Sustainability — Language

The language of sustainability is complex and evolving, making it tricky to understand and open to misinformation and greenwashing. To help us on your sustainable journey, we've put together a glossary of commonly used fashion-related sustainable terminology and certifications!

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Accountability means taking responsibility - an aspect of governance which requires organisations as well as individuals assume the responsibility for their actions and impact. In the context of the fashion industry, accountability means that companies must identify, assess, and measure the impact of all their activities on people and the environment worldwide.

The principles of accountability extend well beyond compliance with minimum legal requirements. Accountability relies on companies' voluntary commitment to deliver on high social and environmental standards in their operations, especially with regards to human rights and sustainable development. The relatability of fashion makes it particularly well placed to lead by example in its accountability.


A material that can decompose down into carbon, nitrogen, water and other naturally occurring elements in the open environment or in a compost, and leaves no toxic residues.

Unfortunately the term “biodegradable” has been misused a lot (especially in the plastics space) and the traditional meaning of the word has been compromised. This has commonly been the case by businesses claiming their product biodegrades but yet it simply breaks apart into smaller pieces of plastics creating microplastics which are entering our food chain and polluting ecosystems across the globe. Or in other instances most of the product biodegrades but it leaves behind toxic residues.


Bluesign is a holistic system that provides solutions in sustainable processing and manufacturing. Based on strict criteria, to support the company specifically in its sustainable development. Bluesign checks the progress that a company has made in this effort and provides continual further development of solutions.

Under the strict Bluedesign criteria, manufacturers are required to act responsibly and sustainably with regard to people, the environment and ensure consistent transparency and traceability of all processing steps.


BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) supports companies to drive social compliance and improvements within the factories and farms in their global supply chains.

BSCI implements the principle international labour standards protecting workers’ rights such as International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions and declarations and the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.


A material that can decompose down into carbon, nitrogen, water and other naturally occurring elements within a compost, and leaves no toxic residues. We only use this term when describing materials that have been certified as compostable.


A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution while keeping products in use for longer through reuse, repair and recycling, as part of a closed-loop system. Any waste should become food for another process such as compost; a regenerative resource for nature.

Carbon Footprint

Total emissions of greenhouse gases (in carbon equivalent) for an activity or organisation over a given period of time.

Carbon Offsetting

This involves an organisation calculating how much Carbon Dioxide it is responsible for emitting into the atmosphere to run the business (transport is our biggest cause of CO2 emissions) and doing something to help sequester (put CO2 back into the soil as Carbon, leaving the O2 for us to breathe!) the same amount of CO2. This is most commonly done by buying carbon credits.

Carbon Neutral

A business that calculates how much Carbon Dioxide (CO2) it emits and then buys the equivalent number of carbon credits to offset their emissions is said to be Carbon Neutral. Sometimes also called Carbon Zero and Climate Neutral.


A system where everything is recycled and reused.


Deadstock fabrics are essentially leftovers. They are a result of a broken fashion system where brands over order fabrics or textile mills over produce. The deadstock industry is a bi-product of the broken ‘take-make-waste’ model. Until this model is changed (something we are a vocal part of), we believe that repurposing deadstock is making the best of a broken system.


Degradable simply means that a material will break apart into smaller pieces. Therefore everything is technically degradable. A tree, an apple, a rock, a plastic bottle. Again this term has been used heavily by businesses greenwashing. Most commonly by the plastics industry. Don’t be fooled “degradable plastics” are not the solution.


Conversion of forested lands into non-forest use.


ECONYL® is a regenerated nylon that is made from diverting waste from oceans and landfills, including materials such as fishing nets, industrial plastic waste and carpet flooring. It also has the ability to be recycled again, making it part of a closed loop system.

End of Life

End of life is a critical stage of the fashion value chain that distinguishes the current linear take-make-use-dispose model from a more holistic approach that considers what happens to products at the end of their first, second and third lives.

End-of-life solutions should be integrated throughout the whole lifecycle of fashion products, from design and manufacturing, through to marketing, retail and services, to also help customers take part in extending clothing lifetimes through repair, alterations, take back schemes, re-sale, sharing, re-use and repurpose options.

Environmental Impact

The effect something has on the environment.

Electric Vehicle

A vehicle that runs on electricity powered by a battery that can be plugged in to recharge. A vehicle that uses a battery and conventional engine is called a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.


An alternative approach to conventional trade, based on a partnership between producers and consumers, to ensure that farmers and workers get a fair share of the benefits of trade.

Fast Fashion

Fast fashion can be defined as a model of mass-producing cheaply made, “of-the-moment” items that are sold at a lower price point. It’s usually cheap, trendy clothing, produced at breakneck speed to meet consumer demand, so shoppers can snap them up while they are still “hot”, and then, sadly, discard them after a few wears. It forms a key part of the toxic system of overproduction and consumption that has made fashion one of the largest polluters in the world.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

FSC Forest Stewardship Council certification ensures that the wood fibres we source for our paper, cardboard or viscose come from responsibly managed, non-ancient forests.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG)

A GHG is a gas that absorbs and “traps” heat in the earth's atmosphere creating a “greenhouse” effect and ultimately warming up planet earth causing Global Warming, which in turn is causing the planets climate to change. The Greenhouse Gases that are the biggest issue are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, ozone and water vapour.


Greenwashing involves the incorrect use of sustainability terms to trick customers into thinking a product or service is better for the environment than it really is. A common example is the use of the term “degradable” to describe a plastic bag. Greenwashing also involves a business making claims about something they are doing that is “green” or “good for the environment” while continuing to pollute and/or degrade the environment.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres which takes into account every step in the supply chain. The standard aims to define worldwide recognised requirements that ensure the ecological status of textiles, from the harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, up to labelling, to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.

GOTS certification has looked at every step in the supply chain, and defined what it means to be organic. Simply put, the ambiguity of organic is no longer ambiguous when it is GOTS certified.


Small pieces of plastic, less than 5mm in length, found on land and water as a result of plastic pollution.

Modern Slavery

An umbrella term for extreme forms of exploitation like human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices, such as servitude, forced labour, forced marriage, the sale and exploitation of children, and debt bondage.


The aim for OEKO-TEX® is to ensure safety from harmful chemicals from a consumer point of view. Many people don’t think enough about the fabrics they wear, and the effect that harmful chemicals can have on the skin. Extensive product checks and regular company on-site visits ensure that the industry has a globally sustainable awareness of the responsible use of chemicals.


Organic refers to raw materials that are not genetically modified (GM), and have been grown without any chemical pesticides and insecticides. Organic textiles use only organic-approved fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides from plants, animals and minerals within the farming phase, decreasing your likelihood of exposure to unhealthy chemicals, as well as protecting farmers and workers, and their lands within the textile production system.

Several organisations, such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) are helping consumers find certified organic clothes. Because organic products are becoming increasingly popular, using the word “organic” can be incredibly persuasive: beware of greenwashing and of fashion brands claiming organic status without proof.


Previously used by consumers before being reprocessed into a new product.

Renewable Energy

Electricity from replenishable sources such as geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind.


Responsibility to us means the moral obligation to do the right thing. When you see us use the term "responsibly made" we are referring to all the ethical and environmental considerations we have taken into account in producing that garment.


This is when an object is reused for a simillar function it was designed for. E.g. reusing a drink bottle to carry water.


This means an object is being reused for a function it wasn’t originally designed for. E.g a t-shirt being used as a bag. Repurposing an object may involve some modifications to the original product as in the previous example (the t-shirt would need to be stitched up) or it may not e.g. using a t-shirt as a rag. Repurposing is also commonly called “up-cycling”.


When an object or material is brought back to a working condition and making sure it is still functional by directly fixing the problem E.g. sewing on a replacement button.


To bring a product or material back to a “working condition” and making sure it is still functional plus also adding in any updates or touching up any other problems E.g. sewing on a replacement button plus rehemming or putting a patch over a rip (which may be designed to stand out and be obvious or to be inconspicuous). Refurbishment is more comprehensive than repair.


Did you know there is more than one style of recycling? Mechanical Recycling is the most common and involves the use of big machines that shred up a product, clean the pieces, and melt them back into their starting form. In the case of plastic, this involves turning it back into nurdles (looks like a tiny pearl) so it can be transported. These nurdles are then melted again and injected into a mould to make a new object, or it in the case of making recycled polyester it is melted into a thread (polyester). Chemical recycling is a much more recent technology and so still of very limited scale. It involves using specific chemicals (and machines) to help break a material down to its molecular level. These are usually liquids that are then used again as ingredients to make new material.


A process or an impact, natural or human made, that restores an environment or ecosystem to a better state is said to be regenerative.

Regenerative Agriculture

While organic farming is about doing less harm, regenerative agriculture builds on this, focusing on actively improving our environment. Through restoring vital nutrients to our soil it is able to sequester more carbon from the atmosphere, prevent soil erosion and increase biodiversity, in turn enhancing our natural resources.

Social Accountability International Standard — SA8000

Social Accountability International (SA8000) Standard provides safety and well-being standards for workers. These include safe workplaces and healthy working conditions, a living wage, an increased awareness of worker rights as well as enhanced relationships with management and more input in workplace decision-making.

Supply Chain

A network between a company and its suppliers to produce and distribute a specific product to the final buyer.


In simple terms it means to put carbon back into the soil. When plants grow they absorb Carbon Dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and turn it into sugars (also know as sap and carbohydrates) through the process called photosynthesis. Plants transport these sugars down into their roots and into the soil.

Slow Fashion

Coined by Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, following the phenomenon of the slow food movement, slow fashion is, put simply, the opposite of fast fashion. It’s a movement and approach to fashion which considers the processes and resources required to make clothing, particularly focusing on sustainability. It means buying better quality garments less often that will last for longer, and values fair treatment of people, animals, and the planet.


A term that is used to encapsulate everything relating to the topic of being sustainable. This is most commonly broken down into three key pillars known as Social, Environmental and Economic, or the Triple Bottom Line. For us at The Fabric Store, sustainability is broken down into pillars of Environment, Social Responsibility and Community Engagement.


If something is sustainable it can be continued or sustained. “Being sustainable” to us means to live and conduct business in a way that can be sustained within the natural boundaries of our planet and that provides prosperity for all.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

A collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. They were adopted by the UN in 2015.


TENCEL™ Modal fibres help to maintain the environmental balance by being integrated into nature´s cycle. The fibres originate from the renewable raw material wood, created by photosynthesis. The certified biobased fibres are manufactured using an environmentally responsible production process. The fibres are certified as compostable and biodegradable, and thus can fully revert back to nature.


Traceability for a company means knowing its supply chains from start to finish, and being able to trace back each component of a product, from the raw material to the clothes tag and everything in between. This step is crucial to transparency: how can a company disclose information on a product if it doesn’t know all the steps involved in making it?


Transparency is the practice of openly sharing information about how, where, and by whom a product was made. Being transparent means publishing all information about every actor involved in the production process, from start to finish, from the fields to the store shelves. Sustainable brands have a responsibility and should be transparent about their impact. Of course, being transparent is only the first step towards being more sustainable and ethical. It allows customers to know exactly what they’re buying, with details from every step of the production process.


A poisonous material that is capable of causing death or serious harm to living organisms. It’s important to note that the poison is in the dose. Too much water can kill a human being, and did you know apple seeds contain cyanide?


Upcycling also turns waste into reusable material, but of better quality. Also based on the Cradle to Cradle approach, it’s a concept we’ve been hearing about more and more. It is about re-using and re-purposing old items to make something new, like using old bedsheets to make a shirt.

Upcycling removes waste from the system, requires less energy than recycling, and so has a better environmental impact. Plus it encourages creativity and innovation!

ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals)

ZDHC stands for Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals which is an organisation dedicated to eliminating hazardous chemicals and implementing sustainable chemicals in the leather, textile, and synthetics sectors. The ZDHC Programme is a multi-stakeholder group that includes brands, value chain affiliates, and associates, that work collaboratively to implement responsible chemical management practices.

Zero Waste

A target of sending no waste for disposal via landfill or burning.

Zero Waste Clothing

Zero waste is an approach to fashion design that eliminates all fabric waste from a garment. Zero waste products require fewer resources than conventional styles and aim to address the average 15% fabric waste created during production. Zero waste fashion design adopts the width of a cloth as the space within which to design the pattern pieces of a garment, while simultaneously considering garment fit, aesthetics, and cost.


ZQ is an established grower standard, owned and operated by The New Zealand Merino Company Ltd and is recognised by the ISO/IEC 17065:2012 standard. ZQ certified wool guarantees sustainably farmed, ethical, quality wool.

Not only world-class quality fibre, but the quality of life. They care about the quality of life for their animals, their land, air and water, and their families. ZQ assures that sheep are humanely treated, well fed, live natural and healthy lives and are not subjected to mulesing. All ZQ farmers create a Land Environmental Plan to manage the impacts relative to their individual farm. Farmers are also connected to the brands that buy their wool and all bales are tested and sampled to ensure quality and that brand specifications are met. ZQ supports the safety of those living, working and visiting ZQ farms and promotes safe and healthy workplaces, fair wages, and ensures farmers have access to income stability.

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