Ethical Fashion - Terms of Interest to the Fashion Industry

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According to the Ethical Fashion Forum, the term "ethical fashion" represents an approach to the design, sourcing, and manufacturing of clothing that maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing its impact on the environment.

The meaning of "ethical" goes far beyond doing no harm, representing an approach which strives to take an active role in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihood creation, minimizing, and counteracting environmental concerns.

When discussing "ethical" fashion, the term "sustainability" often comes up. Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Some believe a business or initiative is not sustainable unless the triple bottom line is integrated at the core of business practices and policy, from board level to studio, shop, or factory floor.


Increasing the capacity and well being of the people and communities behind fashion. Any fashion business depends on the people behind it. In a broader context, poverty and exploitation of the human workforce behind fashion affects the stability of the industry itself.

Minimizing the environmental impact of all business operations throughout the supply chain. Creating and acting upon opportunities to reduce environmental issues beyond the immediate operations, such as awareness raising, investment in and support of environmental initiatives.

Without a robust financial business model, none of the above can be achieved. Good intentions without an effective business structure can backfire. A sustainable approach includes quality products or services that meet market needs and demands and are fairly marketed.

The Ethical Fashion Forum has drawn up a set of 10 criteria for ethical fashion.

  1. Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
  2. Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
  3. Supporting sustainable livelihoods
  4. Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use
  5. Using and/or developing eco-friendly fabrics and components
  6. Minimizing water use
  7. Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
  8. Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
  9. Resources, training and/or awareness raising initiatives
  10. Animal rights
Written for Apparel Search by Regina Cooper June 2010.

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