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Guide to Sustainable Jargon: Know the Difference Between Organic, Ethical & Sustainable

With sustainable jargon now popping up everywhere from our social media feeds to clothing labels, it can get pretty overwhelming to try and make sense of it all. ‘Organic’, ‘ethical’ or ‘sustainable’ — are they one and the same? Or do they mean different things? 

Key Takeaways: Organic Clothing 

organic clothing

Organic clothing is made using natural fibres of plant-based origin (most notably cotton) that doesn’t rely on the use of hazardous pesticides or chemicals, but opts for natural fertilisers in combination with low-impact processes instead. 

Organic farming also involves the use of rain-fed irrigation methods that end up reducing water usage by 71%

Brands that use organic fabrics also tend to use dyes that are vegetable or water based to make sure that poisonous chemicals don’t make their way into the production process. 

Furthermore, when organic clothes are verified by sustainable certifications such as GOTS or OCS, you can be guaranteed that they were grown in an environmentally-conscious manner. These factors make organic clothing the more sustainable choice as they are more likely to biodegrade.

Ethical Clothing 

ethical clothing

When clothes are made ethically, it usually ensures that workers’ rights, including working hours, health, safety and fair living wages, are met across all business operations. For fashion brands, ethical business operations requires identifying problems and ensuring decent working conditions for workers across their entire supply chains; right from raw material sourcing to their own operations. The commitment to ethical business is reflected in policy-making as well as regular monitoring, auditing, reporting and acting on the responsibility for continuous improvement.

Ethical clothes consider the humane factor of clothing production by ensuring that the working environment is safe and the employees are paid fair wages. ZAVI’s sustainable range of organic cotton clothing is certified by both GOTS and OCS certifications which ensures ethical processes have been followed from seed to shirt  

Sustainable Clothing 


For clothes to be ‘sustainable’, their environmental and social impact must be considered across the entire product life cycle — right from fibre to factory and onwards to consumer, point of disposal and potential reuse. Sustainable clothes value prosperity and well-being of both people and the environment. 

A sustainable fashion brand would therefore, not only incorporate organic materials and practice ethical trade but also maintain transparency across operations while being cautious of their impact and measuring it. This means a radical “unlearning of fashion-as-we-know-it” by eradicating the logic of endless growth and overproduction that is fuelled by capitalism and instead finding new ways of enjoying and giving value to clothing. 

Can a brand embody all three? Absolutely. While ZAVI may have been founded on sustainable values, we also pride ourselves on sourcing 100% certified organic fibres whilst staying ethical and transparent in our business operations. Don’t just take our word for it, take a closer look at some of our conscious practices right here: ZAVI’s sustainability measures


Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2021-02-22

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