Be An Ethical & Conscious Clothing Consumer

“Sustainability means to live a life where you are not taking any more from the earth than what you are giving back. You are trying to minimize the environmental footprint that you leave behind.”- Henry, a Canadian Student (Fashion Theory, Volume 16, Issue 3)

Ethical Clothing represents an approach to producing and manufacture of clothing which maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing impact on the environment. Ethical is morally right or morally acceptable.

Ethical clothing consumption not only means no harm but representing an approach which strives to take an active role in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihood creation, minimizing and counteracting environmental concerns.

In the fashion industry, values are decisive in individual choices and purchasing behavior, since through fashion it is possible to communicate and express one’s personal identity point out that apparel is considered a “second skin” and the first characteristic visible to others, therefore fashion choices are important and not always based on utilitarian clothing qualities or physical needs. Instead, they are based on expressive and symbolic needs. While personal values are stable, fashion apparel is seasonable and known for the rise and decline of numerous fashion trends.

A socially conscious consumer considers their purchasing consequences to achieve social change and take into account sustainability arguments. Consumers that predominantly consider product information in relation to environmental sustainable action are therefore identified as being strongly motivated by environmental values. An example is constituted by consumers’ purchasing decision influenced by organic cotton labels on fashion items, a trend confirmed by an annual growth of the organic cotton industry by a rate of 20% since 2008 (Textile Exchange, 2010).

Sustainability is an activity that can be continued indefinitely without causing harm; doing unto others as you would have them do unto you; and meeting a current generation’s needs without compromising those of future generations Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development 1987 notes, “Sustainability is about much more than our relationship with the environment; it’s about our relationship with ourselves, our communities, and our institutions.” Sustainability involves complex and changing environmental dynamics that affect human livelihoods and well-being, with in intersecting ecological, economic, and sociopolitical dimensions, both globally and locally.

In Europe, Swedish and Nordic consumers in general are attracted to functional fashion design thereby considering a comfortable feeling more important than a visual impact, in contrast to the Italian and French concept of fashion. During the last decade the interest in ethical fashion has increased and as a result, the Nordic fashion industries in 2008 joined their forces to create an ethically responsible sourcing base, initiating a project named Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical.

Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical (NICE) is based in Copenhagen and aims to sensibilize fashion companies and consumers to ethical and sustainable issues including recycling and waste processes raised by the increasing short product life cycle, generated by the ‘fast fashion’.

See here what nice has to say:

Ethical Consumer Group is a community based, not-for-profit organization and network based in Victoria, Australia, set up to help facilitate more sustainable purchasing practices for the everyday consumer. They educate and empower people to make shopping choices that better reflect their values and to use their consumer power to create a better world. They produce the popular Shop Ethical! pocket guide and app which focuses on the environmental and social record of companies behind common brands, and draw from our extensive database of products, companies and issues.

It would be great to have something like that in United States.

According to “Shop Ethical”, you be an “ethical consumer” by:

  • Positive buying is favoring ethical products, be they fair trade, organic or cruelty free.
  • Negative purchasing means avoiding products you disapprove of such as battery eggs or polluting cars.

The benefits to society of buying ethically are potentially far-reaching. It encourages innovative products and companies while discouraging others that ignore the social and environmental consequences of their actions. It empowers the consumer, giving you a say in how the products you buy are made, and how the company that makes them conducts its business. It can and has made a difference in the past.

The real issue is not consumption itself but its patterns and effects. Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures – the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%. We consume a variety of resources and products today having moved beyond basic needs to include luxury items and technological innovations to try to improve efficiency. Much of the world cannot and do not consume at the levels that the wealthier in the world do. Indeed, the above U.N. statistics highlight that very sharply. In fact, the inequality structured within the system is such that “someone has to pay” for the way the wealthier in the world consume. (Behind Consumption and Consumerism, by Anup Shah)

While dreams and desires feed consumer behavior, they must be constrained if sustainability is to be viable. Young consumers will need to embrace a significant shift in consumerism: no longer routinely purchasing on impulse, and no longer routinely viewing their acquisitions through the lens of short-term thinking.

Dissuading consumers from fast fashion poses a significant challenge given their acute addiction to its transient thrills. However, since identity is continually evolving, and requires a materially referential imagining of an individual’s identity, an alignment of fashion with saving the environment could make dissuasion possible.

Ethical clothing consumption falls under below criteria:

  • Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
  • Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
  • Supporting sustainable livelihoods
  • Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use
  • Using and / or developing eco- friendly fabrics and components
  • Minimizing water use
  • Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
  • Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
  • Resources, training and/ or awareness raising initiatives
  • Animal rights


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