Learn more about the most important terms relating to sustainability in this glossary
Sustainability is a large and complex issue. You’ve heard the terminology before, but do you know exactly what it all means? We try to make things a little easier with our Sustainability Glossary.
Largely composed of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon gas emissions are released into the atmosphere mainly through the burning of fossil fuels and other anthropogenic activities. e.g. electricity and energy production for our everyday use, planes, cars, factories, and other industrial processes.
A person's or organization’s carbon footprint is an estimation of the total amount of greenhouse gases (calculated in CO2 equivalents) they produce. It is effectively a measurement of someone’s direct impact on the planet based on how much CO2e they release into the atmosphere through their activities. Air and motor travel, energy use, and eating habits all contribute to our CO2e output. By understanding how our lifestyle or business choices affect our carbon footprint, we can identify strategies to reduce it, such as being more energy efficient or biking to work.
Carbon Neutrality (Net Zero)
Climate neutrality (also carbon neutrality or having a “net zero” carbon footprint), refers to achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal (often through carbon offsetting) or simply eliminating carbon emissions altogether. For example, climate neutrality can be achieved if CO2 emissions are reduced to a minimum and all remaining emissions are offset.
Carbon offsetting is the process by which one’s own greenhouse gas emissions are compensated or “offset” by a reduction of emissions made by someone else and often somewhere else (e.g. planting a tree or setting up solar panels). Offsets are measured in tons of carbon dioxide-equivalents (CO2e). One ton of carbon offset represents the reduction of one ton of carbon dioxide. In practice, this process is regulated with the purchasing of certificates or carbon credits. Offsets are so named because they counteract or “offset” the purchaser’s carbon emissions. Effectively offsetting the emissions of an activity makes that activity “carbon neutral.” Nevertheless, the best approach to tackling CO2 emissions is reducing them as much as possible and only offsetting those that cannot be reduced or avoided.
Circularity (also referred to as circular economy) is an economic system aimed at minimizing waste and making the most of resources. This approach is in contrast to the traditional linear economy, which has a linear “take, make, dispose” model of production. The goal of a circular economy is to decouple economic growth from resource consumption by focusing on value retention. In a circular system, resource input, waste and emissions are reduced by slowing, closing, and narrowing energy and material loops. This can be achieved, for example, through long-lasting design, repair, reuse, resale and recycling.
Circular Economy Principles by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation report “A New Textiles Economy” identifies the three principles of circularity as
1) Design out waste and pollution,
2) Keep products and materials in use and,
3) Regenerate natural systems.
In its 2009 report, TerraChoice, now UL, defined greenwashing as “the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.” There are seven sins of greenwashing: sin of the hidden trade-off, sin of no proof, sin of vagueness, sin of worshiping false labels, sin of irrelevance, sin of lesser of two evils, sin of fibbing.
Developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the Higg Index is a suite of tools that enables brands, retailers, and facilities of all sizes – at every stage in their sustainability journey – to accurately measure and score a company or product’s sustainability performance. The Higg Index delivers a holistic overview that empowers businesses to make meaningful improvements that protect the wellbeing of factory workers, local communities, and the environment
Also known as standby power, a phantom load refers to the electricity used by a device when it is switched off or in standby mode. Electronics like televisions, computers, internet routers and cell phone chargers all suck up electricity, even when they are not in use, resulting in wasted energy and higher electricity bills. For example, a laptop that’s plugged in draws up to 55 watts of electricity, even in sleep mode.
Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic
Post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic is plastic that has been used in a product by consumers and then collected, cleaned, reprocessed and remade into a new plastic material that can be used again.
Energy that is derived from natural processes (e.g. sunlight and wind) that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed. Solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and biomass are common sources of renewable energy.
Reusable packaging is made of materials that are specifically designed to be used for multiple trips over an extended period of time. Reuse keeps materials out of the waste stream and extends the life cycle of the original raw material. By eliminating waste and reducing the production of packaging, reusable packaging can also minimize carbon dioxide emissions.
Single-use plastics, often also referred to as disposable plastics, are commonly used for plastic packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These include, among other items, grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery.
Tier 1 Suppliers
Within the supply chain of our private labels, tier 1 suppliers are those involved in the final manufacturing stage of the product and its packaging for shipping. Initial production processes are done in tier 2, while materials are developed in tier 3.
Traceability refers to the ability to track or “trace” all the components and raw materials of an item throughout the supply chain. Transparency in the fashion industry is becoming an imperative, and traceability empowers consumers by helping them gain a full understanding of where their clothes come from and how they were produced. It’s a way for brands to be accountable to their customers, and for consumers to support brands that champion workers’ rights and sustainability. Plus, it gives people the chance to get involved in the life cycle of their purchases, something that is undoubtedly beneficial across industries.
Upskilling can be defined as “teaching employees the skills they need to do old jobs with new technology.” Upskilling helps workers and their companies by keeping skills up-to-date and harnessing the knowledge and expertise to propel innovation.