How to tell if a brand is ethical

It can be hard to know how to tell if a brand is ethical these days because greenwashing is becoming more and more of a thing as brands are eager to hop on the sustainability bandwagon.

Read: What is greenwashing? And how to avoid it

And when you’re just starting your slow fashion journey, there’s so much knowledge and dos and don’ts out there that is can be hard to decipher what is and isn’t actually sustainable. 

Especially when that small part of you still really wants to shop at your favorite stores and believe that they’re ethical.

So I’ve created this guide to help you when shopping in the future. 

how to tell if a brand is ethical

How to tell if a brand is ethical:

1. Read their about page

The first stop you should make upon investigating a brand is their about page. If they don’t have one, that’s a HUGE red flag and more than likely means they are not sustainable. 

Their about page should be incredibly in-depth and include their ethics code, how they’re clothes are made, where they’re made, how they source their materials and so on and so on. 

Ethical brands will boast about their process and not try to hide it with vague answers. 

I have often found that brands that use “social responsibility” pages aren’t so ethical. They’re full of big words meant to sound smart and throw you off. 

When a brand says that they “treat workers fairly” or comply with “social responsibility” regulations but don’t elaborate, just move on. 

2. Factory Information

My favorite brands that I love supporting include in-depth factory information including where their factories are, how often they visit them, how involved they are with the factories, and often they provide images of them as well.

A brand with nothing to hide will…hide nothing. Transparency is a huge part of sustainability. If there is no info on what kind of factories they use it’s a red flag.

3. Look for certifications 

It’s one thing for a brand to say they use organic cotton in their clothing but it’s another thing when they are GOTS certified. These certifications are huge and mean you can 100% trust a brand as it takes a lot to earn them. 

Certifications to look out for:

It’s also fair to note that a brand can be ethical without these certifications. I’m just saying that you can for sure trust a brand with one or more!

4. Don’t believe everything you read

We’re about to become conspiracy theorists over here. Just kidding, but it’s smart to be a little skeptical. As I mentioned above, greenwashing is alive and well and we can’t take everything at face value. 

Brands like to deceive you. They want you to believe they’re ethical so you continue to purchase from them. And with all of the about pages and social responsibility pages I’ve read, I’ve learned that brands will say just about anything to get you to believe them. 

They use big words and they beat around the bush a lot. Because big words = smart. Duh. (Not really but that’s what they seem to think.)

Brands that claim their clothes are made in the USA or Canada just mean that they were sewn there but their fabrics will most likely come from overseas. And it’s been known for some brands to have sweatshops in the US or Canada.

Even charity brands or brands for a cause doesn’t mean much. A brand can do good and donate to important causes while still uses sweatshops and shady business models. 

All I’m saying is don’t believe everything you read. If it seems to good to be true it most likely is. Even ethical brands will disclose what they’re struggling with and how they plan to become better. I haven’t come across a single perfect ethical brand yet.  

5. Do your own research 

Normally if a brand doesn’t have any sort of information on its website, I cross them off as fast fashion. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look further. You might need to or want to do your own digging.

A quick google search should give you the answers you want. If not, ask around, stalk their social media page, look for reviews, etc.

A few of my favorite resources are:

  • Good on you – They have a huge brand directory where they rate almost any brand you can think of based on their ethics!
  • The good trade – The good trade takes time to break down individual brands including their factory conditions, pay rate and sustainability.
  • SustainablyChic – This is one of my favorite fellow ethical bloggers. She also does a really good job of breaking down and identifying ethical brands.

6. Email the brand 

If you’re still not finding the answers you’re looking for then it may be time to reach out to the brand directly. You can do this on social media but I’d suggest finding an email and contacting them.

Some questions you may want to include are:

  • Where their clothes are made/how they’re sourced
  • What do they do to ensure the safety, well-being and fair pay of their garment workers/supply chain workers
  • What sustainability plans do they have in place to lower their carbon footprint

It’s important to pay attention to their response. It may be like all the things I mentioned above: vague, beating around the bush, using big words.

But from there it’s up to you to decide whether or not a brand meets your standards. 


The ultimate list of ethical and sustainable fashion brands

Affordable ethical fashion brands

how to tell if a brand is ethical

Thank you for reading this post! I hope you found it helpful. Please don’t forget to share this post and follow me on Instagram for daily low waste and ethical fashion inspiration!



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