Ethical Clothing Production & What Makes A Fashion Brand Ethical?

Ethical Clothing Production & What Makes A Fashion Brand Ethical?

What Makes a Fashion Brand Ethical?

In this article, we will discss common ethical practices in Fashion and what makes a clothing brand sustainable.

Key Aspects of Ethical Clothing Production

It can be argued that 'sustainability' or explaining what is 'ethical' is a broad concept but able to be applied to various sectors and fields of research.

Often, it can also get tricky to define who's responsibility. However, 'Values and ethics are fundamtental grounds also for sustainable fashion.' (Kirsi Niinimäki, 2015).

What are Ethics? Definitions & Differences

The University of Sterling distinguishes hereby between 'Personal ethics' and 'Research ethics. Personal ethics act as a guiding direction, directing individuals and organizations towards responsible behavior. This 'compass' points towards three key values:

  • self-respect,
  • respect for others,
  • respect for the environment.

On the other hand, Research ethics builds upon these fundamental principles, applying them specifically to research activities.

This includes ensuring ethical considerations in

  • research design and implementation,
  • respecting society and individuals involved,
  • utilizing resources responsibly,
  • addressing potential misconduct,
  • adhering to relevant regulations.

(online article available online)

UK Government: Ethics & Sustainability

In the year 2020, the UK government launched a new initivative calld the All-Party Group for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion (APPG). The party connects field-relevant professionals and individuals fostering contextual engagement to develop a responsible and ethical apparel sector, also beyond the United Kingdom (APPG, 2024).

Fair Labor Practices

Firstly, we should look at some general standards and definitions of fair work and associated practices. 

To create a truly fulfilling work experience for individuals in the fashion industry, several key aspects come into play.


ethical work practices fashion industry


Exmples of Fair Labour Practices

These include opportunities for productive employment that provides fair compensation. Additionally, a safe and secure workplace environment with social protection is crucial. Furthermore, fostering personal growth and implementation with society is essential. For businesses, creating a culture of non-discrimination, equal opportunities and treatment for all, regardless of gender or other factors, is vital. This extends to ensuring employees feel free for to voice concerns within the workplace (UN Global Impact, 2024).

The Current State of Responsible Working Conditions & Consumer Behaviour

There is a lack of regulations and control over ethical work practices around clothing prodution in developing countries that is comparable to enforcement in the western world. Combined with an increased demand in fast fashion and generally lower labour prices in places like Pakistan, outsourcing textile manufacturing to less regulated locations is, unfortunately, enticing to many brands (Ross, 2021).

But, post the Covid-19 pandemic, fashion brands rather look into actions they can take towards the environment, in comparison to efforts regarding fair labour issues (Vogue Business, 2021).  

Mentioned by Jon Bird, in an article published by Forbes, a survey by Nosto shows insights drawn from a sample of potential fashion customers that there is a desire for more responsibility, however without paying a premium price (Forbes, 2019)

In detail, only 29 % of customers would pay extra for identical products created sustainably, despite the fact that 52 % of consumer-respondents genuinely want the fashion sector to adopt more environmentally friendly methods. Furthermore, reductions on eco-friendly apparel goods are something that 62 % of customers would like to see (Nosto, 2019).

So What Can Organisations Do & What Kind of Support Can They Access?

The Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) as a division of the UAL powers relevant research, intelligence and learning towards the textile sector and its responsible development. 

Why not try to network with professionals who dedicate their work to sustainability in fashion?

This might be the best option to find qualified staff, ensure awareness of innovative projects, or generally expanding your (brands) knowledge.

Sustainable Materials

Fashion businesses should count as encouraged to design goods or sustainable materials that last long, are able to be repaired or/and need minial effort during recycling stafe (Meital Peleg Mizrachi and Tal, 2022).

What if you are a consumer or fashion brand wondering about the quality of fabrics you are planning to use?

In this case, you can refer to national or international standards.

For example, there is a widely-accepted OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100, attempting to label fabrics that undergo testing for harming contents.


sustainable materials fashion industry


Research Sustainable Materials & Textile Development

OEKO-TEX also offers free access to a database called 'Buying Guide' which helps visitios find certied products, suppliers or trademarks.

Furthermore, the findings can be differentiated based on the product-level you find yourself at, specific materials you may like to research or refine to specific supplier locations.

A company called Oceanworks, based in California, United States, offers fabric and yarn, produced by waste plastic. The plastic is reycled and sourced entirely from the ocean.

Additionally, there are also financing opportunities at the horizon for those entrepreneurs or businesses looking to engage in the development of sustainability in fashion.

The organisation, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) posted a financial programme for circular and textiles, back in 2023, still accessible on its website. Application would go towards a total fund of £6 million GBP. Goal of the finance receipients and their projects should aim at enhancements to data collection, analysis, and evaluation begin to provide baselines for environmental effect and circularity that are validated by research.


There is an annual 'Fashion Transparency Index', led by the London-based, social enterprise called Fashion Revolution


transparency fashion brands sustainability


We found a slideshow posted by file-content-platform issuu, featuring the Fashion Transparency Index for the year 2023. Regarding transparency among the communication between fashion brands and consumers, the reporting document shows that only 12% of assessed organisations share 'a responsible Purchasing Code of Conduct' (Fashion Revolution, 2023).

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of the apparel industry has neagtively increased over time. 

Reason for this, is a (now long-term) trend called fast fashion, fostering unethical production, irresponsible consume by users and waste.

Fast fashion producers are highly successful in the quick distribution of cheap clothing, but consequential their low-quality product are more likely to end up in landsfills (Williams, 2022).


environmental impact apparel sector


The environmnetal challenges expands in its complexity. 

You can read more about this topic on our blog via this article: Issues behind Fast Fashion - Retail & Supply Chain Management in Fashion.


Additional Resources

Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).

Fair Wear Foundation:

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition

Good On You

The B Corp Directory

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