Understanding Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion

Ethical and sustainable are two words that should be taken seriously when it comes to fashion and with overuse the importance their meaning is at risk of dilution. A number of brands participate in what is known as greenwashing, making a small change in order to appear to have ethics and sustainability as part of their brand. Understand the true meaning of these words in the fashion industry and how they should impact your fashion choices…

Ethical
[eth-i-kuh l]
pertaining to or dealing with morals or the principles of morality; pertaining to right and wrong in conduct.

This is to do with people, humans, us. Are your clothes and the textiles used to make those clothes being created in a way that is not endangering or harming the people involved in the production process? The question of ethics starts at the cotton fields, where harmful pesticides are used to speed up production and child labour is all too common. And it continues right to the factory floor, where workers are often paid lower than a living wage and expected to work unreasonable hours in unsafe conditions. All of these unethical practices are what ensure we can continue to consume at the prices and rate we do...so we need to ask ourselves, is it worth it?

Many of you may remember the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 which tragically killed over 1,100 people and shone a spotlight on the terrible conditions factory workers are expected to operate in. This factory produced clothing for well known high street chain stores and is the most extreme and widely known example of the imbalance between ethics and revenue in fashion.

Sustainable
[suh-stey-nuh-buh l]
pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse.

Now the green part, where taking care of our planet is something we should all care about for the sake of future generations. Few of us are aware of the unbelievable reality that fashion is the second most polluting industry on earth, preceded only by the oil industry. How is it that we manage to remain, for the most part, blissfully unaware of the impact our fashion choices are having on our planet? Textile production demand is so high that pesticides are used to increase the rate at which natural resources are grown, while the sheer volume in production of manmade textiles puts an even bigger strain on our planet and pollutes our waterways. 

The driving factor of the impact fashion is having on the earth’s longevity is the rate at which we continue to consume, with fashion filling our emotional and societal needs like never before. The fact that fashion is a non biodegradable purchase, ending up in landfills and continuing to cause pollution long after it has left your wardrobe, is at the pinnacle of our disconnect with the sustainability of our consumption. 

Understanding and acknowledging the importance of ethics and sustainability in an industry which for the most part glosses over these factors is a key step in the journey to curbing consumerism...one conscious step at a time.