The Basics

Primary Steps

Secondary Steps





Labor Rights

Welcome to Responsibility in Fashion's Toolkit, a compilation of fundamental and essential information, practical steps, global resources and links to tools to help you start on a path to a more responsible business. At the core of the toolkit are a set of practical steps. You can measure your progress by the completion of steps. In most cases, all the steps won't directly apply to your business and you can skip any steps that don't apply. Let us know if you have any questions or comments and be sure to send us your story. Your successes (and challenges) can inspire others, and help improve the Toolkit.
The Basics
Face the facts.
With issues ranging from widespread chemical dumping, pesticide and toxic chemical overuse, worker abuse and child labor— to unprecedented levels of air pollution, carbon emissions and waste— the production of clothing and textiles has grown into the world's second most polluting industry,* employing millions in working conditions that are unsafe and unhealthy. It's a crisis we simply can't continue to ignore. Challenge rationalization.
Rationalization comes in many forms: not enough time, not enough information, not enough budget, we're too big, we're too small, and so on. We all need to start challenging rationalization within our brands and start encouraging the taking of responsible steps. Understand the urgency.
We can't leave the industry's problems for our children's generation to solve. We all need to start supporting responsibility in our brands. Encourage your brand to start taking responsible steps.
Start a responsibility workgroup. Research and recommend responsible materials, manufacturers and technologies. Share responsible steps across your brand and on social media. Recognize the business potential of responsibility.
Consumers in growing numbers are seeking out responsible brands and questioning the environmental and social impact of every product they shop. Every day, cost-neutral responsible materials and processes are becoming more readily available. Smarter brands are keeping up on innovation in technologies and materials, taking responsible steps, sharing and celebrating their successes with their followers and realizing the benefits of the informed, empowered and engaged consumer on their bottom line. Keep it simple.
Be careful not to get bogged down with endless assessments, projections, charts, graphs and studies. Keep it simple and focus on what's most important— taking responsible steps. Keep it positive.
The fashion industry thrives on inspiration and creativity— so let's inspire, innovate and empower solutions and encourage creativity across the industry. Let's focus on what we can do, rather than what we aren't doing. Let's celebrate accomplishments and encourage achievements with our teams, coworkers and on social media. Let's work together to build a responsible fashion industry. Get together.
Pool sources, suppliers, technologies and transport. Share information, sources and solutions. Sharing brings down costs and inspires others. Whenever possible, get together with other brands, companies and designers. Keep up-to-date.
Subscribe to Ecotextile News, Sourcing Journal's Sustainability Newsfeed and The Guardian's Sustainable Business Section. Get involved.
Contact us to help out, get involved, request more information or let us know about resources we can help you find. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter.
©2018 Responsibility In Fashion Inc. All rights reserved. *Source: Forbes
Primary Steps
The experts agree. Some steps have more impact than others.
According to the National Resources Defense Council, The Blacksmith Institute and The Clean Clothes Campaign, the most significant environmental and social impact of the global fashion industry results from: pesticides used in cotton production, chemical pollution and emissions from textile dyeing and finishing, chemical pollution from leather tanning, abuse of workers, toxic chemicals used in dry-cleaning, and emissions from long distance air transport of goods and materials.
Build transparency into your supply chain.1
Avoid pesticide-grown cotton.2
Require basic labor rights for all workers in your supply chain.3
Move to materials that are more responsible.4
Avoid materials that require dry-cleaning.5
Switch to vegetable-tanned leathers.6
Avoid air transport of materials and finished goods.7
1. Take the time to get to know your suppliers. Check that your entire supply chain supports basic labor rights for all workers and all suppliers have programs in place for minimizing environmental impact— this includes subcontractors: embellishers, printers, dyers, processors and trimming manufacturers. Taking the time to get to know your supply chain is good for business. 2. Use the material chart below to identify alternatives to conventionally grown cotton. Take advantage of the databases listed below in our resources and organizations sections. According to Rodale Institute, conventional cotton is "the world's dirtiest crop." Conventional cotton requires more toxic pesticides than any other crop on earth (Forbes and NRDC). Pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. (Cyanide, Dicofol, Naled, Propargite, and Trifluralin) are known cancer-causing chemicals (EPA). The cultivation of conventional cotton contributes to the pesticide-poisoning of an estimated 44 to 77 million workers annually (Ethical Fashion Forum and Environmental Justice Foundation). One-third of a pound of pesticides (and over 700 gallons of water) are used to produce approximately one pound of conventional cotton (NRDC). 3. Workers that produce our clothes deserve basic rights such as safe working conditions and a living wage. Globally, workers in the fashion and textile industry face a daily grind of poverty wages, excessive hours, forced overtime, hazardous working conditions, lack of job security, denial of trade union rights, poor health, exhaustion and sexual harassment. Even in factories which on the surface look clean and modern, workers are often deprived of their internationally-recognized basic labor rights (Clean Clothes Campaign). 4. Use the materials chart below to identify alternative materials that are more responsible. Take advantage of the databases listed below in our resources and organizations sections to source better materials. 5. High levels of the toxic chemical PERC remains on wool, cotton and polyester after dry-cleaning* and 70% of the chemical ends up in our ecosystem.** Most dry-cleaners use a chemical called Perchloroethylene, also called PERC. PERC is a volatile organic compound (VOC) that the EPA has classified as a likely carcinogen and the IARC as a probable carcinogen. The EPA also reports that the main effects of PERC in humans are neurological, liver and kidney effects following acute and chronic inhalation exposure and adverse reproductive effects, such as spontaneous abortions. Studies have found PERC in more than 50% of all Superfund sites, and a federal survey found PERC in more than 26% of U.S. groundwater supplies, in concentrations reaching hundreds of times the acceptable limit established by the Safe Drinking Water Act.** (*Georgetown University, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Washington Post **Greenpeace) 6. The dumping of highly toxic chemical waste from leather tanning is polluting our oceans. Turning hides into leather in most of the world requires chromium, which in its hexavalent chemical form is a potent known carcinogen. The NIH considers hexavalent chromium Cr(VI) as both cytotoxic and genotoxic. Clusters of tanneries produce and dump vast quantities of toxic waste that is primarily hexavalent chromium— for example, 200 separate tanneries in Hazaribagh, near Dhaka, Bangladesh combine to produce a daily 7.7 million liters of toxic wastewater and 88 tons of solid waste (Scientific America). 7. The carbon footprint of air-transport is 44 times the footprint of transport by container ship (The Guardian and The UK's Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs).
©2018 Responsibility In Fashion Inc. All rights reserved.
Secondary Steps
Design for longevity.1
Switch to responsible manufacturers.2
Retail responsibly.3
Donate or recycle your deadstock.4 1. No one benefits from clothes that don't last. The Average American throws away more than 68 pounds of clothing a year (EPA). For details on designing for longevity, see Waste and Resources Action Programme's Clothing Design for Longevity. 2. Responsible manufacturers promote labor rights for their all workers and have programs in place for minimizing environmental impact: ending toxic chemical, pesticide and dye pollution, lowering carbon emissions, waste reduction, waste-water treatment, water use reduction, ending animal cruelty, energy and transport efficiency. 3. Responsible retailing means using reduced, recycled and recyclable packaging, switching to LED and CFL lighting, optimizing heating and cooling efficiency and avoiding air-transport of goods. 4. Don't send your dead stock to landfills or to be incinerated. Donate or recycle it instead.
©2018 Responsibility In Fashion Inc. All rights reserved.
The following list represents commonly available materials. Variations in source, process and composition commonly occur and can affect a material's status.

*Source: Nike Materials Sustainability Index ©2018 Responsibility In Fashion Inc. All rights reserved.

Bluesign Blueguide
A database of sustainable textiles.

Designing Clothing for Longevity
A clothing lifespan extension resource from Waste & Resources Action Program (WRAP).

Higg Index
Tools from The Sustainable Apparel Coalition for measuring and evaluating social and environmental performance of apparel products.

Made By Brand Tools & Benchmarks
Environmental and social benchmark tools for fibers, social standards, textile wet processing, and human rights risks.

Nike Making Tool
A tool to inspire designers and creators to make better materials choices.

An open directory and tool to chart supply chains and environmental footprints.

A sustainable design strategy tool for textile and fashion designers from Textiles Environment Design.

©2018 Responsibility In Fashion Inc. All rights reserved.

Better Cotton Initiative Switzerland
A trade organization focusing on improving the welfare of cotton producers, workers, the environment and the future of cotton production.

Centre for Sustainable Fashion UK
A research center focusing on sustainable fashion. Part of the University of the Arts London AT London College of Fashion.

Clean Clothes Campaign Netherlands
An organization dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries.

Ethical Fashion Forum UK
An organization and online platform featuring information, social media, tools and resources and a consultancy specializing in sustainable fashion.

Ethical Fashion Initiative
An initiative of the International Trade Centre and the United Nations offering a new approach to both fashion and poverty reduction in disadvantaged communities.

Ethical Trading Initiative UK
An alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs promoting respect for international workers' rights.

Fair Wear Foundation Netherlands
An organization working with companies and factories to improve labor conditions for garment workers.

Fashion Positive USA
An organization launched by Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and consultancy specializing in sustainable fashion.

Global Organic Cotton Community Platform Switzerland
An online platform for sharing knowledge and information about organic and fair-trade cotton.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)f Germany
An organization devoted to standardization, development, implementation and verification of organic textiles.

Labeling Ecologically Approved Fabrics (LEAF) USA
An organization providing a fabric eco-labeling system and consultancy.

Labour Behind the Label UK
An organization working to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry.

Made By UK / Netherlands / Germany
An organization and consultancy specializing in providing sustainable fashion solutions.

National Resource Defense Council's Clean By Design USA
An initiative focusing on sustainably in the international fashion industry.

Nordic Initiative Clean & Ethical (NICE) Denmark
A initiative of the Nordic Fashion Association specializing in sustainable fashion.

Organic Trade Association USA
The membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America.

Positive Luxury UK
A trade organization promoting Trust Mark, an interactive ethical-rating program.

Sustainable Apparel Coalition USA
A trade organization specializing in sustainable fashion and developer of the Higg Index.

Textiles Environment Design (TED) UK
An academic institution specializing in sustainable design strategies and research projects.

Textile Exchange USA
An organization providing knowledge and tools for fiber, materials, integrity, standards and supply chain.

©2018 Responsibility In Fashion Inc. All rights reserved.

Creativity Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy (CLASS) Italy
A consultancy and library specializing in textiles and materials created using sustainable technology.

Eco-Age UK
A consultancy specializing in sustainable fashion solutions.

Ethical Fashion Forum's Source Consultancy UK
A consultancy, online platform and database specializing in sustainable fashion solutions.

Fashion Positive USA
An organization and consultancy launched by Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, specializing in sustainable fashion solutions.

Green Strategy Sweden
A consultancy specializing in sustainable fashion solutions.

Labeling Ecologically Approved Fabrics (LEAF) USA
A fabric eco-labeling system and consultancy specializing in sustainable textile solutions.

Made By UK / Netherlands / Germany
An organization and consultancy specializing in sustainable fashion solutions.

Material Connexion USA, Thailand, China, Italy, Sweden, Japan
A consultancy and libraries of textiles and materials, including those created using sustainable technology.

Source4Style USA
A consultancy, online database and library of textiles and materials including those created using sustainable technology.

Textiles Environment Design (TED) Consultancy UK
A consultancy specializing in sustainable fashion solutions.

©2018 Responsibility In Fashion Inc. All rights reserved.
Globally-Recognized Basic Labor Rights
Responsibility in Fashion's Global Workers' Bill of Rights:
The right to a safe and healthy workplace.
No hazardous, unhealthy or toxic working conditions. Adequate ventilation and fire exits. No physical violence or threats of physical violence. No unusual punishment, disciplinary measures or intimidation. The right to a living wage.
Living wages per country, per month: Bangladesh: 25,687 Taka, Cambodia: 1,582,668 Riel, China: 3,132 Yuan, India: 16,240 Rupees, Indonesia: 4,048,226 Rupiah, Malaysia: 1,566 Ringgit, Sri Lanka: 46,168 Rupees.* The right to voluntary labor.
No forced or involuntary labor of any kind. The right to employment nondiscrimination.
No discrimination based on race, color, religion, political orientation, gender, sexual orientation, trade union membership, nationality, social background or disability. The right to personal time off.
Maximum 10 work hours a day. Maximum 6 work days a week. No involuntary overtime.
©2018 Responsibility In Fashion Inc. All rights reserved. *Asia Floor Alliance. For more living wage information, visit http://www.wageindicator.org
Responsibility in Fashion is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to raise the standard of environmental and social responsibility in the global fashion community through innovative programs and initiatives that empower and inspire consumers and the industry. Responsibility in Fashion. Moving fashion forward.
Responsibility in Fashion's Network of Industry Thought Leaders:
Robert Bergmann / Founder, Responsibility in Fashion
Burak Cakmak / Parsons School of Design
Anna Scott Carter / Clean by Design, Natural Resources Defense Council
Simone Cipriani / Ethical Fashion Initiative, United Nations
Jonas Eder-Hansen / The Danish Fashion Institute
Livia Firth / Eco-Age
Julie Gilhart
Linda Greer / Clean by Design, Natural Resources Defense Council
Scott Mackinlay Hahn / Loomstate
Amy Hall / Eileen Fisher
Anna McMullen / Labour Behind the Label
Andrew Morgan / The True Cost
Chloé Mukai / Ethical Fashion Initiative, United Nations
Diana Verde Nieto / Positive Luxury
LaRhea Pepper / Textile Exchange
Lewis Perkins / Fashion Positive, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute
Timo Rissanen / Parsons School of Design
Lisa Smilor / Council of Fashion Designers of America
Marina Spadafora / Altos de Chavón School of Design
Tyson Toussant / Bionic Yarn
Amber Valletta / Master & Muse
Dilys Williams / Centre for Sustainable Fashion, University of the Arts London
Responsibility in Fashion has the ongoing support of The Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Responsibility in Fashion
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©2018 Responsibility In Fashion Inc. All Rights Reserved. The 'Responsibility in Fashion Mark' is a registered trademark of Responsibility In Fashion Inc.
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