Ethical Fashion Terminology

As you begin your journey to have less of an impact on the earth you may come across some confusing terms, such as... 

Ethical & Fair trade

Ethical and fair trade relate to the well being of the workers who produce the product, whether it be clothing or food. They must receive fair wages, healthcare, and work in a healthy environment. The importance of supporting ethical and fair trade companies was exemplified in 2013 when the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh occurred. 1,134 people died in the collapse of the unsafe garment factory. 

Often online I see animal rights advocates commenting about ethical leather products saying that they cannot be ethical because they are made from an animal. While this is true of the dictionary definition of ethical, it is not when speaking about ethical fashion


Cruelty-free means that an animal was not tested on in the making of a product. Animals are commonly tested on, especially by makeup and skincare corporations. Mainly rodents, including bunnies and mice, have chemicals smeared across their skin or eyes. China requires that products sold in their country first be tested on animals, causing many corporations to do what I believe is cruel and inhumane. Many big name brands such as Kiehl's, Benefit, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Chap Stick, Aveeno, Secret, Head and Shoulders, Tide, Arm & Hamer, and many more test on animals. Further still, these corporations often try to hide that they test on animals by writing compelling but empty promises about how they are committed to animal welfare. The only way to know if a product is cruelty-free is to look for one of three regulated logos.

Thankfully, there are many companies committed to offering cruelty-free options. However, it is important to understand that cruelty-free does not mean that the product is vegan.

Certified cruelty-free logos

Certified cruelty-free logos


When something has no animal products or byproducts, including honey. This means that no animals were exploited in the process of making the product. 

Natural Vs. Organic

Many products claim that they are natural but as it turns out, there is no real regulated definition for the term. Which is to say, a product calling itself natural means very little. The term organic, on the other hand, is regulated. In order for a product or ingredient to be organic, it must be grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms (non-GMO). In fields that are non-organic, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers drain away with the runoff into streams and rivers, contaminating them and causing huge issues such as algae blooms and hypoxia. Further, most clothes and bedding is made of inorganic cotton which transfers to your body and can lead to increased health risks. 

B Corp

A B Corp is the equivalent to fairtrade. To obtain B Corp status, a corporation must meet rigorous standards of transparency, social and environmental performance, and accountability. 

EWG Certified 

EWG is a consumer safety and health organization that tests products for harmful properties. Learn more at

FSC Certified

The Forest Stewardship Council ensures environmental sustainability through forest management and protection. 


If you're curious about any other terms you've come across, let me know below in the comments!