For the better half of the last decade, there has been an explosive interest in cruelty-free and vegan products. Big brands are coming out with vegan collections, and many have already gone cruelty-free.
This rapid change in values can come from a social and eco-conscious standpoint, but it’s also a way for companies to reach new markets and explore new revenue streams.
Let’s break down how brands in the fashion industry are taking steps towards becoming more vegan and cruelty-free.
The Meaning of Cruelty-free and Vegan
Cruelty-free, as it is most often used, means that a product was not tested on animals. This standard is most applicable to the beauty and wellness industry, where ingredients and final products may be tested on animals.
It’s essential to note that being cruelty-free does not always mean the lack of animal products. Some materials (e.g., badger hairs, peace silk) may be labeled cruelty-free but still come from animals.
This level of definition is mainly individual. Some people think animal products can still be cruelty-free, while others might take cruelty-free to mean no use of animals at all.
Vegan, on the other hand, means that a product does not contain any animal or animal by-products. Generally, products have to be cruelty-free to be considered vegan, but this is not always true. Some products can contain no animal components but may still be tested on animals.
How Brands are Becoming More Cruelty-free and Vegan
Customers today are becoming more aware of how their consumption habits impact the planet and the living beings on it. The looming threat of climate change has inspired many of us to take individual action, and increased awareness of animal abuse and exploitation has also heightened our interest in going cruelty-free and vegan.
Here are some of the ways brands of any size or origin make sure their products become more cruelty-free and vegan.
Certifications are one of the best ways to signal customers that a product is cruelty-free and vegan. These terms are not regulated, and many customers remain skeptical about product labels that indicate an item is cruelty-free or vegan.
As a solution, there are third parties who provide certification services and add credibility to a company’s claims. These certifications can be added as a logo on a product listing or its packaging. It’s a straightforward way for customers to feel their values are recognized in a product.
There are separate certifications for cruelty-free and vegan.
Cruelty-free certifications include the following:
- PETA: Beauty without Bunnies
- Leaping Bunny Certification
- Cruelty-free International Certification
There are, of course, several other certifications, but these are generally the ones you can trust the best.
For vegan products, watch out for the following certifications:
- PETA: Beauty without Bunnies (Cruelty-free and vegan)
- PETA Vegan Certification
- The Vegan Society Certification
- Vegan Action Certification
- Vegan Approved by the Vegetarian Society
As with the cruelty-free certification, this is not an exhaustive list. There are vegan certifications that are local and originate from a specific country.
Getting these certifications helps brands assure their customers that they’re not merely greenwashing them with empty promises. These certifications entail responsibility and accountability, making sure that a company follows through on enforcing its values.
Of course, there is no cruelty-free and vegan without the use of appropriate materials. Brands must ensure their products in the fashion industry align with those values. However, it doesn’t stop there.
There must also be an emphasis on eco-consciousness in materials sourcing. Customers are drawn to proactive brands in their choice of materials, not only in composition but also in the source.
This means sourcing fair trade materials from ethical sources, using materials that aren’t harmful to the environment, and other similar efforts.
Socially Responsible Production
The fashion industry is notorious for many labor issues and unethical production processes. Major commercial production disasters such as the Rana Plaza Disaster are products of a fast fashion industry that continuously prioritizes profit over ethics.
Labeling a product cruelty-free when it was made under unethical working conditions defeats the purpose of the label.
These days, customers are more inclined to purchase from cruelty-free vegan brands that produce under safe and ethical working standards. Here, ISO certifications for factories and paying living wages are highly valuable.
Although socially responsible production isn’t technically a requirement for going cruelty-free and vegan, it is a critical step—especially in the fashion industry.
It might not seem like giving back to the community is part of the cruelty-free and vegan initiative, but it is. Community efforts are very integrated into these values as they show customers that the brand is putting in the extra work to contribute to the greater good.
Giving back initiatives can be from tree planting and carbon offsetting to partnerships with animal shelters or sanctuaries. In any case, these community engagements signal that the brand emphasizes value creation beyond its products.
Greenwashing in Fashion
The increase in eco-conscious customers and the rise of mindful consumption has also led to some unwanted side effects. One of which is greenwashing.
Greenwashing is the practice of presenting products as ‘green’ when they’re not. More time is spent spinning marketing ploys instead of ensuring environmentally friendly processes in production.
This is precisely why brands have to go the extra mile and make sure their products reflect cruelty-free and vegan values. Customers are also becoming more aware of greenwashing and thus might be skeptical of false promises with no credibility to back them.
Information and learning hubs like Puratium are crucial in fighting against misinformation in the industry. These platforms are handy for beginners still at the start of their journey.
There are plenty of ways brands can show they’re leaning towards a philosophy of veganism and kindness to animals and the environment. It shows through their products, their methods, and how they interact with the community.
But there are also instances when brands only do this on the surface level. If you are a consumer reading this, it’s good to understand that companies are better. But it’s even better to stay vigilant and recognize the rampant greenwashing that goes on in the fashion industry.
Photo by Andre Moura from Pexels