*to help you grow from a strong fashion brand to a future-proof company with a positive global image.
We created The Sustainability Glossary to increase your understanding of sustainability and CSR. The Glossary includes terms that are often used in CSR and are talked about when creating a sustainability strategy. We have gathered the definitions we found the most relevant in this field - and completed it with some of our own definitions - to help make your journey towards sustainability as smooth as possible.
Authority for Consumers and Markets
The Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) contributes to realizing a healthy economy by ensuring that markets work well for people and businesses. When markets function well, businesses compete fairly with one another, and people and businesses are not harmed by unfair practices. People and businesses know what rules apply, and how they are able to exercise their rights.
Animal welfare means how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling, and humane slaughter.
Animal Welfare Regulations
The government lays down rules for the treatment of animals. These rules protect their health and wellbeing in terms of cruelty to animals, invasive procedures on animals, rules for biotechnology research and animal testing.
Source: Government of The Netherlands
Biodiversity policies are about promoting "the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources".
Also known as CO2 emissions, refer to the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. CO2 emissions are linked to burning of fossil fuels and biomass, land use and management, as well as to industrial production. As the principal greenhouse gas (GHG), CO2 critically affects the radiation balance on Earth and significantly contributes to global warming and climate change. The fashion industry is a major source of CO2 emissions.
Corrective Action Plans
Going carbon neutral actually means making the final equation of what has been emitted and restored equal to 0. So, how can CO2 be balanced out? For fashion brands, carbon neutrality can be achieved through reducing emissions or offsetting them.
The practice of carbon offsetting is a compensatory action that offers individuals, businesses, and other organizations the option to balance their carbon footprint by purchasing carbon credits (carbon offsets) that fund projects focused at reducing emissions in developing countries.
Circular Design Principles
Ways of designing and manufacturing materials and products to last and at end of life, disassembled so that they can be reused, remade, recycled, and (where relevant, after maximum use and cycling) safely composted.
Design for Disassembly:
Design principle that enables the product to be taken apart in such a way that allows components and materials to be reused, remade, or recycled.
The ability of a physical product to remain functional and relevant over time when faced with the challenges of normal operation.
Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Circular fashion is about designing waste and pollution out of our clothes, and ensuring they help regenerate natural systems at the end of their (long) lives. It is based partly on William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle design philosophy. Circular Fashion moves away from the traditional linear take-make-dispose business model.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in particular, has been advocating for a global circular economy.
Circularity is the approach to designing and producing products that can be repaired remade, reused, and eventually recycled or biodegraded at the end of its use. Truly circular products must be non-toxic, preferably biodegradable, so that any waste generated is minimized.
Code Of Conduct
A detailed set of principles and practices to which one organisation holds another accountable as they interact. Brands often have detailed “Supplier Codes of Conduct” for their manufacturing partners and are increasingly adopting “Buyer Codes of Conduct” to create more equal business interactions and better protect manufacturers’ rights.
Source: Global Fashion Agenda Monitor
Corporate governance is the system of rules, practices, and processes by which a firm is directed and controlled.
Corporate governance essentially involves balancing the interests of a company's many stakeholders, such as shareholders, senior management executives, customers, suppliers, financiers, the government, and the community.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate social responsibility is an evolving concept of corporate governance that requires businesses to extend their responsibility from managing their own resources, to also considering the long-term impact of their practices on the resources of the society, including environmental resources.
Diversity refers to the recognition of and respect for the differences between individuals, communities and cultures. These may include, but are not limited to, differences in race, ethnicity, culture, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, age, physical abilities, health issues, political views, value systems and socio-economic status.
In the context of fashion, diversity also means creating an environment where multiple narratives and forms of aesthetic expression can flourish side by side.
An ongoing risk management process that a reasonable and prudent company needs to follow in order to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how it addresses its adverse impacts.
Also referred to as environmental footprint, ecological footprint refers to the environmental resources that a population consumes. Measurement of ecological footprint enables estimation of the requirements of a specific population or economy on the consumption of resources and assimilation of waste over an area of productive land.
Extended Producer Responsibility
A policy tool that requires that all environmental costs of the entire product lifecycle are included in its market price and carried by the producer who is responsible for its design specifications. The EPR costs for designs with high environmental impact and a lack of end-of-life solutions then reflect the true price of the product and so incentivize more responsible design and systems thinking.
In the Netherlands an Extended Producer Responsibility for fashion and textiles will be adopted in 2023, making companies who sell textiles on the Dutch market responsible for the collection and recycling of those textiles.
ESG - Environmental, Social And Governance
An approach to evaluating the extent to which a corporation works on behalf of social goals that go beyond the role of a corporation to maximize profits on behalf of the corporation's shareholders. Typically, the social goals advocated within an ESG perspective include working to achieve environmental goals, supporting social movements, and whether the corporation is governed in a way that is consistent with the goals of the Diversity, equity, and inclusion movement.
Ethical / Sustainable Sourcing Policy
A sourcing policy outlines the set of norms, rules, and standards the company follows in its sourcing and procurement practices for manufacturing, materials, and services from third parties. This policy outlines many of the same topics and standards as the Supplier Code of Conduct. But where the Code of Conduct is an agreement between parties (e.g. the brand and the manufacturer), the sourcing policy is meant for internal use and external communication.
An ethical sourcing policy typically focuses on social compliance and human rights, while a sustainable sourcing policy includes environmental standards.
Source: The Sustainability Club
Fair Trade/ Fairtrade
Fair trade refers to the general movement, which encompasses many different organisations with the shared aim of supporting producers and protecting workers’ rights and the environment. Fair trade describes a brand or an individual product that has been certified and labelled by an independent organisation because it meets certain standards.
Fairtrade, on the other hand, specifically refers to the certifying and labelling organisation Fairtrade International.
The Fairtrade Standards are designed to address the imbalance of power and injustices in trading relationships. Fair Trade provides an alternative to conventional trade, with fair trade products charging a premium to consumers so that producers (such as farmers) can earn a better living. While fair trade is a step in the right direction, it is not the same as living wages, which is what people would need to make to actually live with dignity.
Fast fashion is a model of fashion production and consumption that relies on fast turnaround of styles and products with sales prices, often leading to fast discarding of pieces, cumulatively resulting in extremely high social and environmental costs throughout the entire value chain. The fast fashion model has expanded globally since the 1990s and the rise of offshore manufacture with access to cheap labor in developing countries has been a key enabler of its global expansion.
It should be noted that no item of clothing can be accurately defined as ‘fast fashion’ as the cycle starts with the sowing of a seed or the extraction of oil, which takes place many months, years or decades before a finished garment is sold and worn.
Sources: Condé Nast Glossary
Freedom Of Association
The right of workers and employers to form and join organizations of their own choosing is an integral part of a free and open society. In many cases, these organizations have played a significant role in their countries’ democratic transformation.
Global Reporting Initiative
An international independent standards organization that helps businesses, governments and other organizations understand and communicate their impacts on issues such as climate change, human rights and corruption.
GRI provides the world’s most widely used standards for sustainability reporting – the GRI Standards.
The exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country's affairs at all levels, comprising the mechanisms, processes, and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.
Source: United Nations
The expressions' environmental claims' and 'green claims' refer to the practice of suggesting or otherwise creating the impression (in commercial communication, marketing, or advertising) that a good or a service has a positive or no impact on the environment or is less damaging to the environment than competing goods or services.
Source: European Union
Greenwashing happens when companies - intentionally or unintentionally - make themselves or their products come across as more sustainable or ‘green’ than they actually are.
Source: The Sustainability Club
An open-source three-piece set of product tools developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which enables businesses to measure and score their sustainability performance.
Inclusion refers to the need to embrace human diversity and ensure that multiple voices and perspectives are covered in both micro and macro platforms, such as organizations, communities and entire societies. Inclusion enables individuals with diverse backgrounds, abilities, beliefs, and values to collaborate on common endeavors while expressing their individuality and feeling valued for their unique contributions.
Life Cycle Assessment
A comparative methodology for assessing the environmental impacts linked to all stages of product life cycle, from raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, retail and use to disposal and end of life.
The remuneration received for a standard work week by a worker in a particular place sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, health care, transportation, clothing, and other essential needs including provision for unexpected events.
Source: Global Living Wage Coalition
Microplastics or microfibres refer to plastic particles smaller than 5mm. Synthetic clothes, which are one of the largest sources of environmental pollution, are responsible for more than one-third of all microplastics polluting our waters.
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers
Mulesing is a procedure during which strips of skin around a lamb's breech and tail are cut with shears, often without any pain relief. This painful procedure is practised in Australia to avoid Myiasis (Flystrike).
Source: Four Paws
Next-Generation (Emerging) Materials
Innovative and new materials required to drastically decarbonise the industry in the long term, replacing virgin inputs with low impact, circular alternatives made from waste, by products, regenerative or renewable resources. Examples are bio-based synthetics derived from regenerative or renewable resources such as corn, sugar cane, and beetroot. Manmade cellulosics made from waste textiles, microbial cellulose, or agricultural residue and materials that mimic the characteristics of leather made from materials like fruits and vegetables can also be considered Next-Gen materials.
The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are recommendations addressed by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries. They provide non-binding principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a global context consistent with applicable laws and internationally recognised standards. The Guidelines are the only multilaterally agreed and comprehensive code of responsible business conduct that governments have committed to promoting.
Organic products are those produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals.
The organic logo can only be used on products that have been certified as organic by an authorised control agency or body. This means that they have fulfilled strict conditions on how they are produced, transported and stored.
Organic cotton is cotton grown in farming systems that have the potential to sustain and promote the health of soils, ecosystems, and people by relying on ecological processes, biodiversity, and cycles that are adapted to local conditions rather than using external inputs that could have adverse effects.
Preferred Fibers & Materials
The way in which international retailers and brands interact and do business with their supplier(s). They encompass strategic planning, sourcing, development, purchasing and the underlying behaviors, values and principles which impact workers.
Material that has been reprocessed from reclaimed material by means of a manufacturing process and made into a final product or into a component for incorporation into a product.
While there is no standardized definition of regenerative agriculture, the concept is inclusive of the following:
A view of agriculture that works in alignment with natural systems, recognising the value and resilience of interconnected and mutually beneficial ecosystems vs. extractive agriculture systems.
An acknowledgement that Indigenous and Native peoples have been employing this approach to growing food and fibre for centuries—it is not a new concept— and that regenerative agriculture must include a focus on social justice.
A holistic, place-based, outcome-focused systems approach, not a “one-size-fits-all” checklist of practices.
SDGs - Sustainable Development Goals
Stakeholders are any individuals or communities, whether internal or external to an organization, that may affect or be affected by its actions. Stakeholders of the fashion industry may include suppliers, investors, retailers, customers, and governments, but also the communities in which fashion products are manufactured and their natural environment. In the wider sense of the global social and environmental impacts, the stakeholders of the fashion industry are people across the entire globe, the planet, and future generations.
Sustainable fashion means finding a balance when designing, manufacturing, and consuming clothes. It means avoiding the depletion of natural resources, but also the exploitation of individuals and communities.
Being sustainable also means maintaining this balance well into the future by taking a long term approach to the production and consumption of clothes and accessories. It’s about ensuring the fashion industry both creates good and avoids harm, whether to people, the planet, or animals.
Sustainability is the ability to exist constantly. Achieving sustainability will enable the earth to continue supporting life.
In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Source: United Nations
The Sustainability Framework is the most important sustainability document as it represents the core of your sustainability strategy and commitments. It defines the company vision on sustainability, along with the sustainability pillars (triple bottom line), your sustainability goals, objectives, and KPIs (key performance indicators). The Sustainability Framework encompasses all the different elements that influence how your company practices CSR and sustainability.
Creating a Sustainability Framework will make it easy to align, execute, measure ánd communicate your company's sustainability efforts.
Source: The Sustainability Club
A sustainability strategy is a plan for your business to tackle different sustainability topics, such as social responsibility, environmental performance, responsible material use, carbon emissions, etc. A sustainability strategy will help your organization to know what is needed, what to focus on and how to measure progress. A good sustainability strategy is in line with your brand's values and DNA and can add value and credibility to your brand.
Source: The Sustainability Club
Material that would have been disposed of as waste but is instead reprocessed by means of a manufacturing process and made into a final product or into a component for incorporation into a production.
Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
This refers to the ability to trace products and their components back through each step of the supply chain, all the way to raw materials. For true traceability to be achieved, a brand would need to know where the raw materials (ie. cotton) come from, what conditions their [products] are in, and everywhere in between.
Transparency is the public disclosure of information that enables people to hold decision makers to account. For the fashion industry, [transparency] means sharing information about supply chains, business practices and the impacts of these practices on workers, communities and the environment. Transparency is crucial for connecting the dots of the problems in the fashion industry and understanding how to fix them.
Source: Fashion Revolution
Tripple Bottom Line
The triple bottom line is a business concept that firms should commit to measuring their social and environmental impact - in addition to their financial performance - rather than solely focusing on generating profit, or the standard “bottom line.” It can be broken down into “three Ps”: profit, people, and the planet.
More recently the 3 P’s are defined as People, Planet and Prosperity. Early 2000 the United Nations changed the term Profit to Prosperity to incorporate the social value of profitability as well.
Source: Harvard Business School
It is about re-using and re-purposing old items to make something new, like using old bedsheets to make a face mask.
Upcycling removes waste from the system, requires less energy than recycling, and so has a better environmental impact.
Vegan refers to products that have been made using zero animal products or by-products. For fashion, it means not using components like leather, wool, silk, cashmere, angora and more, as all these fibres come from animals. Plus, animal rights in the fashion industry can often be linked to broader environmental issues. Look out for PETA-certified vegan products to ensure there are no hidden animal ingredients in your clothes and accessories.
The only thing that makes vegan leather ‘vegan’ is that the material does not come from animal origin. In other words, that there are no animals used, harmed, or killed to create it. However, leather alternatives can still have a big impact on the environment. If something is vegan, that does not necessarily mean that it is also sustainable! There are crucial differences in the environmental impact of the different types of vegan leather.
Portugal has implemented a ban on the term ‘vegan leather’, which the Portuguese government claims is misleading.
The law prohibits the use of the words ‘leather’ or ‘coated leather’ when combined with any other materials, effectively prohibiting vegan leather from being used on products manufactured in the southern European country.
Learn more about vegan ‘leather’ here.
Term used to define practices in business that provide the appearance of social consciousness without any of the substance. A woke-washed business could theoretically promote the opposite of racial equality within its walls while championing causes of social justice to the outside world.
LET'S PUT IT INTO PRACTICE
In a 30-minute discovery call with our founder Nynke Eggen, you can share your sustainability challenges and questions. You will receive advice on where to start and which steps to take and you'll discover together if The Sustainability Club is the right partner for your company.