Because there is no single standard for the garment industry, it can be hard to identify which items are truly ethically made. However, there are a few well-respected certifications out there worth knowing.

The OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 is an independent testing and certification system for textile raw materials, intermediate and end products at all stages of production. Examples for items eligible for certification: Raw and dyed/finished yarns, raw and dyed/finished fabrics and knits, ready-made articles (all types of clothing, domestic and household textiles, bed linen, terry cloth items, textile toys and more).

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is recognised as the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres. It defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria as well.

Only textile products that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibres can become GOTS certified. All chemical inputs such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries used must meet certain environmental and toxicological criteria. The choice of accessories is limited in accordance with ecological aspects as well. A functional waste water treatment plant is mandatory for any wet-processing unit involved and all processors must comply with minimum social criteria. The key criteria of GOTS, its quality assurance system and the principles of the review and revision procedure are summarised in this section.

Bluesign is an emerging standard for environmental health and safety in the manufacturing of textiles. The Switzerland-based organization, officially known as Bluesign Technologies AG, provides independent auditing of textile mills, examining manufacturing processes from raw materials and energy inputs to water and air emissions outputs. Each component is assessed based on its ecotoxicological impact. Bluesign ranks its audit findings in order of concern, and suggests ways to reduce consumption while recommending alternatives to harmful chemicals or processes where applicable. Textile mills that commit to verifiably adopting Bluesign’s recommendations can become certified “System Partners” and attract business from a wide range of brands and retailers around the world looking for greener vendors.

The Fairtrade Textile Standard is one component of the greater Fairtrade Textile Programme to facilitate change in textile supply chains and related business practices. This comprehensive approach engages manufacturers and workers in the supply chain to bring about better wages and working conditions, and engages brands to commit to fair terms of trade: