Here are some definitions of the commonly seen phrases within sustainable and responsible fashion that we have looked up from various cited sources! We hope that by sharing this compiled finding on what we know, it can help to promote deeper thinking and understanding about sustainability in fashion. 

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Glossary of Terms »  Sustainability » Boston University. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from Homepage | Boston University website:

Carbon emissions

Polluting carbon substances released into atmosphere such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide produced by motor vehicles and industrial processes and forming pollutants in the atmosphere”

Carbon footprint

A carbon footprint is an estimate of how much carbon dioxide is produced to support your lifestyle. Essentially, it measures your impact on the climate based on how much carbon dioxide you produce. Factors that contribute to your carbon footprint include your travel methods and general home energy usage. Carbon footprints can also be applied on a larger scale, to companies, businesses, even countries.”

Carbon offsets

“Carbon offsets are used to reduce the amount of carbon that an individual or institution emits into the atmosphere. Carbon offsets work in a financial system where, instead of reducing its own carbon use, a company can comply with emissions caps by purchasing an offset from an independent organization. The organization will then use that money to fund a project that reduces carbon in the atmosphere. An individual can also engage with this system and similarly pay to offset his or her own personal carbon usage instead of, or in addition to, taking direct measures such as driving less or recycling.”

Climate change

“Climate change refers to any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer). Climate change may result from:

  • natural factors, such as changes in the sun’s intensity or slow changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun;
  • natural processes within the climate system (e.g. changes in ocean circulation);
  • human activities that change the atmosphere’s composition (e.g. through burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g. deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification, etc.)”


The controlled biological decomposition of organic material in the presence of air to form a humus-like material. Controlled methods of composting include mechanical mixing and aerating, ventilating the materials by dropping them through a vertical series of aerated chambers, or placing the compost in piles out in the open air and mixing it or turning it periodically.”


Those practices or processes that result in the conversion of forested lands for non-forest uses.  This is often cited as one of the major causes of the enhanced greenhouse effect for two reasons: 1) the burning or decomposition of the wood releases carbon dioxide; and 2) trees that once removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the process of photosynthesis are no longer present.”

Fair Trade

Crops produced according to principles in which poor farmers in developing countries receive fair prices for their products, workers enjoy safe working conditions and fair wages, communities receive development assistance and investment in social programs and crops are grown with sustainable farming methods and without the use of pesticides or genetically modified organisms. Products labeled as “Fair Trade Certified” are verified and audited by an independent certifier. Fair Trade Certification is currently available in the United States for coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, sugar, rice and vanilla.”

Greenhouse Effect

Trapping and build-up of heat in the atmosphere (troposphere) near the Earth’s surface. Some of the heat flowing back toward space from the Earth’s surface is absorbed by water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, and several other gases in the atmosphere and then reradiated back toward the Earth’s surface. If the atmospheric concentrations of these greenhouse gases rise, the average temperature of the lower atmosphere will gradually increase. See greenhouse gas, anthropogenic, climate, global warming.”


Greenwashing is a form of corporate misrepresentation where a company will present a green public image and publicize green initiatives that are false or misleading. A company might release misleading claims or even true green initiatives while privately engaging in environmentally damaging practices. Companies are trying to take advantage of the growing public concern and awareness for environmental issues by promoting an environmentally responsible image. Greenwashing can help companies win over investors (especially those interested in socially responsible investing), create competitive advantage in the marketplace, and convince critics that the company is well-intentioned. There is a profit-driven motive to greenwashing as well— green products are among the fastest growing segments in the market and present a huge potential for growth. The increase in green advertising claims has become a cause for concern at the Federal Trade Commission, who planned to begin re-evaluation of existing green marketing guidelines in 2008.”

Heat Island Effect

The Heat Island Effect occurs when dark surfaces absorb the Sun’s energy and re-radiate it throughout the day and night, thereby raising the ambient air temperature.  The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C). Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality.”

Natural Gas

Underground deposits of gases consisting of 50 to 90 percent methane (CH4) and small amounts of heavier gaseous hydrocarbon compounds such as propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10).”


USDA Certified Organic foods and farms cannot use most synthetic or petroleum derived pesticides and fertilizers, any irradiation, or sewage sludge. No genetic engineering is allowed. Organic farmers use crop rotation, tilling and natural fertilizers, such as compost. A USDA-accredited certifier verifies that a farmer or producer meets the standards of the USDA National Organic Program.”


Collecting and reprocessing a resource so it can be used again.”

Renewable Energy

The term renewable energy generally refers to electricity supplied from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower, and various forms of biomass. These energy sources are considered renewable sources because they are continuously replenished on the Earth.”

What’s the Difference Between Green, Sustainable, Eco-Friendly, Ethical, Fair Trade, Clean, Organic, Non-Toxic, and Conscious? - Ecocult. (2018, May 8). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from Ecocult website:


Clean implies ingredients — natural or synthetic — that are not harmful to your health.”




Nontoxic products are free from ingredients that can harm your health or the environment.”


The ethical trade movement refers to the working conditions of workers who produce clothes, toys, food, and other products for multinational companies, as well as how well they are paid for their work. It is a broad term that is not certified or precisely defined, but it’s still quite useful for describing in general the type of products you want to buy.”


The trendy term conscious refers to consumer awareness and high standards regarding health and environment. It can also sometimes include the realms of spirituality and wellness.”


“The definition of thoughtful is showing consideration of other people’s needs and being well-informed on a topic before making a decision or forming an opinion. Being thoughtful encompasses all the qualities mentioned above [in Conscious] and can stand as the overarching goal. Thoughtfulness goes beyond being a responsible shopper and recycler.”

Glossary of Sustainable Manufacturing Terms. (2020, February 24). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from

Green Design

The design of products, services, buildings, or experiences that are sensitive to environmental issues and achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in terms of energy and materials use.”

Green/Sustainable Procurement

A process for buying products with a reduced environmental impact compared to similar products.”

Harmonized Standards

A process whereby national or regional standards and requirements are aligned, including product and manufacturing standards and conformance assessment requirements. Harmonization does not necessarily require that standards be identical in each jurisdiction, but rather that they be consistent or compatible.”

Life Cycle

1. Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation of natural resources to final disposal. 2. Life cycle stages include raw material extraction, manufacturing/production, transportation, use, and disposal/recycling.”


A form of product recovering that involves rebuilding, repairing, and/or restoring parts or an instrument to match the same consumer expectations as new machines.”

Supply Chain Management

An information management tool which integrates procurement, operations and logistics from raw materials acquisition to customer satisfaction.”

Sustainable Manufacturing

Sustainable manufacturing (also called sustainable design or green design) is the creation of manufactured products through economically-sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources. Sustainable manufacturing also protects employee, community, and consumer safety.”


“A measure of increased accountability and decreased corruption in which a business reports on its ethics and performance results through accessible publication of the business' practices and behavior.”

Corporate Social Responsibility

A form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model in which a business embraces responsibility for its actions and encourages a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, and stakeholders.”


An approach to the design of products that seeks to be essentially waste-free. All materials used are designated as either technical nutrients, which are non-toxic synthetic materials that are reused in continuous cycles, and biological nutrients, which can be disposed of into natural environments to decompose into the soil.”

Triple Bottom Line

A phrase describing a company's improved top line financial performance over the long term due to sustainable business practices, including less capital investment and increased revenues. The triple bottom line refers to environmental, social, and economic sustainability.”

MacDonald, S. (2019, May 08). Our Sustainability Glossary of Terms Guide. Retrieved June 11, 2020, from

“Carbon Footprint – Is an estimated measurement of the amount of Carbon Dioxide that is produced annually and emitted into the atmosphere by the direct and indirect actions of individuals, households, buildings, companies, cities, communities or countries.

Child Labour – The exploitation of children to engage in economic activity, on a part-time or full-time basis, and which deprives children of their childhood development.

Circular Economy – Creating a system of production for goods that is designed and developed to reduce waste and regenerate the use of the resources used in production, which are then able to be recycled and used to produce another product. (Sometimes referred to as Circularity of production).

Direct/1st Tier Suppliers – The supplier of goods or services that are directly provided to an organisation.

Supply chain – A system consisting of resources, activities, organisations, people, information which moves a product or service from suppliers to customers, in an onward chain, transforming resources and components into a finished product for the end customer.

Sustainable – The practices and actions of people (& businesses) that are not causing harm, permanent damage, depletion or change that is detrimental to the environment, ecosystems, species or resources sourced from our planet (our natural resources), and that are capable of being sustained for future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainability – Meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability includes three main pillars: environmental, social and economic, often also referred to as planet, people and profit. Sustainability includes eco-friendly and green products.

Sustainable Development – The UN definition is “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) –The SDG’s are The UN Blueprint ‘to achieve a better and more sustainable future’. These 17 goals target specific areas around sustainable development with the aim that each of these can be achieved by 2030. The goals have been identified to address the specific global challenges facing us as a whole.

Traceability – Verifiable. The ability to be traced and verified (as in along a supply or value chain or at various points within it).

Value Chain – Refers to the supply chain system of activities and which is adding value to the product or service from suppliers to customers in this onward chain.

Waste – Unwanted, unusable, discarded materials or resources that are disposed of after their primary use.