If ever there was an industry to come under scrutiny for its ethical practices, it’s the world of fashion. Mass consumerism has resulted in both exponential environmental damage and abusive labour practices. But while there is a movement towards systemic reform, how do we decipher which fashion brands are being transparent and actually taking their environmental and social responsibilities seriously? Simple. You just need to look for those that are Certified B Corporations, which means they’re putting the planet and its people before profit. Following the news that Chloé has been announced as the world’s first luxury fashion house to attain the certification, we bring you the trailblazing B Corp fashion brands leading the way.
We would all love to do our bit to shop in a more ethical, eco-friendly way, but sometimes it can be a minefield trying to decipher the truly sustainable brands from those who are guilty of greenwashing. Are their supply chains as transparent as they should be? Do they really incorporate sustainable practices at their core? Do they pay their workers a fair wage?
There’s one eco-label, however, that lets you know immediately whether that business really is ethical: the B Corp Certification. Companies that are awarded B Corp status have committed to using their business to work towards a more inclusive and sustainable economy, as well as striving to reduce inequality, lower poverty levels and create a healthier working environment. It’s not easy to achieve the accreditation – since its launch in 2006, more than 100,000 businesses have signed up for the B Corp Impact Assessment, yet only 3,500 have been certified – making it all the more valuable.
More and more brands are now trying to find ways to make products with the planet’s long-term health in mind, looking at how they can reshape their supply chains and take action to create a positive impact. From luxury fashion houses to eco footwear brands and sustainably sourced jewellery, these are the certified B Corp fashion brands who are working hard to make a difference.
B Corp Fashion Brands
Thanks to the eco expertise of its new creative director, Gabriela Hearst, Chloé has just been announced as the world’s first luxury fashion house to attain B Corp Certification. Since Hearst’s arrival the label has quickly become a pioneer of sustainability within the luxury world: case in point, her debut A/W21 collection, which featured recycled wool and cashmere knits, puffer jackets made using surplus textiles and reworked vintage handbags, and had a carbon footprint that was 400% less than that of the previous year.
“We are proud to be the first luxury Maison to join this community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good,” said Chloé in a statement. “By becoming B Corp certified, we reinforce our ongoing commitment to taking accountability for our impact on people and the planet. Rather than a final goal, this certification marks a new stage in our transformation towards a purpose-driven model, reinventing how we do business.”
The Paris-born resale platform Vestiaire Collective prides itself on housing the best in pre-loved fashion, with a vast offering including Chanel bags and Dior jackets to Alexander McQueen scarves. Now they’ve become the first second-hand fashion site in the world to become B Corp Certified. The retail platform has led the charge in transforming the fashion industry with cyclical practices ever since they first launched in 2009, and as part of their founding mission are now challenging other resale platforms, fashion brands and industry players to commit to getting the prestigious certification.
The brand was particularly recognised for its significant achievements in the ‘Workers’ and ‘Governance’ areas. The company boasts over 500 employees across France, Germany, America, Hong Kong and Singapore, and 60% of their staff are women, with all staff covering 48 nationalities. Last year, the company appointed a chief sustainability and inclusion officer and launched five employee diversity and inclusion task forces, including Ethnic diversity, LGBTQIA+, Women empowerment, Disability and Equal opportunity.
British jewellery designer Laura Lambert founded Fenton in 2019 to give consumers fair access to high quality, responsibly produced fine jewellery, specialising in ethically and sustainably sourced coloured gemstones as an alternative to traditional diamonds. Customers can choose from a variety of stones, metals and cuts to create their own personalised design, with all of the gems sourced directly, thereby cutting out the middlemen to provide top stones at a lower cost.
They’re one of only three British jewellers to be a certified B Corp, which they earnt thanks to their impressive 10-part responsible sourcing manifesto. The brand ensures that they only obtain stones from companies that are world leaders in ethical mining, as well as ones that actively support the local habitat and environment. Their beautiful designs and ethical practices have earnt them high profile fans including Jasmine Hemsley, Tess Ward and Sharmadean Reid.
After seeing first-hand the incredible properties of merino wool, New Zealand native Tim Brown couldn’t understand why the sustainable resource wasn’t being used in the footwear industry – so he decided to do something about it. The shoe brand – whose trainers are often referred to as ‘the world’s most comfortable shoes’ – prides itself on using natural materials, with ranges made from eco-friendly eucalyptus pulp and moisture-wicking merino wool that is ZQ-certified (meaning it meets stringent standards for sustainable farming and animal welfare) and uses 60% less energy than synthetics.
Alongside this the brand has reimagined their packaging, using 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard that serves as a shoebox and shopping bag all in one, and work with charity Soles4Souls to ensure their gently used shoes find new homes in some of the poorest communities around the world. They have big plans for the future, with their Allbirds Flight Plan aiming to cut their carbon footprint in half by 2025, and reduce it to near zero by 2030.
Founded by three brothers – Ed, Paul and Lawrence Bird – in Devon, Bird is the first and only certified B Corp eyewear brand in the UK. Dedicated to designing beautiful glasses that both look great and do good, their frames are created using the highest quality sustainable materials, including certified woods, bio-based acetate, renewable cork and recycled aluminium, and come with cleaning cloths made from recycled plastic bottles.
For every pair bought they distribute solar light to families in Zambia and Malawi, replacing the use of fossil fuel burning lamps, through their Share Your Sun partnership with SolarAid, and they are committed to creating a truly circular economy. All of their bamboo and wooden frames can be composted, while their laminated wood and aluminium frames can be separated out and the aluminium layers can be recycled.
This fair trade trainer brand quickly became a household name after Meghan Markle was spotted wearing a pair at the Invictus Games in 2018, but it’s their eco-friendly credentials that earnt them their B Corp shortly after launching in 2015. The brand was established with the aim of creating a shoe that would stand the test of time without compromising on sustainability, which meant working with unusual materials like wild rubber from the Amazonian Forest for their soles and recycled plastic bottles to create a new kind of mesh.
The business operates with full transparency across every stage of their production, from the wages they pay to the way they source their materials. By working directly with small scale producers in Peru and Brazil, they’re able to cut out the middleman and agree a price for the rubber and cotton they use in advance, thereby ensuring the producers can earn a decent living and reinvest in their farms.
Inspired by British surfers and founded in Devon in 2003, Finisterre has created a brand around an innovative waterproof and windproof fleece designed to warm cold souls fresh from the sea. The outdoor clothing label works hard to create sustainable supply chains and resurrected the British merino wool industry in 2005 after searching for a way to bring their manufacturing closer to home. They now have a flock of over 300 Bowmont sheep, the only breed capable of producing a fine merino wool with the hardiness to survive the British climate.
Their impact on the environment is taken into account with everything they do, including their garment bags, which are part of their ‘Leave No Trace’ initiative. The water-soluble bags took over a year to develop and are recyclable, biodegradable and break down harmlessly into non-toxic biomass in soil and sea. They’ve also created a special sea suit, which was designed to overcome barriers to surfing in countries where modesty laws make access to the ocean difficult for women and young girls.
The outdoor clothing company has been B Corp certified for almost a decade and has long been known as an industry leader when it comes to environmental advocacy and sustainable practices. The mission-driven brand was the first California-based company to sign up for B certification in January 2012 and passionately advocates for other businesses following suit in what they refer to as a time of ‘sustained environmental and social crisis’.
Their leaders are unfailingly honest when it comes to how much work there is still to do in the sector, as well as within their own business, and they operate a self-imposed Earth tax, through which they donate 1% of their annual sales to grassroots environmental groups. Their outstanding environmental efforts and entrepreneurial vision, including the fact that 70% of its collection uses recycled materials, led it to be named a UN Champion of the Earth in 2019, the UN’s top environmental honour.