How To Know If A Brand Is Actually Sustainable

Great news: each day more and more eco-friendly and ethical brands keep popping up.

What a time to be alive, right?

BUT this also means that scammy brands taking advantage of this wonderful eco-wave are on the rise as well.

Acting all shady…advertising sustainable goodies when they’re not, promising a green product that doesn’t keep up to the expectations,…yikes.

There are even cases where well known green brands act pretty fishy by inflating the reality and promising things that are not really true.

via GIPHY

This is called greenwashing.

Don’t be greenwashed. You deserve better.

But you can also find extremely legit companies with one goal: making our world better. They are totally transparent with all their operations and always try to get better and better.

There are hundreds and hundreds. Patagonia, Reformation, Organic Basics,…

At plain sight, it can be hard knowing who is being honest and who is trying to hide behind a green mask. It’s complicated, but I got you. This is my handy-dandy guide to do it.

BTW: it focuses on fashion brands, but you can use most of it for anything else, from food to furniture.

So, how to know if a brand is actually sustainable?

1.  Know what you’re looking for

Let me elaborate.

‘Sustainable’ is an umbrella term under which you can find many many different categories (eco-friendly, ethical, fairtrade, …). So you should know your priorities, which definition of sustainability fits your ideals the best.

For example:

  • Looking for ethical clothing that doesn’t use animal products? Then look for vegan brands
  • A brand that focuses on the human side of business? Maybe fair trade is for you.
  • What a brand that is as eco-friendly as possible? Then, look for carbon neutral brands.

So yeah. Step one: decide which idea of sustainability is your priority.

2.  Visit their website

Obvious, I know.

Now you should be looking for transparency.

Some questions you want to find the answer to are:

  • What do they say about ethics and sustainability in general?
  • Are they giving information about their supply chain? All of it?
  • Do they have information about their factories? Or their workers?
  • Does the company give back? Meaning, do they collaborate with NGOs, do they offer carbon credits,…
  • Does it say how to take care of the garment to make it last longer?
  • Where do they get their fabrics from?
  • What fabrics do they use?
  • What dyes do they use?

Pro tip: don’t trust everything you read. Most companies will use his section in their advantage and sugarcoat reality. Wrapping a doughnut in lettuce doesn’t make it healthy, and focusing the marketing of an eco-toxic / non-ethical product around the word ‘sustainable’ doesn’t make it sustainable.

Pro tip 2: language is tricky. For example, handmade is not synonym with sustainable. They can use handmade fabrics produced by exploited workers with toxic materials. So be alert and be critical.

3.  Learn about the company’s history

Who founded it? Why was it founded?

Anyone who starts a sustainable brand from scratch has to be a good person. Don’t fight me on this.

So learn about the creators of the brand, search interviews where they talk about their business model, what motivated them to create it,…

Or just stalk their social media, you’ll find nice info there as well.

Pro tip: if the founder doesn’t have a human name and sounds something like “holding” or “incorporation”, proceed with caution.

4.  Look for standards and certifications

You will find this info in the ‘about us’ or ‘help’ section of a website, or at the bottom of the home page.

There are hundreds of certifications you can look for when it comes to sustainable clothing companies. Some of them are

Pro tip: bear in mind that saying that a product is fairtrade doesn’t mean that the company is Fair Trade Certified! One is mere marketing, the other implies social responsibility.

5.  Put your FBI hat on and do some stalking

via GIPHY

Don’t pretend. You know you have stalking experience. Now it’ll come in handy.

So unleash your inner detective and check anything that has been written about the brand, social media, press, bloggers, or go to the deepest depths of their Instagram.

6.  Use apps and websites that feature sustainable brands

Cue Good on you, app and website that ranks tons of sustainable brands according to ethical and environmental aspects. They do the dirty job so that you can just relax and go on with your shopping.

I use it mostly as a tool to discover new sustainable fashion brands – they update their directory very often.

7.  Follow sustainable fashion Instagrammers, bloggers and magazines

And see what they say about the brand you’re interested in. Or discover new ones.

These are some of my all-time favorite

8.  Subscribe to their newsletter

Look, I’ve always been a fan of newsletters. I have been subscribed to tons of email lists that I never read.

That was until I got into this sustainability wave thingy, and subscribed to brands, blogs, and websites I could really connect with.

So do the test.

Subscribe to their mailing lists, hear what they have to say and see if it goes along with your expectations.

And subscribe to mine at the bottom of this page while you’re at it 😉

9.  Ask the brand

We live in a world where you can DM Madonna if you want.

Why shouldn’t we just ask our fashion providers for that extra info we want.

Truly sustainable brands will be eager to discuss with you all the nitty-gritty of their company.

Write them an email, a Direct Message, a message in a bottle. You do you boo.


Now, why don’t you apply these tips to your favorite brand? Or maybe your latest sustainable discovery?

Leave a Reply