Introduction to Ethical Fashion

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Ethical fashion 101

What is ethical fashion?


Ethical fashion is an umbrella term to describe fashion that has been designed and produced in ways that respect the rights of garment workers and consider its impact on the environment.

More than just fashion, ethical consumption means that whenever you buy clothes, you see yourself as part of the global community— a community that includes 50 million garment workers who often receive less than a living wage and work in unjust conditions.

Fashion & exploitation

Everyone deserves to live a life of dignity in a healthy environment


But for many workers in the global fashion industry, this is not their lived experience. The global fashion industry is a key actor in responding – and contributing – to major challenges these workers face, including modern slavery, forced and child labour, and climate change.

Cotton worker holding bundled up cotton on his shoulders.
50+ million people
employed in various stages of clothing production
Aerial shot of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
10 percent of global GGE
(greenhouse gas emissions) occur throughout the fashion supply chain
A Bangladeshi man stands outside of the garment factory where he works.
The COVID-19 pandemic
still affects some of the world’s most vulnerable workers in the garment industry

Many fashion companies still struggle to commit to worker empowerment. The industry is among the top five for modern slavery risk, and forced and child labour continue to provide a serious concern in global supply chains.

Only 15 percent of companies have a public commitment to pay workers a living wage.

Supply chain tracing remains one of the fashion industry’s biggest challenges. Limited visibility across the production process, from cotton farms and fabric mills to production subcontractors, means a complex supply chain and high risk of worker exploitation.

And COVID has exacerbated this risk for these workers. Without a living wage, job security and fair working conditions, garment workers are at risk as companies often put profits above their workers’  livelihoods and welfare.

Who, then, speaks, for  garment workers and their families? Every consumer.

Exploitation & Poverty

What does worker exploitation have to do with poverty?


The United Nations defines poverty as more than the lack of income and access to necessary resources. Poverty  affects all parts of a person’s life including their health, education, work, and choice of opportunities in life.

Several factors, including unemployment, social exclusion and vulnerability to disasters, and diseases, create the conditions for poverty. Ten percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, making less than $1.90 a day. This group often includes garment workers, like those in Bangladesh where the minimum daily wage is  a little over 70 cents AUD.

While the first United Nations sustainable development goal is to end poverty in all its form by 2030, little progress has been made to improve supply chain practices and protect workers.

There’s still a long way to go until  the fashion industry is actively working to end extreme poverty. And for the first time in over 20 years, there has been an increase in extreme poverty, due primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And yet, at Baptist World Aid, we continue to dream of a world where poverty has ended and all people—including garment workers—flourish, without fear of exploitation.

A world without poverty and exploitation

We dream of a more just world


At Baptist World Aid, we long for a world without poverty and exploitation as God intends.

Because the global fashion industry has a significant impact on people and the planet, your shopping choices can make a difference.

Do the clothes you buy mean a fair job that provides for a worker, their family and community?

Or do they create environmental damage, child labour, forced labour and exploitation?

We can all affect change in global supply chains.

When you choose to shop ethically using our Ethical Fashion Guide, your purchasing behaviour speaks volumes to fashion companies, showing them that you care about the people making those clothes and the planet affected from industry practices. And when you support Baptist World Aid, you’re helping us to create a better, fairer world for garment workers and families living in poverty.

Resources for you


Since 2013, we’ve worked to raise standards for garment workers through the Ethical Fashion Guide. Find out how your favourite brands score.
See the guide
What influences you when you shop? Find out what shopping choices say about you, take the My Shopping Type quiz!
Take the quiz
Why do Australians buy what they buy? the Australian Ethical Consumer Report has the answer.
See the report