There are dozens of stamps and certifications that indicate a sustainable approach or process towards making outdoor gear and clothing but are they all legit? James Tugwell did some greenwashing detective work.


Being a sustainable shopper looking for a new piece of outdoor gear can be a bit like bush-bashing through the wilderness sometimes.

You have to wade through endless puffer jacket options like overgrown brush, test every pair of shoes like you would a slippery rock during a river crossing, and then commit to spending your hard-earned dollars on something that’ll hopefully last the next ten years, or more.

Many outdoor items have a sustainability claim on the tag, a certification stamp, or a happy tick of eco-approval. With all the different sustainability labels and claims on clothing and equipment, it can be hard to know what’s true and what’s actually making a difference for the planet.


Explorer’s Guide to Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges, Ben Savage, trees, forest

Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees when it comes to sustainable certifications. @ben.savage

It’s nice to think companies are upfront and honest and every label is truthful. However, that’s not the case with the rise of a phenomenon called ‘greenwashing’.

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is a marketing tactic used by companies to promote their products as being environmentally friendly, even though they may not be.

It can take many forms, such as using vague or misleading environmental claims or even made-up certifications.

That greenwashing is a problem is a good thing because it shows companies recognise that being perceived as ethical and for the environment is commercially beneficial — consumers are increasingly considering the environment when they make a purchase.

However, greenwashing itself is a horrible development, because it tricks these environmentally-conscious consumers into thinking they’re purchasing for the planet when they may not be.


The Arc’teryx ReBird Program has Launched in Australia at Last!, photos from Arc'teryx, gear, shelves, warehouse

The Arc’teryx ReBird Program is a great example of keeping gear outdoors and away from landfill.


For the ethical shopper, trying to purchase a new piece of kit is not only like wading through the wilderness, it’s like having no map and no legend either. All the symbols seem arbitrary and a little random, some even completely false. What you think is a track to safety might just be a deadly cliff face.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of reliable certifications, to help you navigate the outdoor gear marketplace and avoid greenwashing.

Many are third-party certifications, meaning a company has willingly submitted their production process for assessment. These are harder to obtain and impossible to falsify.

So, without further ado, here’s your map…


Majell Backhausen Ran Across The Great Forest National Park to Try & Save It, Cam Suttie, Great Forest National Park, map

Great Forest National Park @majellb

1. Certified B Corporations

B Corps (like We Are Explorers) are a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

To become a B Corp, a company must undergo a rigorous assessment of its environmental and social performance and make a legal commitment to consider the impact of its decisions on its stakeholders. The certification considers governance, customer focus, environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

2. Climate Neutral Certified

Climate Neutral is a certification program helping brands measure and offset their carbon emissions. Brands that are Climate Neutral Certified have committed to reducing their emissions as much as possible, and offsetting the remainder through investments in high-quality carbon offset projects, such as planting trees.

3. Cradle to Cradle Certified

Cradle to Cradle evaluates products based on their impact on people and the environment throughout their entire life cycle, from the sourcing of raw materials to the disposal of the product at the end of its life.

Approved products are made from safe, non-toxic materials and are designed to be disassembled and reused or recycled at the end of their life.

4. Fair Trade Certified

Fair Trade certification ensures workers in developing countries receive fair wages, safe working conditions, and a voice in the workplace. The Fair Trade Certified seal indicates that the product was made by workers who were paid a fair wage and treated with dignity and respect.

5. Global Organic Textile Standard

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the world’s leading certification standard for organic textiles. A product must be made from at least 70% organic fibres and meet strict environmental and social criteria, including fair labour practices and restrictions on the use of hazardous chemicals.

6. Responsible Down Standard

The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certifies down feathers used in clothing and outdoor gear are sourced in a way that protects the welfare of geese and ducks. The RDS requires that suppliers meet strict criteria for the humane treatment of birds, including restrictions on live-plucking and force-feeding.

Every RDS product has a tracking code which can be used to search up the origin of the down and the exact quality of the product.

7. 1% for the Planet

1% for the Planet is a global network of companies that pledge to give 1% of their sales to environmental organisations working to protect the planet. That means you’re only paying 99% for the product, with the extra 1% funnelling straight into supporting the planet. 

8. Bluesign

A Bluesign certification ensures textile products are made in an environmentally and socially responsible way. The Bluesign standard covers every step of the production process, from the use of chemicals and water to the treatment of workers, and only products that meet strict environmental and social criteria are eligible for certification.

9. Rainforest Alliance Certified

The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal indicates the product was made using sustainable agricultural practices that protect the environment and support local communities. It considers four key pillars: forests, climates, human rights, and livelihoods. It is used for all forest-grown materials including food, furniture and fashion.

10. Forest Stewardship Council

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) makes sure there are still forests out there for you to explore with your new piece of kit, and for more and more generations to come.

It certifies that products made from wood or other forest-based materials come from responsibly managed forests. To be FSC certified any wood or forest-based materials in the product must be sourced from a responsibly managed forest, meeting strict environmental and social standards, including protection of endangered species and the rights of local communities.

Found your way?

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive and there are more good and honest certifications you will come across.

Whenever you come across an environmental certification or marketing claim, the best thing you can do is search it up and find out exactly what it means.

You wouldn’t head into the wilderness without a map you could understand; the same applies to buying outdoor gear and clothing. Because ultimately, where you spend your money matters in our fight for the planet.


Cover image @_anna_wall