A certification is the provision granted by an independent body with a written guarantee that the product, the system, the service and the manufacturing process meet specific requirements and standards. It is a tool for companies to validate and communicate sustainability claims about their products, services, and processes.

Standards are technical performance or management benchmarks and frameworks developed by groups of experts. A management standard validates the management system or framework of processes and procedures used to ensure that an organisation can fulfil all tasks required to achieve its objectives. Performance Standards do not focus so much on the processes, but rather stipulate specific characteristics and/or performance levels that the organisation must achieve and be able to demonstrate in order to become certified. There are mandatory and voluntary standards. When we talk about fashion certifications, most of the applied standards are voluntary. The most important categories are quality management, social responsibility and ethical practices, and environmental management and sustainability.

Compliance with a standard does not mean that the provider has been certified to the standard. While a provider may be operating in legitimate compliance, they may also simply be claiming that they are – even when that is not the case.

The certification process can be expensive or initially difficult to achieve, and many small and midsize providers do not understand the value proposition. However, there are documents that prove the compliance that certain standard entails. The standard establishes measurable or verifiable requirements to have a distinctive seal or label or the right to use one particular statement. The requirements are verified by an independent body, selected by the issuing association. The process usually involves an on-site audit.

Some companies use certifications as a model of communication to their stakeholders as they can generate trust, help the reputation of the brand, and make the products comparable to some standards used in the market.

Mandatory Standards and Certifications:

These are necessary to place a product in certain markets (at least with particular labelling), and they are well known for their official nature. The regulation and requirements are established by a governmental institution, although third parties may be accredited by the governmental institution to control and issue certifications. The fraudulent use of the certification is prosecuted.

Voluntary Standards and Certifications

The scope of these certifications can be global, and their use is always voluntary. The development of the Standard is carried out by the owning organisation and third parties are normally accredited by the owner of the Standard to control and issue certifications.

The fraudulent use of the certification does not have a legal penalty, although there is a reputational impact. A company’s credibility depends on that of the owning organisation.

A non-exhaustive list of International standards

AA1000 AccountAbility

AccountAbility’s AA1000 Series of Standards are principles-based frameworks used by global businesses, private enterprises, governments, and other public and private organizations to demonstrate leadership and performance in accountability, responsibility, and sustainability.

The AA1000 Series of Standards include simple, practical, and easy-to-use frameworks for:

-Developing, analysing, and implementing sustainability initiatives (AA1000AP, 2018).

-Creating and conducting inclusive sustainability-related stakeholder engagement practices (AA1000SES, 2015).

-Assuring credibility in reporting on the progress toward sustainability goals (AA1000AS v3).

The standard allows those who use it to establish a systematic process of linking with its "stakeholders" that generates indicators, objectives and "reporting" systems.


It measures social performance in eight areas important to social responsibility in workplaces.


ISO 26000. Social Responsibility

It provides guidance to those who recognise that respect for society and the environment is a critical success factor. Apart from being the “right thing to do”, application of ISO 26000 is increasingly viewed as a way of assessing an organisation’s commitment to sustainability and its overall performance.

ISO 14001

It is a guide for the implementation of the international standard for environmental management systems.  

ISO 9001

It establishes the requirements for the adoption of a quality management system. This strategic decision can help to improve the organisation’s overall performance and provide a sound basis for sustainable development initiatives.


B Corp is a seal that certifies that a company exists with a dual purpose: to be profitable and generate profit, and to create a positive impact on society and the planet. It is issued by B Lab, a non-profit network transforming the global economy for the benefit of all people, communities, and the planet. The BCorp certification is currently under review for the inclusion of requirements on ten specific topics spanning environmental, governance-related, and social impact, which companies would need to meet in addition to using the B Impact Assessment as an impact management tool. Some fashion brands have this certification: Ecoalf, Hemper, Barner, Parafina, Patagonia, Chloé, Circoolar, Piñatex, Isdin.


Under Regulation (EC) No 66/2010, the EU Ecolabel may be awarded to products which have a reduced environmental impact during their entire life cycle. Commission Decision 2009/567/EC has established the ecological criteria and the related assessment and verification requirements for textile products, which are valid until 30 June 2014. Its use is not as widespread in the fashion industry. Among others, EU Ecolabel Textiles products meet criteria that guarantee: the limited use of substances harmful to health and the environment; the reduction in water usage and air pollution, and the colour resistance to perspiration, washing, wet and dry rubbing, and light. Currently, only 65 companies are holders of the Ecolabel Textile licence; among them, Vero Moda, Lenzing, Calik Denim, Seacell.

Some social and Environmental Standards in Textile Products

Raw Materials

BCI, FSC, OCS, PEFC, GOTS, RWS, RDS, RMS, Content Claim, RCS, RMS, Global recycled Standard…


Oeko-Tex Standard 1000, Ecolabel, GOTS, Cradle to Cradle, Bluesign

Manufacture process

Bluesign, Step by Oeko Tex; Leather working Group, Higg Index, SMETA


ZDHC, Bluesign, Oekp-Tex Ecopassport, Oeko-Tex Made in Green, Oeko-Tex Detox to Zero


Textile Exchange is a global nonprofit organisation that creates leaders in the preferred fibre and materials industry. It provides certifications to the fibres that meet the Textile Exchange Standards. Once you have been certified, you can use the standard’s claims in your labels. Their standards are frequently used in the fashion industry. To describe a few:

OCS: The organic Content Standard is an international, voluntary standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of certified organic input and chain of custody (at least 5% of organic content). The goal of the OCS is to increase organic agriculture production.

RCS: The Recycled Claim Standard is an international, voluntary standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of recycled input and chain of custody (at least 20% of recyled content). The goal is to increase the use of recycled materials.

GRS: The Global Recycled Standard is an international, voluntary standards that set requirements for third-party certification of recycled input and chain of custody (at least 20% of recycled content). The goal is to increase the use of recycled materials. The GRS includes additional criteria for social and environmental processing requirements and chemical restrictions.

RDS: The Responsible Down Standard aims to ensure that down and feathers come from animals that have not been subjected to any unnecessary harm. The certification can be issued when there is at least 5% of this certified material.

RWS: The Responsible Wool Standard is a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on.

RMS: The Responsible Mohair Standard is a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of goats and the land they graze on.

RAS: The Responsible Alpaca Standard is a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of alpaca and the land they graze on.

CCS: The Content Claim Standard is the foundation of all Textile Exchange standards. It is a chain of custody standard that provides companies with a tool to verify that one or more specific input materials are in a final product.

Other common sustainability certifications in the fashion industry are:

The Better Cotton Initiative, which aims to help farmers work on seven cotton principles: minimise the harmful impact of crop protection practices; promote water stewardship; care for the health of the soil; enhance biodiversity and use the land responsibly; care for and preserve fibre quality; promote decent work, and to operate an effective management system. Today it has about 2,100 members (farmers), and more than 250 retailers and Brand Members in 27 countries.

Cradle to Cradle Certified® is the global standard for products that are safe, circular, and responsibly made. It assesses the safety, circularity, and responsibility of materials and products across five categories of sustainability performance: material health, product circularity, clean air and climate protection, water and soil stewardship, and social fairness.

Bluesign: traces each textile’s path along the manufacturing process, making improvements at every stage from factory floor to finished product.

Oeko Tex Standard 100: it is a label for textiles tested for harmful substances.

GOTS: Global Organic textile Standard. It contains at least 70% of the organic certified material. When it reaches more than 95%, the label can include “organic product”. If not, the label will say “made of organic…”



Ecolabel in the EU for textile products and for food products. 

Organic food and organic textiles (cotton, flax, etc.) 

BCorp or Fair-Trade companies, both in food and fashion and textiles

A lot of fashion companies base their sustainable campaigns on claims about the certifications theri products have: 100% organic cotton, or BCI cotton, or recycled polyester, or paper bags from FSC sources, etc.

The same can be applied to food companies, as they present their FSC packaging, their Fair Trade  certifications, etc. Among the FairTrade Brands, there are some examples in food: Azucarera Iberia, AMC Juices, Honeygreen, Nestlé, Pompadour Iberica, etc. And many examples of textiles: Textil Andrae Amaral LDA., =AF Fiacao, MPM Textiles, SKFK.