With mounting pressure to show your green credentials it can be tempting to seek out sustainability certifications purely to satisfy consumer demand. But this is a band-aid approach to sustainability and does little to address the deeper issues at play. Like all things in life, if you are truly committed to sustainability you will need to work hard at it. Here are a 5 steps you may like to take prior to seeking out certifications to ensure that your brand is genuinely committed to sustainability.
1 | Define your brand's core values
Take some time to reflect on your values by asking ‘what do we care deeply about?’ and ‘what are our values as a brand?’. For example, you may feel deeply troubled by ocean plastics, illegal rainforest clearing, animal cruelty, or global warming. There are many important issues to consider but choosing one allows you make a bigger impact.
2 | Set sustainability goals
Once you have reflected deeply on your core values, you can more easily establish your sustainability goals. For example, if you feel deeply troubled by ocean plastics then your sustainability goals may be focused on finding ways to reduce plastic in your supply chain or if you are concerned about animal cruelty, then your sustainability goals may be to eliminate the use of furs and animal leather in your designs. You may well find you are concerned about a number of different issues, in this case stick with your top one or two as it will be difficult to focus on all at once.
3 | Map your supply chain
Once you have defined your sustainability goals, map out your entire supply chain from raw material to finished product and pinpoint areas of impact. In the case of reducing plastics, you might see opportunities to reduce impact at both the pre-production stage (choosing natural over petroleum based fibers) and post-production stage (choosing bio-based compostable packaging over plastic packaging or replacing plastic hangers with recyclable hangers). By mapping your supply chain you will have greater oversight as to where you can have most impact.
4 | Ask questions and make changes
Ask yourself ‘what do we need to do to meet our sustainability goals?’. Talk and meet regularly with your suppliers to understand their processes and find solutions to any roadblocks.
5|. Select a certification to authenticate your processes
Now that you know your direction, you can seek out certifications to help strengthen your sustainability strategy. If you are committed to reducing ocean plastics, then sourcing fabric that is certified with the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) would lend authenticity to your efforts. If you are seeking to minimize harmful chemicals in your supply chain, then working with factories who use GOTs certified dying processes and are Bluesign certified would show that you are committed to this cause. Using certifications in this way will add an extra level of robustness and authority to your sustainability efforts.
Certifications are a great tool to provide structure and authenticity to your sustainability goals, however they are not a silver bullet. If you are truly committed to sustainability then you will need to roll up your sleeves and collaborate with your suppliers to put in place practices to reach your sustainability goals. They may have a different certification than what you are are requesting that is just as good. Open the conversation and dig deeper before making your supplier stop production to get another certification (they get asked this a lot). Once you have done this, then you will be ready to seek out certifications to formalize and validate your efforts.
Wanting to improve your brands sustainability efforts but unsure how to move forward with maximum impact? We have the perfect course for you! Our Sustainable Summer Seminar Series. This one hour foundations webinar is designed to cover all the core tenants of sustainability and equip you with what you need to begin building your strategy. Brands of all size are welcome so RSVP now!