Sustainable or ethical? This is an important question asked by consumers today. We don’t believe you should choose between them, as both of them share similar values that help improve the fashion industry. In fact, we must embrace these movements and make sure we question the brands we buy from, so that they too consider the importance of these movements.
Both movements do not have a set definition, but more of an essential set of ideas they follow. Here is our short breakdown of both.
Sustainable fashion, as a movement, focuses on how the life cycle of items can affect the environment around us. From farming the materials to having them stocked in retails stores, these are just a few stages that sustainable fashion looks into improving.
Energy consumption is arguably the most crucial factor when it comes to the fashion industry; the whole production stage uses a lot of energy from making yarns to sewing the garments. As consumers, we also add to this when we use energy to wash and dry our clothes. For example, one load of drying uses five times more energy than washing, and one load of washing uses an astounding forty gallons of water.
Water consumption and toxic water are another key focus of sustainable fashion. According to WWF, it takes 2,700 litres to produce the cotton for a single t-shirt. Moreover, it takes a lot of water into washing the materials in their raw form and additionally getting them dyed. The water used becomes potentially toxic, causing it to become hazardous to the environment it is deposited in — resulting in potential deaths of animals and wildlife.
Carbon footprint is another critical factor. An astounding 80% of today’s transportation fuels are derived from petroleum. Transport in the fashion world is used to deliver materials from one country to another, which is why its carbon footprint is so large. Luckily, numerous sustainable companies are trying to get items made and distributed locally.
The last vital point that bonds sustainable fashion is the use of alternative fabrics that use less energy and water in their production. The perks of using organic cotton compared to normal cotton are outstanding. For example, organic cotton does not use pesticides or any other harmful chemicals which can deteriorate the health of the farmers, animals and the environment around us.
Besides, the alternative of using vegan-friendly materials means no suffering or deaths to the animals of the world.
Ethical fashion bases its movement on the welfare of the labourers and workers involved in the process. Thus from the points above, we can see how ethical fashion can integrate into sustainable fashion by providing less hazardous places for workers. As a movement, ethical fashion helps prevent cruel working conditions that could result in deaths, illnesses and slavery.
Along with having the right working conditions, getting paid a living wage is also part of ethical fashion. The wages should be able to support the employees and their families, but also they should be able to help improve their daily life in more ways than just one.
ILO estimates that there are 170 million are engaged in child labour around the world which brings us to another big topic, exploitation of the workers and children. Due to these horrible practices, there are organizations in place to tackle exploitation in countries and factories so that the labourers and workers have their right to fair wages and right conditions. By buying from an ethical brand, as a consumer you funding approved practices that helps everyone from the bottom to the top.
Which is more imporant?
Ideally, it would be best if you endorsed both. However, this depends on where you shop, as some brands focus more on one than the other. By helping support these movements, you are not just helping the people close to you, but people on a bigger scale.
Brands need to shift their business models to make sure they are ethical and sustainable. But this will only start if we as consumers stand up. As we have said before a conscious consumer is an informed consumer — research the brands you shop before you buy.