Article by Centre for Sustainable Fashion | Monica Buchan-Ng | 11.04.2021

The Sustainable Fashion Glossary: Your sustainability literacy tool

The Sustainable Fashion Glossary is a reference tool that aims to improve sustainability literacy for the fashion industry. As you might have seen in our earlier voice, The ABCs of fashion and sustainability, the Glossary was developed by Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) in collaboration with Condé Nast and editors from Vogue.  

The Glossary was developed primarily as a tool for media and communications, but it has applications across the entire sector – whether you’re a fashion wearer or maker. We profile five different ways to use the Glossary, from fact-checking to creative inspiration.  

How can you use the Glossary? 

1. Use it to identify and explore your sustainability priorities 

Know you have a passion for sustainability? The Glossary can be used to map and define the specific causes, issues or topics that you care about.    

  • You can begin with the four key themes, reading the introductions to see what sparks the most interest or an emotional reaction, or that you feel incited to act in response to. Take these themes as a starting point for exploring related terms. 

  • You can begin with a single term that you’re passionate about, and use the Glossary to explore connected topics. Each term includes a list of related links and references, helping you to build up a more comprehensive understanding of the areas that interest you.  

  • Ask yourself what issues are closest to your heart. If useful, draw a mind map or ‘web’ of the terms that you’re passionate about, with the ones you care about the most at the centre. This can help you to visualise your sustainability priorities and identify the key areas you want to focus on. 

2. Use it to learn more about sustainability topics 

Want to learn the A, B, Cs of fashion and sustainability? Need to know the difference between carbon footprint and carbon emissions? Not sure what a certain term actually means? The Glossary is a great reference tool to quickly check single topics, as well as read about in-depth themes.  

  • If you’re searching for a specific term, use the A-Z navigation to find it quickly. 

  • If you want to understand more about a wider sustainability topic, use the By Topic navigation to learn at a deeper level. The Glossary includes four key themes: climate emergency; environmental impacts of fashion; social, cultural and economic impacts of fashion; and key elements of fashion and sustainability (with ten sub-themes from values and mindsets, to use and end-of-life).  

  • You can also use the Data sources section and the References under each term to find credible sources and further reading.  

3. Use it to check the correct use of sustainability terms 

Have you seen a sustainability-focused article, press release or brand communications and you’re not 100% sure they’re using the terms correctly? The Glossary can help to sense-check sustainability language in media and communications content.  

  • Think about why the organisation or author has used the term, and what motivations they have for developing the piece. Do they want to inform you about a sustainability topic? Do they want to increase awareness about their sustainability work? Do they want to sell a product? How will this motivation affect how they use sustainability terms and language? 

  • Identify key terms used in the piece and cross-reference them with the Glossary. Are the terms used in a manner consistent with the Glossary definition? Have they been used in a clear, well-referenced and rigorous way, or is the piece more style than substance? Do you feel you understand more about sustainability after reading it? 

4. Use it to develop communications content  

Are you writing or creating communications pieces like articles, editorials or posts? The Glossary’s primary purpose is to increase sustainability literacy for fashion editors and journalists – with the aim that they can then pass on these learnings to readers and audiences by integrating sustainability into media content.  

  • The Glossary can be used a research tool when investigating or reporting on a particular issue. The terms themselves provide an informative overview, with links to further terms, references and resources. This means the Glossary is a great first port of call when researching a new topic. 

  • Use the Glossary to select a specific issue to focus on, building a communications piece (from a social media post to an in-depth article) using related terms and their references. 

  • Use the Glossary to build up your sustainability knowledge. This foundation can help you to embed sustainability into your practice – rather than creating one-off or specialised features, look to include sustainability perspectives in all your pieces. Ask yourself – how have I addressed climate, environment, people or planet in my work? 

5. Use it as a creative catalyst or inspiration 

Want to weave sustainability into your creative work? Sustainability offers a creative lens for fashion, a perspective that asks how we can restore Nature through our artistic practice.  

  • Identify the terms and topics you’re most passionate about (see the first point on this list) and use them as a concept, mood board or subject matter. How can you use your creative practice to bring them to life? How can you communicate them through fashion image, writing, or design? 

  • As per the point above, use the Glossary to build up your sustainability knowledge to better embed these issues and concepts into your practice. Ask yourself – how have I addressed climate, environment, people or planet in my work? Are sustainability perspectives included or represented? 

How can you get involved? 

Access the Glossary now via its dedicated platform: The Sustainable Fashion Glossary 

Keen to reduce your own impacts as a fashion creative? Gain more knowledge on sustainability, via our range of resources:  

  • Take our open-source online course Fashion Values: Nature.  

  • Read our Methods, 30-minute educational resources with a spotlight on the relationship between fashion and nature.  

  • Read further Voices on Fashion Values.