Difference Between Sustainable And Ethical Fashion

The terms "ethical" and "sustainable" are frequently used synonymously in the realm of fashion for good.

Both appear to represent slow fashion and awareness of how the industry affects both people and the environment.

As tools for social influence and environmentalism, they have respectively joined the mainstream.

When analysed more closely, these concepts have different meanings, but they nonetheless function in unison to bring about the best possible justice.

The final word? Companies cannot advocate for workers' rights while producing environmentally harmful goods and cannot claim to be "earth-friendly" while putting their employees in risk.

Instead of sustainable, eco-friendly, or ethical phrases, adjectives like glamour, style, trend, etc. come to mind when one thinks about fashion.

But in the next 10 to 50 years, how sustainable is the fashion industry going to be will be the most crucial question?

Around the past ten years, ethical and sustainable fashion has gained popularity all over the world.

An approach to clothing sourcing, production, and design known as ethical and sustainable fashion maximises the advantages to the industry and society at large while minimising the effects on the environment.

Something being ethical means it is morally right and respectable.

Therefore, producing clothing is not where ethical and sustainable fashion begins. Instead, it begins in the cotton fields and finishes in the customer's closet.

Because hazardous chemicals are employed, conventional cotton cultivation cannot be regarded as ethical or sustainable.

Sustainability is no longer simply a theory; it is now a means of conducting business. The forerunners of ecological and ethical fashion include companies like NOIR and Stella McCartney.

Nowadays, a lot of businesses have adopted and incorporated the idea of sustainability. These businesses are aware that fusing social and environmental concerns with business will have long-term advantages.

Imagine living in a society where you can walk into any clothes store and know exactly how your purchases would impact the workers, the environment, and animals.

Then you could peruse the collections with a smile on your face, confident that a lucky find would benefit people and the environment rather than damage them. The movement for ethical and sustainable fashion is led by this overarching objective.

Although everyone is aware that this is an impossible situation, the industry is nevertheless making great strides.

It is possible to learn which businesses act like our ideal clothing store and which ones don't thanks to initiatives like Good On You.

We're here to explain what sustainable fashion is in detail since we understand that the difficulties facing the fashion industry are complicated and the terminologies might be perplexing. And what about morally sound clothing?

Here's a breakdown of some of the most common terms:


Sustainability refers to an object or process that has positive effects on the environment, society, and the economy without consuming excessive resources or polluting the environment.

It refers to the costs associated with production that have an impact on the environment, such as the use of pesticides, dyeing and finishing, water and waste treatment, energy conservation, material selection, and packaging.

A business must take into account a product's influence throughout the course of its full lifecycle in order to be really sustainable.

Make sure to study any businesses or goods that make sustainability claims.

There are several levels of sustainability, and there are no hard-and-fast guidelines that must be followed for a business to assert its sustainability.


The concept of "ethical" is related to manufacturing ethics and human rights.

For instance, ethical fashion describes the process used to make a garment, including how the cotton was cultivated, how garment workers are treated and paid, and who handles packaging and delivery.

A product or business is said to have been "ethically manufactured" if there was no slave labour, child labour, worker abuse, discrimination, or sweatshop labour involved.

Additionally, it indicates that employees were paid fairly, had the option to form a union, and were given a secure workplace.

Occasionally, the "ethical" category also includes issues like sustainability and animal welfare.

Fair Trade and sustainable fashion are both considered to be a part of ethical fashion, which is a more general word.

Ethical fashion is not always Fair Trade, but Fair Trade is always ethical fashion.

It's always a good idea to conduct your research when you come across a business or product claiming to be ethical because there aren't really any guidelines, standards, or organisations that govern ethical fashion.

Theoretically, it's excellent since you can purchase affordable on-trend clothing just a few weeks after the trends debuted on the catwalk.

The real cost of quick fashion, however, is much more than the £5 you spend on a new t-shirt.

People are now more conscious than ever before of how the industry affects the environment.

For instance, textile companies pour chemicals into some of the most contaminated rivers in the world.

Additionally, every year, millions of tonnes of textile waste are dumped in landfills.

As if that weren't bad enough, the United Nations reports that the apparel business uses more energy than both the shipping and aviation industries put together.

Around 10% of the world's glasshouse gas emissions are a result of its extensive supply networks and heavy energy use.

People are becoming more selective about the companies they buy from and the causes they support with their purchases as they become more aware of this impact.

Consider what transpired with Forever 21.

Customers want more supply chain transparency so they may determine for themselves what influence the clothes they buy are having.

Finding a sustainable fashion choice in the market today, however, is a complete minefield.

The Difference 

Sustainable Fashion

Perhaps the most frequently used keyword in the industry right now is sustainable fashion.

It speaks of how the fashion industry affects the environment, addressing problems including pollution, water use, and waste generation.

It all comes down to making things that have as little of an environmental impact as possible.

Being a sustainable fashion brand today is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, especially on a large scale.

Brands may, however, be open about their commitment to sustainability and make every effort to become more so. We can constantly work to improve!

In contrast to ethical fashion, "sustainable fashion" focuses more on the environmental impact of clothing manufacture.

It looks at how fashion endangers human health in an environmental context, although it does not focus as much on workers' wellbeing as ethical fashion.

Similar to ethical fashion, the idea examines how to make every stage of clothing production more environmentally friendly in order to attain environmental justice.

At the forefront of the movement are objectives like using efficient and minimal natural resources and energy sources in production, reducing, reusing, recycling, and mending clothing.

The goal of sustainable fashion is to both improve existing procedures AND alter customer behaviour.

Innovative sustainability strategies are included into the business plans of companies like Rothy's, who promise to only use recycled plastic to produce shoes.

While many businesses have made progress towards environmental sustainability, many do not support moral behaviour.

For instance, a number of eco-friendly clothing brands have recently come under fire for using organic cotton that was harvested in China employing forced labour.

Sustainable fashion is clothing and accessories made with longevity and the environment in mind.

Given that the fashion industry is the second most polluting in the world, sustainable fashion seeks to reduce pollution and the adverse effects that fashion production has on the environment.

Sustainable fashion takes pollutants into account (whether into the water systems, the atmosphere or the ecosystem). It also acknowledges the risks associated with the fast-fashion industry. As a result, eco-friendly clothing companies frequently offer:

  • Less options.
  • Putting more emphasis on quality than quantity.
  • Maximizing the environmental friendliness of the supply chain.

This also goes by the name "slow fashion."

By avoiding the use of pesticides and synthetic materials, which have a negative impact on the environment, sustainable fashion brands frequently use organic fabrics (as well as those who live nearby to farms and factories).

Additionally, because organic and natural fabrics (such cotton or bamboo) are biodegradable, disposing of them won't be as problematic.

Since they are a kind of recycling and prevent the creation of new apparel, used and vintage clothing are also regarded as being a part of sustainable fashion.

They are used to grow cotton for textiles, and their runoffs from a plant in Punjab, India have raised concerns about sustainability and morality by causing disproportionately high incidences of cancer and congenital defects for both workers and people living miles away from the facility.

The core of environmental racism is the way that the most toxic chemical byproducts disproportionately destroy communities of colour in order to satisfy the high demands of fast fashion consumers.

Ironically, the appetite for discarded clothing frequently leads to the contamination of their home countries. In addition to clothing that is sent abroad, 11.2 million tonnes of textiles are disposed of in landfills each year..

Therefore, promoting a fashion sector that has a long-term perspective on the design, production, and consumption of clothing and accessories is the essence of sustainable fashion.

It's about wearing clothing that benefits others while preventing harm to the environment, the planet, or animals.

Ethical Fashion

Generally speaking, the same thing! Fashion that is both ethical and sustainable is frequently used interchangeably.

However, for other people, "ethical fashion" is more concerned with how everyone who lives on the earth we call home should be treated, including both humans and animals.

Fashion that takes into account the morals of manufacturing is referred to as ethical fashion. In general, ethical fashion refers to apparel and accessories that are made with the entire supply chain—from cotton pickers to those who package, seal, and deliver—in mind.

Most ethical fashion firms share the view that everyone should be treated equally and fairly, including those involved in the manufacture of clothing.

Those who provide ethical alternatives to things like fast fashion typically place a high priority on offering a safe working environment, a living wage, and a friendly, non-abusive workplace.

Organizations like Fairtrade International can assist brands and businesses in labelling their products and providing assurance that safe and ethical methods are being followed. Ethical fashion eliminates forced, slave, and child labour throughout the manufacturing process.

So frequently, companies not only uphold moral standards but also help and enhance the living conditions of the employees they hire, particularly those who are located in poor nations.

The terms "cruelty-free fashion" and "vegan fashion" can also refer to procedures where no animals are harmed or utilised in the making of apparel.

Peace Silk is an illustration of a vegan fabric; it is made from moth cocoons after the moths have emerged and left; as a result, its production into fabric doesn't harm or kill the moths.

The Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF) is a non-profit organisation that was founded with the goals of advancing ethical fashion, raising standards in the fashion industry, and promoting sustainable methods.

More than 6000 people promote sustainable fashion among the EFF's members in more than 100 nations.

Additionally, it has established standards for ethical fashion that must be adhered to.

The International Fair Trade Association, The Fairtrade Foundation, and other leading ethical sourcing and certification organisations have worked with the EFF to develop policies.

This makes it easier for the EFF to organise its collaboration with participants in the fashion sector and create ethical and sustainable practises.

As a result, moral businesses will produce clothing with the aforementioned ethical and sustainable principles in mind, which will help people and the environment.

In the fashion sector, "greenwashing" occurs frequently as well.

Greenwashing is the deceptive use of green marketing to induce customers to believe that a company's products and business practises are environmentally beneficial.

Greenwashing is harmful to sustainability efforts because it erodes consumer confidence, which is very difficult to regain.

People would receive fashion industry advice on what to wear. Regarding sustainable fashion, it says nothing.

The benefits of green clothes over conventional materials are well known.

Every time a consumer spends money on trendy clothing, they are indirectly telling the fashion industry how to operate.

Customers should therefore utilise this right carefully. Ethical and sustainable fashion has several advantages.

The first benefit is to the environment. When growing cotton and dying clothes, the fashion industry uses hazardous pesticides that have a negative influence on the environment.

To manufacture one shirt out of cotton alone, several chemicals are needed.

One can lessen the quantity of carbon and chemicals dumped in the environment by choosing organic and sustainable textiles like organic cotton, bamboo, or hemp, which is unquestionably a good habit.

Second, it helps the employees. Since they are sustainable on numerous levels, clothing that bears the Fair Trade Act label should be purchased.

For instance, one may be certain that the garment they buy was made under ethical labour practises and that the worker received a just wage. Additionally, it helps animals.

Making sure one's closet is devoid of leather and fur items entails putting an end to animal cruelty. 

The intersection of Sustainable and Ethical Fashion: A Necessary Relationship

Changes in public policy and individual behaviour are needed for ethical and sustainable fashion to grow.

To benefit both the globe and the workers, both ideals must always be upheld concurrently.

The mutually beneficial relationship between ethical and sustainable fashion has more influence when both are present.

The footprint left by one piece of clothing permanently alters our land, water, air, and one another.

Although significant, our ability to choose which businesses we buy from is insufficient.

Both ethical and sustainable fashion demand for a transformation in the social, economic, and environmental frameworks that support the fashion industry.

A change is required; businesses must treat employees properly and utilise environmentally sustainable materials, not just one or the other.

Businesses must promote the health of each individual employee as well as the environment.

Without also being ethical, brands cannot be truly sustainable, and vice versa.

Although adopting eco-friendly products is advantageous for everyone, the ongoing unequal treatment of workers is a prime example of how current environmental movements may be deceptive at times.

The antithesis of sustainability's goal of achieving environmental justice is the absence of intersectionality in protecting vulnerable groups.

Consumers' access to and creation of sustainable products cannot come at the expense of violence against people or their well-being.

The greatest method to promote sustainability is to purchase organic and renewable fibres. Another strategy to avoid waste from tossing away outdated, useless clothing is to invest in long-lasting, environmentally friendly apparel.

Instead of purchasing a popular item and discarding it once the fashion goes out of style, invest in timeless, elegant clothing that can be used in the future.

A consumer's first step towards sustainability is to choose environmentally friendly apparel.

However, they can do more to promote sustainability by paying attention to the little things, such as washing clothes in cold water instead of hot water to save energy, using biodegradable detergent to prevent environmental pollution, and air drying clothes rather than using a dryer to conserve time, money, and resources.

Varied businesses in the fashion sector will have different definitions of sustainability.

Leading businesses must, however, model sustainability for others to follow and incorporate this idea into their core business goals.

Big businesses need to take greater responsibility for sustainable fashion because they have the resources and worldwide reach to investigate and offer more eco-friendly options.

Over time, everyone in the fashion business will adopt ethical and sustainable fashion as the standard.

Frequently Asked Question about Sustainable and Ethical Fashion 

What is ethical fashion?

A broad definition of ethical fashion includes ethical fashion design, manufacture, retail, and purchasing. Working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the ecology, and animal welfare are just a few of the topics it addresses.

How is sustainable fashion different from others?

A fashion company may uphold human rights, yet its fabric choices and environmental policies may not be sustainable. On the other hand, a brand could be sustainable while utterly ignoring human rights.

How do you choose ethical fashion?

Understand the Sustainable Fashion Consumer

  • Buy less clothes.
  • Purchase long-lasting, higher-quality products.
  • Purchase functional, basic apparel.
  • Buy apparel from brands that are environmentally friendly.
  • Buy from brands that are honest.
  • To stop microfibers and plastic from entering rivers, wash clothes in cold water.

How is sustainable fashion good?

In addition to using a lot of water, the production of garments also pollutes our freshwater since harmful chemicals from the manufacturing process easily enter waterways.

Water conservation and water pollution reduction are both greatly aided by sustainable fashion.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

Shop now