Sustainable Glossary

The world of sustainability can be confusing and difficult to navigate so Titch Designs has made it simple. We have created a cheat sheet of useful sustainable terms and certifications so that you can have a better understanding of the good that people can do within the fashion industry.


Amfori BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative)

This is a non-profit organisation which was set up by the Foreign Trade Association (FTA). It works by implementing other standards, such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and Organisations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (Textile Standards, 2022). It helps companies to manage their supply chains so that they can improve working conditions for people across their vast, complex supply chains (amfori, 2023).


BCI (Better Cotton Initiative)

They have currently trained over 2 million cotton farmers in sustainable farming methods that help to promote the health of the soil, reduce water usage and carbon emissions within the process of cotton manufacturing. The initiative also helps to support the farmers so that they have financial stability, safe working conditions and have people they can raise work concerns with (Better Cotton, 2021).
Biodegradable Items that breakdown overtime. Even though some plastics do they often leave chemicals in the environment that are harmful. Paper, cardboard, cotton, etc. can be better for the environment when they break down (depending on their manufacturing process) as they breakdown into natural compounds that the earth uses to be nutrient rich and support plant growth (Chait, J. 2021).


Certified B Corporations

These are businesses that use their power to help make the world better through social and environmental protection and development (Burns, 2019:6). This is through a range of things such as fair pay, charity work, environmental conservation, etc.

Circular Fashion

This is a standard system that rejects fast fashion. It is different from the linear economy of ‘make, use, dispose’ and instead keeps a resource in use for as long as possible and then regenerates the products material when its use has ended (WRAP, 2017 cited in Burns, 2019:190).

Fig. 1 Model of the circular economy. (2019)

A circular economy includes sourcing sustainable fibres/materials, using zero waste fashion design techniques, extending the life of the product through high quality and timeless designs, increasing consumption of second-hand clothing, upcycling clothing/repairing, renting, and reselling previously worn clothing as well as engaging consumers as part of the process (Burns, 2019:190; Environmental Audit Committee, 2019:38).


These products are still biodegradable but are made to breakdown and leave a nutrient rich material behind to help make the soil health for new plants (Chait, J. 2021).

Corporate Social Responsibility Framework

This framework is a sustainable business structure which means companies that use this incorporate sustainable development as a key business initiative as well as part of their business plan. Companies that use this structure often go above the required laws set for environmental, social, and economic sustainability (Burns, 2019:4).



This is where forest land is purposeful cleared. 80% of Western Europe 2000 years ago was covered in forest and today it is now only covered by about 35% (National Geographic, 2022).

Dekra Certified

This is a quality management certification which ensures increased ‘productivity and minimization of risks’ (Dekra, 2023). It works by keeping employees happy and healthy, so they produce better products, which in turn creates happy customers. It works with ISO Standards.


EN71 This is a toy safety standard that ensures products meet standards that trace chemicals, metals, fire safety and mechanical safety levels before they are sold (Gronkvist, F. 2019).

EU Ecolabel

This is awarded to products that meet high environmental standards throughout their life. This label promotes the circular economy model by encouraging producers to generate less waste and CO2 as well as develop  products that are durable, easy to repair and recyclable (European Commission, 2022).

Eve Vegan

This is an independant organisation that helps improve companies transparency when it comes to the use of animal products and vegan certification of products (Eve Vegan, 2023).



Fairtrade is a UK organisation which works with companies to ensure that fair wages, good working conditions and fair deals for farmers and workers within developing countries are attained. It works with over 500 companies in the UK to ensure that their products are sourced from farmers who get a fair wage and are treated well. This helps break down barriers in the supply chain. It also sets standards to protect workers’ rights and they manage these by through independent audits (Fairtrade Foundation, 2020).

Fair Wear

This is an organisation which tries to work with different people within the industry such as NGO’s, factories, governments, and trade unions. They do these to establish living wage for workers as well as protecting workers from harassment and discrimination (Fair Wear, 2022).
Fast Fashion/Slow Fashion '‘Fast fashion’ is a term used to describe a new accelerated fashion business model that has evolved since the 1980’s. It involves increased numbers of new fashion collections every year, quick turnarounds, and often lower prices. Reacting rapidly to offer new products to meet consumer demand is crucial to this business model.' (Environmental Audit Committee, 2019:6) Slow fashion is the opposite of this and uses models such as a circular economy or made-to-order to slow down the cycle of fashion.
Foreign Trade Association This is a membership-based organisation that promotes ethical free trade and a global sustainable supply chain (Euractiv, 2017).


GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)

This is an organic cotton standard. GOTS cottons are monitored across the whole supply chain to make sure the dyes used are low impact, water waste is treated properly, and the amount of energy and water is monitored. This standard also ensures that workers’ rights are protected with working conditions being safe (Soil Association, 2020).




ILO (International Labour Organization)

This is an agency set up by the UN that promotes social justice as well as imposes internationally recognised human and labour rights. They set the minimum standards that companies must meet for labour rights, and they also audit factories to ensure they meet these standards (Garner and Keiser, 2012:497).

International Accord

This is a legal agreement between 190 garment brands and global trade unions that ensures textile and garment workplaces are safe (International Accord, 2023).

ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation)

The ISO set standards for everything from shoes to WIFI networks. Their main aim is to set these global standards so that consumers know that the products they are using are safe and of good quality (ISO, 2022).





This is a manmade fibre that is created using wood pulp. In its natural form it is both biodegradable and compostable. It is an extremely versatile material that uses less water and energy to produce as well as creating no harmful by-products through the production. Because it is also comfortable on the skin it makes it a sustainable alternative to other fibres (Lyocell, 2022).



‘Created especially for a particular person’ but this is usually to pre-set conditions which is why it is different to bespoke fashion as it is still created for a specific person, etc but bespoke clothing has no pre-sets (Cambridge University Press, 2020). This is regarded as a slow fashion strategy as surplus stock is not an issue and is a slower process.

Manmade fibres

Created from either natural or synthetic materials. The chemical structure of the material is changed to create the synthetic fibre and they are classified in two ways, regenerated fibres, and synthetic fibres (Garner and Keiser, 2012:173).

Modern Slavery

This is an umbrella term which includes slavery/forced labour, debt bondage, and human trafficking for labour exploitation (Skrivankova, 2017, p. 3 cited in Burns, 2019:16).

Modern Slavery Act 2015

This is a law which means that companies are held accountable and prosecuted if they are involved in modern slavery (Home Office, 2020).


Natural fibres

These are hairlike raw fibres which are directly obtained from animals, vegetables, or minerals. Cotton, linen, and hemp are all vegetable fibres whereas silk, wool and cashmere are natural animal fibres (Garner and Keiser, 2012:172).


These are non-governmental organisations which are voluntary groups usually with a social mission (NGO Source, 2022).


OCS (Organic Content Standard)

This is an organic cotton standard. OCS cottons only monitor and trace the amount of organic fibres in a product. For a company to gain the ‘OCS 100’ mark at least 95% of the product must contain organic materials. For a company to get the ‘OCS Blended’ mark the product must contain at least 5% organic material that’s blended with other raw materials (Soil Associations, 2020).

OECD (Organisation for Economis Co-operation and Development)

This is a forum where membership governments collaborate to create policies that help sustainable economic growth (US Department of State, 2022).


This standard ensures that harmful substances are screened in the processing of fabrics to ensure that they are non-toxic and safe for the consumer (Neutral, 2022).

Organic cotton

Organic cotton uses up to 60% less water through drip irrigation, produces less CO2 and uses less chemicals and pesticides to create (Minney, 2011:20).

Organic fabrics

‘Natural fabrics when manufactured using organic production systems right from fibre to fabric stage is called organic fabric. In organic farming method, fibres are grown in controlled settings with no pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or toxic chemicals.’ (Huang, 2016)


Peta-approved Vegan

Vegan clothing, shoes and accessories contain no leather, wool, fur, animal-derived fabrics, etc. These are easy to find in a lot of mainstream companies today however by have a Peta-approved vegan stamp consumers can be sure that the products are 100% vegan as they have gone through further testing to gain this certification (Peta, 2023).



RCS (Recycled Claim Standard)

This is a manufacturing standard that tracks the amount of recycled material in a product. It tracks this throughout the whole manufacturing process from ginning to printing. This allows consumers to know that a company is being honest about using recycled materials in their products (Control Union Certifications, 2022).

REACH Compliance

REACH restricts the use of over 200 chemicals for nearly all products and works to ensure companies that are manufacturing items comply to these strict restrictions. Through this and promoting alternative methods from these chemicals, this regulation helps to improve the environment and protect human health (arena, 2023).


This is the process whereby something is remade into a new product.

Regenerated fibres

These fibres are manmade by using natural materials such as cellulose, proteins, wood, etc. They are converted through a chemical process to create the fibres. Examples of these fibres are acetate, rayon, triacetate, etc (Garner and Keiser, 2012:173).

RWS (Responsible Wool Standard)

This is ‘…an independent, voluntary standard, which means that companies can choose to become certified. On farms, the certification ensure that sheep are treated with respect to their five freedoms and also ensures best practises in the management and protection of the land.’ (Textile Exchange, 2016 cited in Burns, 2019:13)



This is a leading standard for working rights for factory workers. ‘It measures the performance of companies in eight key areas: child labour, forced labour, health and safety, free association and collective bargaining, discrimination, disciplinary practices, working hours and compensation.’ (Neutral, 2022)

SAI (Social Accountability International)

This is an NGO that focusses on improving workers’ rights. They manage all levels of business and supply chains to ensure that they create socially responsible workplaces (Social Accountability International, 2023).


This is a global group which work to improve global supply chains, so they are more environmentally and socially sustainable. They use data insights to aid companies to make continual improvements in these areas (Sedex, 2022).

Soil Association

They are a charity that work with farmers, businesses, and policymakers to help reduce the amount of impact the manufacture and growing of our clothes and food have on the environment. They support forestry work and are one of the founders of the global organic movement (Soil Association, 2020).

Soil Degradation

This is where the important nutrients are removed from the soil due to over-farming and deforestation. Not having a healthy soil means it is harder to grow crops, maintain a healthy ecosystem and less excess CO2 can be absorbed by the soil.

Sustainable Apparel Coalition

‘The SAC is deeply committed to creating a more sustainable, equitable, and just world for all through collective action efforts that enable positive social and environmental impact at scale.’ (Sustainable Apparel Coalition, 2023) They create global sustainable approaches for the fashion industry so companies can track their own progress for social and environmental goals.


‘Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (Brundtland Commission, 1987 cited in Weybrecht, 2013:14). In fashion this is usually broken down into 3 key areas: Economic, Social and Sustainability. (See Sustainability Model)

Sustainability Model

Fig. 2 Model of the spheres of sustainability (2002)

Economic Sustainability- ‘…the ability for individuals, companies, communities, and countries to sustain indefinitely a defined level of economic production… When integrated with social and environmental sustainability, economic sustainability occurs when social and environmentally sustainable practises are financially feasible.’ (Burns, 2019:3)

Social Sustainability-  When social systems, e.g communities, can function indefinitely at a set level of social wellbeing (Burns, 2019:3).

Environmental Sustainability-  This is measured by two areas. The first is reducing waste and the consumption of non-renewable resources. The second is ensuring the rate in which renewable sources are used isn’t at a rate that is above the natural regeneration rate (Burns, 2019:3).

Synthetic fibres

These fibres are created using petroleum-based chemicals, plastic and coal which is refined through a chemical process. Examples of  these fibres include acrylic, nylon, polyester, and spandex (Garner and Keiser, 2012:173).


Textile Exchange

They are a global non-profit organisation that work to improve the textiles in fashion and textile supply chains. They look at ways to improve how textiles are farmed, sourced, and extracted so that more sustainable methods can be used. Textile exchange’s main goal is to ‘positively impacting the lands and hands that uphold it, while benefiting soil health, water, and biodiversity’ (Textile Exchange, 2023).

Trade Union

Trade unions are groups of employees who collaborate to improve their working conditions. They typically have representatives who negotiate deals for better pay and conditions, but trade unions have also been responsible for abolishing child labour, improving safety for workers and helping workers get sickness entitlements (Unison, 2023).


UN (United Nations)

The United Nations helps to create goals to help global development. They have 5 keys areas; maintaining peace and security, deliver humanitarian aid, helping to uphold international laws, protect human rights and aiding sustainable development including climate action (United Nations, 2023).

UNGPs (United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights)

These are key principles set out by the UN to help ‘prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations’ (Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, 2023).

Upcycling It is simply defined as ‘a variety of processes by which “old” products get to be modified and get a second life as they’re turned into a “new” product’ (youmatter, 2020)



WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production)

'WRAP is an independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to the certification of lawful humane and ethical manufacturing throughout the world. Its basic standards addressed labour practices, factory conditions, and environmental and custom compliance…’ (Garner and Keiser, 2012:496)

WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme)

They are an NGO that work to tackle the climate crisis. They work on 4 key areas which are;

  1. Reducing waste and the impact food production has on the environment.
  2. Recycling and reusing everything especially plastic to help reduce plastic pollution.
  3. Finding ways to reduce the impact the textile industry has on the planet through repairing and upcycling and reducing emissions during manufacturing.
  4. Finding ways to create a circular economy by setting up recycling services (WRAP, 2023).




Zero Waste Fashion

This is the process by which the design of clothing utilises all the fabric. This can be done in a variety of ways but the most classic is where the pattern is designed to use the whole piece of fabric (Allende, 2022).