Is Eco Fashion Regulated?
Posted on August 09 2018
While more and more people are becoming aware of the staggering environmental impact of the fashion industry, trying to figure out what rules actually exist to govern that impact can be overwhelming. At first glance the abundance of ‘organic’ and ‘eco-friendly’ labels seems to suggest that things are on the up when it comes to sustainability, but once you start to sift through the cacophony of ‘green’ marketing and figure out what clothing companies are actually required to do in the name of sustainability, this abundance of green begins to fade.
Eco-fashion Industry Regulations - Understanding the First Step
The first step in getting a better idea of the rules that govern the production side of the industry is to distinguish between binding regulations and voluntary certifications. There are astoundingly few binding regulations on sustainability in the fashion industry. Part of the difficulty with creating regulations on fashion in particular is that it’s an industry with an incredibly globalized supply chain. An item of clothing may be made from fabrics produced in one place, which are then processed and put together in another part of the world using chemicals and dyes sourced from yet more disparate places – and that’s only the first part of this clothing’s lifecycle. Packaging, shipping, use, and disposal all factor into the fashion industry’s environmental impact and they tie even the most mundane articles of clothing into a global network.
Eco-fashion Industry and the Law
At present most of the laws which set standards for businesses including fashion are local. As such, they can usually only touch on limited aspects of the industry at a time. Though still few and far between, there are indeed laws that work to regulate industrial pollution, resource usage, and incentivize a reduced carbon footprint. For instance, in the United States some places, like California, have laws that require companies to warn customers about particular toxic chemicals. However, for the most part even where binding regulations exist, their localized scope makes it difficult to oversee the industry as a whole.
Eco-fashion Products and Voluntary Certifications
Customers increasingly want more assurance than these regulations can offer. Because of this, the vast majority of eco-friendly labels you see on clothing are voluntary certifications – companies opt in to have their products certified as organic or low-impact according to an organization’s standards. Just because these labels are voluntary, doesn’t mean they are meaningless. There are many organizations working very hard to change public perception on what they want from their clothing, and hold manufacturers accountable by keeping people informed.
Problems with Eco-fashion Products and Voluntary Certifications
1. Voluntary Certification is an Opt-in System
There are however, a few problems with relying only on voluntary certifications to regulate the environmental impact of the fashion industry. The first is that it is an opt in system, which means the majority of the industry is still under no obligation to conform to their standards. Though public demand for sustainable fashion is rising, this public pressure is simply not strong enough at this point to make it a necessity for most companies.
The second major problem is greenwashing – companies fudging the details and advertising products as environmentally friendly solely for the marketing value. Because organizations set their own standards, there is little to stop them from using their own definitions of “eco-friendly” or “sustainable”. With hundreds of certifications out there, it puts a lot of responsibility on individual customers to do their research and figure out which ones they can trust.
3. No Set Standards to Regulate the Certifications
This brings us to the underlying problem – there are no set, universal standards to govern these certifications. They exist in large part because of the gap left by the lack of binding regulations suited to the global scale of the fashion industry. While they are a great start in helping customers to become aware of the impact of their fashion choices and fostering public pressure, voluntary certificates cannot take the place of a more substantial legal framework. A globalized industry is difficult to regulate under within our current legal schemas, but these are the kinds of challenges we need to overcome if we are to combat climate change.
Eco-fashion Industry Demands the Change
While voluntary certifications and individual consumer choices play an important role, wider reaching changes can only be accomplished by working together. This means considering not only our individual choices, but how they fit into the industry as a whole. If we as fashion customers, designers, and vendors really want to create positive change in the fashion industry we need to think not only about changing market demand but about changing political systems.
Filosano offers a novel solution to this problem; third party certifications and transparency of products. By specifically selecting, certifying and curating products, Filosano can be impartial and provide accurate information about products.
Want to learn more about the cost of Eco-fashion products? Here's Why Upcycled Clothing Costs More Than Fast-fashion.