Brand Labels – Are They Honest?
With the endless amount of existing clothing labels and constantly emerging brands, the amount of consumer choices keeps exponentially growing. This includes making choices based on supporting sustainable clothing, but how can we be sure brands are providing honest information?
Labels that are directly created and provided by the company are referred to as self-declaratory labels.1 The issue with these labels are that their sustainability-driven claims, which include a list of criteria respectful towards the environment and/or working conditions, are not verified or controlled by a third-party.
Understandably, the costs of such independent controls are very high for emerging or smaller brands; on the other hand, most brands using self-declaratory labels are larger companies which are able to finance these matters. However, by avoiding such control measures, this shows a lack of ambition by the brand to achieve their set goals. By continuing to use these uncontrolled labels, brands show that they are conscious of the need for a sort of engagement but ultimately do not take action in the matter.
Labels that are directly created and provided by the company are referred to as self-declaratory labels.1 The problem with these labels is: that they declare respecting a certain number of criteria’s respectful for the environment or the working conditions, but the actual respect of such criteria is not controlled by another instance than the company.
Under the UNEP Guidelines for Providing Product Sustainability Information, this particular type of label is very unreliable due to this lack of independent and impartial control. Moreover, the criteria that the company wishes to fulfill are mostly not as ambitious in comparison to controlled labels; however, in this discussion, it is sound to keep in mind that there are a variety of diverse brand labels which must also be put into perspective.
Overall, labels can easily confuse the consumer, and all brand labels do not use the same standardized criteria. Unfortunately, this lack of consistency and appropriate clear understanding of purpose across labels is further aggravated by the ongoing false claims for the guarantee of sustainability seen in many brand labels. There needs to be a closer look into the control and management of such disclosed information in order to foster not only better consumer choices but also better industry relationships.
Examples of self-declaratory brand labels and their variable reliability:2
H&M leads consumers to believe that the brand is respecting very ambitious environmental and social standards. These are only declaratory statements, however, and there has been no external proof of such claims. Ultimately, this is a very unreliable brand label.
Zara Join Life (Care for Fiber, Care for Water, Care for Planet)4
The scope of reliability of the Zara Join Life label is ambivalent. Some products have the GOTS certification while for other products their sustainability is only self-declaratory. This inconsistency across the brand can create distrust and confusion among consumers.
Coop Naturaline Switzerland: Bio & Fair5
In comparison, this brand is very reliable, taking under consideration recognized international standards in matters for the environment and labor law. Its award depends on the respect of such criteria, which is verified by a third independent expertise organization called FLOCERT.
1. “Sustainable Fashion? How companies provide sustainability information to consumers”, Report February 2020, HEJ Support: https://hej-support.org/new-report-sustainable-fashion-how-companies-provide-sustainability-information-to-consumers/
2. For detailed information, please refer to: https://hej-support.org/new-report-sustainable-fashion-how-companies-provide-sustainability-information-to-consumers/
5. Information withdrawn in March 2021 from: https://www.labelinfo.ch/fr/labels?t=0&id=106#