Certifications vary between industries, and whilst rarely required by law, they help businesses demonstrate that they meet a specific standard, defined by an impartial third party.
They are important to businesses as a way of differentiating themselves, and they are important to consumers as a means of instantly gauging a business' approach to work.
There are many certifications to consider in each sector, and how applicable they are to you will depend specifically on your requirements. The garment sector is particularly tricky, with hundreds of certifications available for each different area of the supply chain. Here are nine certifications we feel are most relevant for brands to look for.
BlueSign focuses on legal compliance in relation to environmental health and safety, combining aspects of consumer safety, water and air emissions, occupational health, and the reduction of harmful substance usage at early stages of production.
Brands who want their textile products to be sustainably made while also meeting stringent consumer safety requirements should work with BlueSign-certified manufacturers.
The SA8000 standard protects human rights in the workplace through social accountability.
Organizations with an SA8000 certification are audited to encourage them to develop, maintain, and apply socially acceptable practices in the workplace. Brands working with these companies can trust that best practices are being used during the entire production process.
Created by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), this standard is dedicated to providing farmers and workers in developing countries with higher wages and improved working conditions.
Organisations must demonstrate their willingness to apply fair trade practices across the entire supply chain, not only in their purchasing. If you prioritize ethics and equal opportunity for people in different parts of the world, this certification is a good indication that your manufacturer shares your values as well.
Standard 100 (OEKO-TEX)
A worldwide, independent testing and certification system for raw, semi-finished, and finished textile products at all processing levels. It also includes accessory materials.
OEKO-TEX® tests for harmful substances in textiles; the more intensive the skin contact and the more sensitive the skin, the stricter the human-ecological requirements that need to be complied with.
Look for this if you make products for users, such as babies, who are likely to have sensitive skin.
ISO 9001 (2015)
Created by the International Organization for Standardization, this is one of the most widely used quality management systems.
A manufacturer must demonstrate its ability to consistently produce products that meet customer and regulatory requirements, in addition to an assurance of applying the outlined quality management system in its operations.
As a brand, you know that a manufacturer with an ISO 9001 certification will have a robust quality management system in place.
FLOCERT is a global certification and verification body for fair trade products and assures fairness across global supply chains. In addition, FLOCERT often gets involved in the process of making businesses more sustainable, by offering recommendations and helping to design sustainability plans.
FLOCERT monitors the business throughout the process to ensure that they stay on track towards their goals.
Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production (WRAP)
WRAP implements the following 12 principles: compliance with local laws, prohibition of forced labour, prohibition of child labour, prohibition of harassment or abuse, compensation and benefits, hours of work, health and safety, prohibition of discrimination, freedom of association, environment, security, and customs compliance.
Brands who want to ensure that the workers making their products are working in safe conditions should look for WRAP certification. These manufacturers will be following best practices related to the established labour regulations in their country of operation, with the relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization in mind.
Fair Wear Foundation (FWF)
The FWF works with brands, factories, trade unions, NGOs and governments to verify and improve workplace conditions. FWF represents more than 120 brands, bringing together the key components needed to make a sustainable improvement to workplace conditions.
Brands should check if their manufacturers are certified by FWF if they prioritize having safe working conditions where their products are made.
FWF keeps track of the efforts made by the businesses it certifies, and works to increase the effectiveness of efforts made by companies through sharing expertise, social dialogue and strengthening industrial relations.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
Known for being the world’s most predominant processing standard for testing and verifying organic materials, GOTS also provides a consumer label.
To qualify, textile products must be at least 70% organic fibres. There are also strict environmental, toxicological and social criteria, and a detailed quality assurance system. A manufacturer with this certification is clearly dedicated to protecting the environment while producing high-quality organic fabrics.
One last tip
Finally, be sure to check that any business claiming a particular certification is above-board. Most certification bodies keep an up-to-date database of their members on their websites, where you can verify that the certification is genuine.
Copyright © 2018 Gus Bartholomew, co-founder of Supplycompass