13 ethical fashion standards and certifications you need to know.
We’ve all had that awkward word moment. You know, the one where someone’s used a word you’ve never heard in your life and you stand there smiling and waving like the penguins from Madagascar told you to because, well, you literally have no idea what that word means. There are a lot of terms within the ethical and sustainable world that are not often discussed or used in the mainstream sphere but are the cause of these awkward word moments. Never fear, Ethical Made Easy is here! Sorry team, we had to.
In the wake of our What the F**k Is Ethical Fashion? eBook release, a collaboration between us and the wonderful Kate Hall of Ethically Kate, we’ve decided it’d be a great idea to put together a list of some little-known terms often slapped onto the tags of ethical fashion products. It’s important to know what these particular words and phrases mean so you have the ability to make your own decisions based on your understanding of the promises that a particular company has made. Keep calm and read on ‘cause the definitions that accompany the following ethical terms will eventually come in handy.
Okay, here we go:
An organic product is produced without the use of any harmful chemicals. If a product is Australian Certified Organic (ACO), that particular product has met and complied with Australian production standards and every ingredient in that product is completely traceable.
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) works towards making cotton a sustainable mainstream commodity, and improving the environmental and social impacts brought about by cotton production. If a product includes the BCI label, the process of the cotton used in that item has been mindfully grown and exported.
Certified B Corporation
If a business is labelled as a Certified B Corporation it means that it has been recognised as a corporation that is playing its part in driving positive change towards a more sustainable economy. Certified B Corps balance profit and purpose, are completely transparent, and meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance.
Closed Loop Fashion or Circular Fashion
The goal of a closed loop or circular fashion system is to keep a garment in circulation for as long as possible. The manufacturing and production processes of such items take into account the need for these items to be of the highest quality, and are also made with the ability to re-enter the system through upcycling, repurposing, or recycling in mind.
Ethics tie into morals and values, and the concept behind ethical fashion embodies these exact principles. Ethical fashion considers who is making the clothing, where the clothes will end up if the consumer no longer has a need for them, and how much strain the production of these clothes will put on our planet; a planet with finite resources.
Fairtrade advocates for the protection of the rights of farming and worker communities all around the world. If a product carries the Fairtrade Mark they are supporting the rights and the livelihood of these workers; workers who, with the material or item they are producing, are meeting social, economic, and environmental standards agreed upon internationally.
The Forest Stewardship Council is an organisation that works with a global environmental, social, and economic network to set standards for what defines a responsibly managed forest. Products certified by the FSC have proven their processes are appropriate through every aspect of the supply chain.
Greenwashing is a marketing ploy used by companies to emphasise that their products are better for the environment than they actually are. These companies usually spend more time, energy, and resources on marketing their “green” products or policies than they do actually implementing them.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is exactly as it sounds: it sets the standard for textiles made from organic fibres. GOTS certified products adhere to strict environmental and social criteria, and must contain a minimum of 70% organic fibres.
Living Wage and Minimum Wage
A living wage is the minimum amount of income needed to meet the basic needs of an employee.
Unlike its minimum wage counterpart, the living wage takes into account such necessities as food, shelter, transport, and utilities. It’s also completely voluntary and up to the discretion of the employer. A minimum wage, on the other hand, is the lowest legal wage an employer can pay their workers.
There is no one term that defines sustainable fashion, but it does relate to the way clothing, shoes, and accessories and the processes in which they are made can be sustained on this finite planet. For fashion to be sustainable, what must be taken into account in the production processes are the environmental and socio-economic aspects of its creation, and its ability to be reused, recycled, and repaired.
STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX
The STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX is a third-party textile certification that tests at all levels of processing against a strict criteria. Examples of the materials that can be tested and Standard 100 Certified include finished or raw yarns, woven and knitted fabrics, accessories including buttons and zips, and garments of all types.
So, there you have it. There’s 13 terms you may not have known that relate to ethical fashion. The further you travel along this incredibly brave and rewarding path the more you will be exposed to these words, but we hope that by reading this you’ve come to understand the basic meaning of each of these terms. Though there are more you will come across in this ethical and sustainable journey you have embarked on, we hope these few explanations will help. Slide them into conversation with confidence and avoid those awkward word moments we’ve all come to know and hate. If you haven’t already, download our FREE eBook, What The F**k Is Ethical Fashion, to find out a little bit more about some of these terms and a lot more about ethical fashion.