and protection of the environment. It concerns raw materials, semi-finished and finished products alike. This certification also takes account of a product’s various processing stages and the materials used to produce it. This Oeko-Tex label, under which checks are made at every stage in the production of a textile product, provides assurance that it doesn’t contain any chemicals that are harmful to health.
The following are off limits: azoic colourants, formaldehyde, pentachlorophenol, cadmium, nickel, the chemicals classed as a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) by the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) and chemicals classed as a health hazard due to their persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic (PBT) nature.
Fair Wear Foundation : defending textile sector workers
The Fair Wear Foundation, which was set up in 1999, is an independent organisation set up by the Clean Clothes Campaign, trade unions, NGOs and two trade federations (of manufacturers and distributors). This independent foundation collaborates with member companies to improve working conditions and ensure that they are decent. This collaboration is put into practice through the Fair Wear Foundation Labour Code, which is based on sur eight standard practices backed and inspired by ILO conventions and the International Human Rights Declaration:
- No forced labour
- Prohibition of discrimination (on grounds of race, colour, sex, membership of a trade union, nationality, social background or handicap)
- Prohibition of child labour (minimum age 15 years)
- Freedom of association and collective negotiation rights
- The obligation to pay a decent salary
- Checks on working hours (working hours must comply with applicable law and industry standards: a maximum of 48 hours per week with at least one day’s leave per 7 days),
- A safe, hygienic working environment
- Work relations declared as per legal requirements
PETA : protecting animals
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a an international non-profit organisation that protects the rights and dignity of animals. PETA certification confirms that products contain no material of animal origin and have not been tested on animals..
Fairtrade : securing fair pay
This label created in 1988 under the name “Max Havelaar” is aimed at securing fair trade for emerging markets (economically speaking). Recognised internationally, it applies to food products, beauty products and textiles. Now called Fairtrade, this label guarantees smallholding cooperatives a fair and stable price for their produce as well as more sustainable commercial relations. The Fairtrade label provides assurance that employees are paid a decent salary, that there is no child labour, no discrimination and that social norms are observed. It also encourages producers to take steps on the environmental front, specifically in the direction of farming that’s at least sensible, if not organic (GMO are off limits but pesticides are still permitted).
Global Recycled Standard (GRS) : supporting the circular economy
The Global Recycled Standard label, which was created in 2008, ensures that textile companies use a minimum of 50% recycled material to produce their new products. It also ensures that the product was not made using toxic substances or carcinogens, and that the company behind the product adheres to ILO standards.
Origine France Garantie (“Guaranteed French Origin”): between localism and protectionism
This label was implemented in 2010 by ProFrance, and is aimed at tapping into the value of French industrial and artisanal expertise, spreading the word about companies that produce within the country, and developing or even bringing back productive industries to the country.
All the stages in the production process (cutting, assembly, finishing) must be carried out in mainland France, and at least 50% of the production costs allocated solely to France, to liven up the employment catchment area in rural areas and raise awareness in the client base.
The label sets out three product categories:
- Mass-produced products: they must be prepared, processed and packed in France.
- Natural products: they must be grown, harvested and extracted in France (or for livestock: born, farmed and slaughtered in France).
- Processed natural products: the criteria are the same as for mass-produced products, with an additional clause: the main ingredients (those accounting for more than 8% of the total product by weight, which are stated in the product’s sales and commercial designations) are of French origin.
NB: Origine France Garantie is a label, certified by an independent organisation and granted for a limited term to companies subject to annual audits. Made In France is not a label, but a self-declaratory statement. The product assumes the origin of the country where it underwent its last major processing step. This statement in no way guarantees that all of the stages in the production process took place in France.
There is a myriad of labels, not to mention self-proclamations by some corporations. There is also greenwashing on the part of some fast fashion players, who go right ahead and create a capsule collection or finance an organisation to put out slick, “conscious” advertising campaigns!
Be aware that at the present time, there is no label that can confirm that a garment claiming to be produced via Clean Fashion is 100% environmentally responsible.