Can an end-to-end sustainability standard change fashion?

A new version of Cradle to Cradle’s highly regarded product certification scheme attempts to be the first end-to-end sustainability standard covering the full lifecycle of a product, from raw materials to end of life, with a level of detail to ensure efforts at each stage are beyond skin-deep.

While most other certifications focus only on a specific aspect of production, like the use of organic materials or reduction of toxic impacts on water supplies, Cradle to Cradle says its Certified Product Standard is “the single most comprehensive” for companies working towards sustainability. Brands from Tentree to Ralph Lauren use it. The group says it has the potential to drive large-scale transformation in supply chains.

A single catch-all sustainability certification that has the trust of scientists and the public alike could be a gain for an industry that has lacked reliable guidelines in reforming production. Third-party certifications often cherry-pick issues, which experts say undermines the goal for brands to become fully sustainable. A lifecycle solution would keep brands on the hook for every step of their supply chains, creating a new level of transparency around sustainability commitments. But some experts argue Cradle to Cradle still falls short, saying it doesn’t go far enough on synthetic materials, or that it doesn’t address the underlying issues like overproduction that perpetuate fashion’s impact.

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