What is Ethical Fashion?
Contributor: Ethical Fashion Forum
For the EFF, ethical fashion represents an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment.
1. Defining ‘ethical’ fashion
2. Criteria for ‘ethical’ fashion
3. Sustainability and the triple bottom line
4. EFF Ethical Policy Framework
6. The Future
7. Useful links
1. Defining ‘Ethical’ Fashion
“If you describe something as ethical, you mean that it is morally right or morally acceptable” – Collins English Dictionary
For the Ethical Fashion forum (EFF), ‘ethical’ fashion represents an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment.
The meaning of ethical goes beyond doing no harm, representing an approach which strives to take an active role in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihood creation, minimising and counteracting environmental concerns.
2. Criteria from ‘Ethical’ Fashion
The Ethical Fashion Forum uses a 10 point criteria to set out the key issues and to weigh up how a company engages in ethics and sustainability, these include:
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. Minimising 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
Find out more about our Ethical Mandate.
We occasionally use the terms ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ interchangeably, partly because we believe the in order to be a sustainable business, ‘ethical’ practices are fundamental.
3. Sustainability & the Triple Bottom Line
The term ‘sustainable’ is used throughout this site in the context of both social and environmental issues.
In 1989, the Brundtland Commission articulated what has now become a widely accepted definition of sustainability: “[to meet] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
We believe that 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.
The triple bottom line approach includes social, environmental and commercial objectives to consider in business.
The work of the Ethical Fashion Forum with businesses is built on these three pillars, and especially with smaller businesses, this includes elements of commercial and financial business support, in collaboration with partner organisations.
4. EFF Ethical Policy Framework
The EFF has developed an ethical policy framework tool in consultation with leading ethical sourcing and certification bodies, including the Ethical Trading Initiative, MADE-BY, The International Fair Trade Association, the Fairtrade Foundation, the Responsible Purchasing Initiative and others.
This allows the EFF to work systematically with fashion business members towards improved sustainability practices, as well as facilitating the transparent communication of these through a vetted ethical policy document.
Businesses are increasingly looking at their supply chain and Corporate Social Responsibility is an important factor in the way brands interact with consumers. The way business operates is changing and best practice progressively involves benefitting society. It is within the financial interests of businesses to incorporate the triple bottom line into their business model, investing in a better world in which future trade can thrive.
6. The Future
‘Ethical’ fashion is a growing sector. Even ‘fast fashion’ retailers are bringing out collections with environmental and social concerns at the core and designers such as Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood have made candid discussion of ethics part of their branding. Retailers will continue to construct strategies towards maximising social benefits and minimising environmental footprints over the coming years.
7. Useful Links
A range of other organisations are working in the arena of ethical fashion. We aim to collaborate with these and other organisations as much as possible in order to reduce duplication and maximise impact.
The Ethical Trading Initiative
The Fairtrade Foundation
The World Fair Trade organization
Labour Behind the Label: Fashioning an Ethical Industry
Pesticide Action Network UK
The World Fair Trade Organisation– see the About Fair Trade and 10 principles of Fair Trade sections
The Ethical Trading Initiative base code, which contains nine clauses which reflect the most relevant international standards with respect to labour practices
Soil Association organic standards for textiles can be found in the Soil Associations Certification section