As demand for greater sustainability grows, so too does the importance of certifications in counteracting greenwashing and ambiguous claims. This quick guide by Suston & Performance Days helps you navigate through the jungle of certifications to find the ones that really matter.

The need to help consumers, businesses and legislators recognize false or unvalidated sustainability claims has seen an explosion in the number of providers seeking to create clarity in the form of certificates and standards. Chemical management, organic, fair trade, recycled and more – which are the most important labels to know for functional wear? Here’s a brief overview.


The aim of the “bluesign® PRODUCT” seal is to reduce the environmental impact of the textile industry. It also stands for the safe production and processing of synthetic and natural fibers. Products that have been processed to at least 90 % in certified factories may bear the “bluesign® PRODUCT” seal.



ClimatePartner help calculate and reduce carbon emissions and offset residual emissions. This renders products and companies carbon neutral, confirmed by the ClimatePartner label. The integrated ID tracking provides transparent information on system boundaries, the amount of calculated emissions and the supported carbon offset projects as well as the emission reduction strategy.


Cradle to Cradle

The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard focuses on the circularity of products. It looks at a product through five categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. A product receives an achievement level (Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum) in each category. Its overall product label is whichever category has the lowest level


EU Eco Label

Established in 1992, the EU Ecolabel is a third party certified Type I ISO 14024 aimed to promote products and services which have a reduced environmental impact thus helping European consumers distinguish more environmentally friendly products. Recognized across Europe, the EU Ecolabel is a label of environmental excellence that is awarded to products and services meeting high environmental standards throughout their life-cycle: from raw material extraction, to production, distribution and disposal.


Fair Wear Foundation

This concentrates on the Social side of CSR, endorsing the conditions for the workers within the system. It is independent and especially focused on labor conditions in garment factories.


Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

FSC is a global not-for-profit organization that ensures that companies using timber from an FSC-certified forest meet their standards along the entire supply chain. The FSC has three different labels: FSC 100 % (completely from FSC-certified well-managed forests), FSC Recycled (everything comes from recycled material), and FSC Mix (the product is from FSC-certified forests, recycled material, or controlled wood).


Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

Focuses on tracing certified organic fibers (mainly cotton, but also certified wool and silk). It is one of the most trusted and holistic certifications. It covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading and distribution of all textiles made from at least 70 % certified organic natural fibers. The textiles must meet certain environmental standards (toxicity, wastewater, etc.) as well as social criteria in accordance with the International Labor Organization.


Global Recycled Standard (GRS)

The GRS has been developed to meet demands for verification of the amount of recycled parts or ingredients in a given product. The GRS provides a track and trace certification system that ensures that the claims made about a product are appropriately supported with documented evidence.


Global Traceable Down Standard (GTDS)

The GTDS certifies down if its entire supply chain passes a third-party audit that ensures a holistic respect for animal welfare has been maintained from hatching to slaughter – including no live-plucking or forced feeding. It additionally has a strict approach to down’s “Parent Farm.” Here, the GTDS requires certification of farms that produce the eggs, whether down is produced here or not.


The Higg Index

The Higg Index is a suite of tools for the standardized measurement of value chain sustainability, and it is central to the SAC’s mission to transform businesses for exponential impact. One of them is the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) is a standard to evaluate and manage carbon emissions as well as other critical factors that identify the impact of material production used in the textile industry on the environment.


International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO)

The IWTO is the global authority for standards in the wool textile industry. Since 1930, IWTO has represented the collected interests of the global wool trade. IWTO’s 33 members are based in 22 countries around the world, and represent all stages of the wool textile pipeline, from farm to retail. Through scientific research, wool textile education and knowledge sharing, IWTO ensures a sustainable future for wool.


Land to Market

Seen as the highest Regenerative Agriculture standard, Land to Market is the world’s first outcomes-based verified regenerative sourcing solution. The program uses the Environmental Outcome Verification protocol to measure the effectiveness and health of ecosystem processes to verify regenerative outcomes on the land.


Oeko-Tex Made In Green

The International Oeko-Tex Association has been testing for harmful substances since 1992. It is another trustworthy label that focuses on chemicals. It actually has a number of different certifications they offer, but the MADE IN GREEN label gives you the certainty that the textile product is made from materials tested for harmful substances is produced in environmentally friendly factories and in safe and socially responsible workplaces.


Oeko-Tex Standard 100

The International Oeko-Tex Association has been testing for harmful substances since 1992. It is another trustworthy label that focuses on chemicals. It actually has a number of different certifications they offer, but the Standard 100 is the most common one you’re most likely to come across as a consumer. This certification tests for substances like toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans.


Organic Content Standard (OCS)

The OCS is a chain of custody standard developed by the non-profit Textile Exchange. Essentially, the OCS works at the farm level with approved national certification authorities to verify that a final product contains mostly organically grown and harvested plants.


Recycled Claim Standard (RCS)

The RCS is an international and voluntary chain of custody standard developed by Textile
Exchange. It verifies the recycled input material and tracks it all the way through the supply chain to the final product.


Responsible Down Standard (RDS)

The RDS is an independent global standard that was developed with the input of animal welfare groups and industry actors. Down is only RDS certified if its entire supply chain passes a third-party audit that ensures a holistic respect for animal welfare has been maintained from hatching to slaughter – including no live-plucking or forced feeding.


Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)

The RWS is a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on. The goals of the Responsible Wool Standard are to provide the industry with a tool to recognize the best practices of farmers; ensuring that wool comes from farms that have a progressive approach to managing their land, practice holistic respect for animal welfare of the sheep and respect the Five Freedoms of animal welfare. The RWS requires all sites to be certified, beginning with the wool farmers and through to the seller in the final business to business transaction. Usually the last stage to be certified is the garment manufacturer or brand.



Vegan fabrics means choosing fabrics that do not use any animals in the process. Meaning no silk, wool, cashmere, leather, or any other fabric made from an animal. In doing so, you are not promoting the use of any animal as materials in creating fabrics or garments.




Regarded as the widest encompassing traceability for wool system; centered on European wool production (as RWS has very little take up in the Northern Hemisphere). It accommodates entry level information, through organic, & up to ReGenerative Agriculture status.




As one of the world’s leading ethical wool standards, ZQ is a wool certification standard that stresses five key values: Animal welfare and health; environmental sustainability; social responsibility; quality fiber; and traceability.


* Produced in partnership with Performance Days

Lead Photo: iStock


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

More Stories

Is Vegan Outdoor Gear Better?

What are the different forms of greenwashing, what are the reasons behind them, and how can you see through it?

By Martina Wengenmeir

Recycling, upcycling & downcycling: What’s the difference?

Many outdoor companies use recycled materials to improve their ecological footprint and move towards circular business models. But what is upcycling and downcycling, and how do they fit into the bigger picture?


Blueprint for a more sustainable skiing future

Learn more about low-impact skiing and how snow sports can become more sustainable, from the skis to the mountain operations.


Outdoor Minimalism

An outdoor wardrobe that blurs the lines between work and play, using carefully selected equipment that can be used for all possible occasions. Here are ten tips to help outdoor enthusiasts make smart decisions for both their wallets and the environment.