The concept of ethical fashion has been around for quite a while but has recently come into the spotlight. Thanks to the efforts of activists, the world is aware of the need for environmental conservation and better working conditions. The fashion industry has been known to abuse both in different ways. Ethical fashion strives to preserve the environment and help humanity.
Most cotton used in production of apparel is loaded with pesticides and chemicals that are known to be dangerous to both the environment and the farmers who grow it. Those who live near cotton fields are not immune to the effects of the pesticides either. Almost 25% of the insecticides used in the world are on cotton farms while only 2.5% of the cultivated land is used by cotton plants. These pesticides contaminate the air, water and soil. They also cause death to small animals and birds which may inadvertently consume them. As with produce, there are safer and better methods to grow cotton.
Organic cotton is grown without any pesticides or genetically modified organisms. Many countries including China, India and Africa are successfully growing cotton using these methods. Numerous companies are appearing that are exclusively selling organic cotton merchandise. Many others are incorporating it into their clothing lines.
Chemicals are used to treat many textiles to color or soften them. These chemicals are toxic to the environment and can be rubbed off on the skin of the wearer causing rashes and other skin irritations. Greenpeace has listed some of the toxic chemicals that are used regularly as lead, nickel, chromium IV, aryl amines, phthalates and formaldehyde. Safer methods are available to those who wish to use them.
There are a number of non-toxic substances that can be used for the treatment and washing of fabrics. They may be a bit more expensive to employ but in the long run could help preserve the environment, and keep the workers and customers who are exposed to them safe from harm.
Articles have been written about the use of child labor in clothing production. Labor is very cheap in foreign countries and not every company is keeping an eye on how the factories are operating. Bigger companies have departments relating solely to social responsibility which audit the factories on a regular basis to make sure they are obeying labor laws and keep the workplace safe. Many of these factories falsify records so audits are no guarantee that factories are compliant. Smaller companies do not have the funds for this process and run a greater risk of using subpar factories.
While current practices are not very socially or environmentally conscious, the future could have a greater number of companies looking for ways in which to become more ethical in their production. Consumers are becoming aware of the environmental impact of the fashion industry and may start demanding accountability.