Greenwashing and Third-Party Certifications in Digital Textiles

Several independent organizations have developed standard procedures for determining whether a company’s textile products are indeed sustainably produced. The goal is to eliminate “greenwashing” -- claiming that products are more environmentally friendly than they are.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition was founded by Walmart and Patagonia in 2010 to develop a universal approach to measuring sustainability performance. Today, the SAC includes more than 280 global brands, retailers, manufacturers, non-government organizations, academics, and industry associations. They developed the Higg Index that allows brands, factories, and chemical manufacturers to score the sustainability of their products. 

The Textile Exchange is a global non-profit organization dedicated to making the fashion and textile industry more sustainable. The Climate+ program aims to guide the industry towards reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fiber and raw material production by 45% by 2030. 

The Textile Exchange has developed methods that enable consumers to verify claims related to organic content and the processing and use of recycled materials. For example, products carrying The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) logo not only assures the use of organic raw materials, but also environmentally and socially responsible processing through the supply chain. 

The OEKO -TEX association consists of 18 independent textile and leather institutes in Europe and Japan. They work with more than 21,000 manufacturers, brands, and retailers in more than 70 countries.  OEKO-TEX is best known for its STANDARD 100 that certifies that every element of a textile product has been tested for the presence of chemicals that can harm human health through breathing, skin contact, or saliva. But now, products that have OEKO-TEX® MADE IN GREEN labels give consumers confidence that textile and leather products not only have been tested for harmful substances, but also have been manufactured in environmentally friendly facilities under safe and socially responsible working conditions.

Fashion For Good is a global initiative that encourages the entire apparel industry (brands, retailers, suppliers, non-profits, innovators, funders, and the public) to collaborate on the disruptive innovations to enable a circular supply chain. Their innovation platform provides early- to mid-stage venture capital funding for start-ups investigating polyester alternatives and other textile-related innovations. Their D(R)YE Factory of the Future is a consortium project that brings together several innovations in textile pre-treatment and coloration that may accelerate the shift from wet to mostly dry processing. Their interactive museum teaches visitors about where their clothing comes from and some of the new technologies to make processes more sustainable.  

As for greenwashing, environmental groups and government agencies want brand marketers to provide details in the ad copy to substantiate claims of sustainable production. These groups also advise consumers to be skeptical of vague claims about eco-friendly products. 

In the graphics industry, the spec sheet for HP Recycled-Removable Adhesive Fabric points out that “100% of the total PET resin in the product is made from recycled water bottles. The coating does not contain recycled materials.” The product is compliant with Global Recycled Standard (GRS) Version 4.0. They note that with the liner attached, 72% by weight of the product consists of recycled content. 

When Fisher Textiles announced three new products in their Enviro-Tex dye-sublimation fabric line, they noted that ET8050 Super Sonic for backlit SEG and banners contains 48.7 recycled PET bottles (500 ml) per linear yard. Their ET9410 Soft Knit frontlit SEG banners and backdrops contains 32.9 recycled bottles per linear year and the ET99708 Heavy Knit for frontlit SEG, table throws and backdrops contains 40.1 recycled PET bottles per linear yard.   

Read more about the road to sustainability in digital textiles in the upcoming PRINTING United Journal March 2023 edition.

eileen-fritschEileen Fritsch is an independent journalist who has been covering advances in digital printing business and technology for more than 25 years.  Send news and information about innovations and businesses not included in this article to