Does Ethical fashion and Sustainable fashion mean the same?

We are currently living in a world of rapidly changing fashion trends and the fashion industry is faced with an urgency to meet the demands for low-cost, trend-sensitive fashion as a substitute to their high-cost, luxury counterparts. The younger consumers end up being the one standing at the crossroads between their commitment to make socially conscious, ethical choices and their appetite for fast-fashion that meets their immediate requirements but is not a very environmentally-friendly option.  Surprisingly, the dilemma often leads to them completely dissociating the concept of sustainability from fashion and at the same time standing by their ethical values that preach individual rights. Let’s understand the two concepts better  to see if there even is a difference between sustainability and ethicality to begin with. What is Sustainable Fashion? Sustainability in fashion, is an umbrella term that includes all activities that protect the interest of the social, economical and more importantly, the environmental stakeholders of the industry. The primary focus is to create products that are meant to last long, in turn reducing disposability and have minimum to zero impact on the environment, as opposed to fast-fashion.
Sustainable fashion has come into being as a response to the need for a 100% shift to sustainable alternatives. It is practiced by ensuring usage of sustainable alternatives, through all stages of a product’s life-cycle. Slow-fashion, as opposed to fast-fashion, guarantees exactly that. Thrifting, Recycling and sharing of clothes are other means of sustainable fashion that have become a recent trend amongst the environmentally conscious consumers.

What is Ethical Fashion?

Ethical fashion is a term that, though constantly being interchangeably used with Sustainable fashion, is generally associated with the morals of the company and policies that guarantees welfare of the people behind the manufacturing process.
It is done by providing safe working environment, ensuring to eliminate child labour and in general making sure they are continually improving the living standards of the human resource employed. The easiest way a company can confirm their stance on ethical practices is by being transparent about their supply chain and frequently communicating their values.

Fashion Industry’s perception of Ethical vs Sustainable Fashion

In most cases, Ethics and Sustainability are considered two different categories under the types of Corporate Social Responsibilities. This is where the problem begins. This distinction between the two comes at a cost and allows an option for the industry to choose from for the sake of fulfilling their social responsibility. Though the definition of ethics is vague, ethical practices are inherent to sustainable objectives. In short, one cannot exist without the other. It is pretty messed up if you think of it as having to choose between saving the environment and allowing the workers to live a decent life with their basic necessities fulfilled.

 A company, even if it swears to protect the interest of the people, cannot be considered truly ethical if their end product is something that will be choking the landfills within a year of its sale and ultimately impacting the society for years to come.

Similarly, a company that uses 100% organic, cruelty free, vegan materials in their products, might appeal to the green values of the majority but at the same time due to the extensively fragmented supply chain, might fail to uphold their ethics by outsourcing business processes to places that do not even offer a fair wage to its workers.


Consumer’s perception of Ethical vs Sustainable Fashion

Though it is safe to assume that an organization that emphasizes ethical practices would most definitely be an advocate for sustainability, this sort of assumption makes the distinction between Ethical fashion and Sustainable fashion less evident from a consumer’s perspective. The need for one cannot outweigh the other. Consumers need to make a conscious choice by confirming whether or not the products they buy are Sustainable and reaching them using ethical means and to continue to  create demand for such products in the industry.

In recent years, a constant effort can be seen where environmental advocates boycott companies that opt for woke-capitalism instead of showing tangible results. The general consumer behavior is shifting towards a more ecologically sensitive choice and we are here for it.

 The take-away is that while Ethical fashion and Sustainable fashion both focus on two different areas of ‘greater-good’, the actions carried out under each are interconnected as they both have a similar agenda with good morals in its core and the phrases are therefore often interchangeably used, rightfully so.

The World needs Sustainable alternatives: a fad or a fact?

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