How To Know if a Fashion Brand is Truly Sustainable

This three-point checklist lets you know if it's the real deal.

75% of consumers around the world view sustainability as extremely or very important. This is the result of a new study by Global Fashion Agenda, which also notes that mentions of sustainable fashion in social media have spiked between 2015 and 2018.

In Malaysia, we’re also seeing both local and international brands tout sustainability. But, how do you know if they’re truly walking the talk, or greenwashing for marketing purposes? Fast Company has come up with this three-point checklist.

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1. How holistic is their commitment to sustainable processes?

While small measures do count, truly committed brands think about the entire life cycle of a product, rather than just one aspect of the process. So, find out more about which products in the brand’s line-up are sustainably made. Then look around for info on the brand’s manufacturing and distribution processes, which is usually on the website. The more details provided, the better.

For example, does the brand use mostly recycled or biodegrable materials? Does it try to offset its emissions? Is there a programme for customers to recycle or fix their purchases?

2. Is it a startup or a large corporation?

Startups may have an easier time ‘greening up’ their supply chain, as the process from raw material to finished product is more linear and involves fewer parties. However, they may not have the resources to invest in cutting-edge techniques and technology that boost sustainability.

So while you should expect both small and large brands to choose sustainable suppliers, the latter may take longer to make the switch fully. More pressure should also be put on bigger brands to invest in R&D that contribute to sustainability.

3. Does the brand want you to buy stuff you don’t need?

 Choosing not to buy what you don’t need is the most sustainable thing you can do as a consumer. In general, brands that can do the counterintuitive by encouraging you to buy less are privately owned. And, they don’t have to meet the expectations of shareholders or investors keen for ever-increasing growth and profits.

These brands will have programmes where they’ll repair your old items. Or, they’ll roll out classic and durable styles that you can wear again and again. You could also consider renting instead of buying clothes. There’s Rent A Dress, LoLa, and Dresstal, among others.

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