Ethical Issues in the Fashion Industry

The issue of ethics is a major concern in society and covers a wide range of spectrums. Ethical fashion brings to the root matters related to work conditions, fair trading, animal welfare, exploitation and the environment in the fashion industry. Businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of corporate social responsibility and are making the necessary adjustments to satisfy consumers.

Clothing are beautiful to wear but their manufacturing raises concern in many different aspects. Global warming, the dumping of nuclear wastes, the extinction of certain species and changes in the ecosystem are closely being monitored and most of the times are attributed to activities of mankind. The fashion industry has its part of blame and opinions vary as to the consequences relating to the effect that human activities has on the environment.

Many companies try to cut down on costs to increase their profits. One method is to hire a cheap labor force. They accomplish that by opening industries in countries with low labor costs and sometimes uses child labor. In an ethical point of view, such practices are deemed unethical. The exploitation of children most of the times in conditions of forced labor in un-hygienic places is highly condemned. Paying hourly wages that does not reflect the hourly labor cost in which the products are sold is also considered as exploitation.

A lot of outfits are made of cotton. Ethical concerns regard the hazards posed on the environment with the use of pesticides while cultivating cotton. Pesticides are harmful to people and the environment. Pesticides can have adverse symptoms on people such as headaches, depressions, seizures or loss of consciousness. It can lead to air, water and soil pollution. Finally, pesticides can cause not only the death of pests but also of other animals.

Animal cruelty often comes to the forefront of activists’ agenda. In the fabrication of many types of clothing including shoes, belts and other accessories, the skin of different animals are used. For instance, the production of fur coats requires the killing of mink, foxes or other animals whose skin can be used. More often than not, these animals are killed using very cruel methods. There numbers are also reduced in the wild. Some animals are close to extinction because of excessive killing.

Many textiles are treated with chemicals to soften and dyes them. Such chemicals are harmful to the environment and can also be the cause of skin diseases. Lead, chromium, nickel, aryl amines are but some of the chemicals used in the process of treating textiles.

Ethical issues in the fashion industry are the cause of many debates. Many companies often respond to public concerns by showing their corporate social responsibility in diverse methods. Some are radical by being totally green. Others choose a certain issue which they emphasize to show their responsibility. For example, many companies explicitly make known that the process of producing their goods does not involve child labor or under-paid wages. Whatever the truth of the matter, ethical issues continue to preoccupy, governments, activists and society at large.

Photo by henryjose

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