Ethical Issues in Fashion – What, When, Why, How and Who

WHAT IS ethical fashion?

Ethical fashion can be defined as the conscientious production of textile products. With the concept of social responsibility gaining ground, companies around the world are recognizing the importance of environmental protection and ethical business conduct. Fashion houses are no exception. More and more fashion designers and textile manufacturers are trying to produce products that do not harm the environment and are cruelty-free. Ethical issues arise in fashion.

Ethical fashion WHEN?

The concept of ethical fashion is old; however, it is gaining more and more popularity in modern times. As awareness of environmental protection, animal cruelty and ethical issues in business grows, fashion brands are increasingly adopting ethical methods. Customers are also becoming increasingly aware of ethical fashion and the demand for ethically produced fashion products is increasing.

Ethical fashion WHY?

Why should textile manufacturers and their customers embrace ethical fashion? Environmental activists, as well as animal and human rights activists, have repeatedly raised ethical issues related to the fashion industry. Some of the major ethical issues that arise are:

Cotton production requires the use of large amounts of pesticides that are harmful to the environment and people. The figures show that approximately US$2 billion worth of pesticides are used annually, of which approximately US$819 million worth of pesticides are defined as toxic according to WHO guidelines. The health of the workers who apply pesticides in cotton fields and the people living around these fields are adversely affected. Pesticide poisoning can lead to symptoms such as headaches, tremors, nausea, depression, seizures, unconsciousness and, in extreme cases, death. Empty pesticide containers are sometimes reused, again with serious adverse effects on the health of those using such containers. The use of toxic pesticides causes air, water and soil pollution. Along with pesticides, pesticides also cause the death of other small animals and birds that inadvertently consume them.

Chemical dyes used in the production of clothes also cause skin problems. Problems such as eczema, rash and skin irritation have been seen among people due to the dangerous toxins in the clothes they wear.

Another serious ethical problem that has arisen in the fashion industry is the issue of cruelty to animals. The cruelty to animals behind the making of fur coats has been repeatedly brought to light by animal rights activists. One fur is about 55 wild mink, 40 sable, 11 lynx, 18 red fox, 11 silver fox, 100 chinchilla, 30 rabbit, 9 beaver, 30 muskrat, 15 bobcat, 25 skunk, 14 otter, 125 ermine, 30 rat, 100 squirrels or 27 raccoons. The pain they go through while catching animals and removing their fur is unimaginable. Similarly, a great deal of pain is inflicted on animals in the extraction of wool and leather, which goes into the preparation of fashionable shawls and boots.

Human rights activists have also drawn attention to the various ethical issues behind the making of a fashion item. Extremely low wages and long working hours, unhealthy and unsafe working conditions, fatigue, sexual harassment and mental stress are some of these problems.

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