Fashion brands are increasingly turning to sustainability certifications to prove to their customers that they are truly environmentally responsible.Validation, from independent organizations, that a brand has met established environmental standards can tip the balance in a brand’s favor.
“Having a tangible and visible demonstration of what a company believes in is certainly a competitive edge, as it quickly communicates to consumers its values,” retail strategy executive Ana Andjelic told Forbes.
Many fashion brands have taken this to heart. Frances Austen, a European clothing brand, uses Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified cashmere from manufacturing company Carriagi. The certification guarantees that “every thread, button and other accessories, has been tested for harmful substances and that the article therefore is harmless…,” the organization says.
Australian swimwear company Zoggs is another seeking a competitive advantage while chasing sustainability. Last winter, the company launched a bathing suit line called Ecolast made from Econyl brand yarn manufactured using regenerated plastic waste.
Econyl yarn is made by Aquafil using a system that starts with waste like abandoned ghost fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet, and industrial plastic that would otherwise end up in the landfill. This waste gets recycled into nylon thread that Aquafil says is exactly the same as virgin nylon.
The global market for eco fibers will grow at a CAGR of 14.1% between now and 2026, according to new research from Research and Markets. Growth of the market will be driven not only by increasing awareness of environmental sustainability but also by a rise in disposable income and increasing demand from emerging economies.
Lack of Regulation Reinforces Need for Consumer-Driven Environmental Choices
One reason sustainability certifications may be useful to consumers seeking confirmation of sustainability is the lack of regulation in the fashion industry. There is no fashion equivalent to the FDA, points out culture journalist Dana Thomas.
“It’s a global industry, the supply chain is wildly fractured, and there is no inspection of fabric, cloth,” Thomas told Kate Dwyer, a reporter with Fortune. “I don’t know how you could regulate the industry. I feel like it’s more of a grassroots thing than anything else, and it’s going to be consumer-driven… It’s going to come from the consumer saying, ‘we want organic cotton, we want a cleaner industry,’ and I think we’re going to make the change through the power of the purse.”