Is a brand really sustainable? How to tell

Great news everyone! Last month, the EU worked on new laws to ban greenwashing. Long story short, brands will no longer be allowed to make generic environmental claims without proof and sustainability labels will have to be based on approved certification schemes or granted by public authorities. It’s all there on the EU Parliaments website but the thing is, this will not take effect before 2026. So in the meantime, how do you tell if a brand is truly sustainable or if it’s all cap?

brand sustainability

Brand transparency

Until now there were no laws on sustainability claims. In order to sort of earn our trust, a brand could say things like “oh yeah we are eco-friendly our product has a low carbon footprint blabla” without providing any facts or any data. That will change; but if a brand is already doing that, it’s a very good sign. They also tend to disclose their supply chain and working conditions. I mean, when you’re doing something good, you want everyone to know, right?

Accreditations and certifications

For a brand, getting an accreditation means that their business practices have been reviewed by an independent third party. If you think about it, it’s kind of like an exam and when they pass, they get to display those eco-labels we have all seen before. The key here is to tell real from made up. The Ecolabel Index provides a list of all official labels but the most common ones in fashion will be B Corp, Fairtrade, GOTS, Oeko-Tex, Better cotton initiative, Vegan approved and Peta approved. Other great tools for checking brands are indexes like Good on You and the Fashion Transparency Index.

Brand business models

I just talked about certifications but that alone is not enough. Fast fashion brands manage to get certified while actual sustainable (small) businesses may not have the resources to do so. The business model of conventional brands is to always push you to buy more. If a brand doesn’t do that—if they don’t drop new items or new collections all the time—chances are they are sustainable.

Figuring out if a brand is sustainable or not can seem like a lot of work at first but the more you look at well-known green businesses, the easier it becomes to spot greenwashing. Besides, our shopping habits play a role too. There is a big difference between buying one dress you really like vs going on a shopping haul. Actually, there are many ways to make your closet more sustainable without necessarily buying anything and you can check out my guide here.