All the Sustainable Fashion Acronyms to Know

Photo of hands using scissors to cut a piece of fabric
Black and white headshot of Kaley Roshitsh
Kaley Roshitsh
November 03, 2023

Many executives argue the myriad of acronyms in sustainable fashion complicates the overarching mission. This guide hopes to explain common jargon and abbreviations.


A – Aii, or the Apparel Impact Institute, is an apparel nonprofit organization focused on driving and funding improvements in the apparel and footwear industry. Its flagship program “Clean by Design” preceded the organization, bent on driving energy and water efficiency in mills through 10 best practices. Its latest projects include the $250-million Fashion Climate Fund (backed by Lululemon and H&M, among others) and the Climate Solutions Portfolio. The Aii was originally part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and was formally established in 2017 by the SAC, The Sustainable Trade Initiative and Target Corporation.


– BCI, or Better Cotton Initiative, is a nonprofit sourcing initiative intended to improve social and environmental practices around a top global fiber. Its standards focus on cotton farming and practices across 21 countries. As of 2017, Better Cotton accounted for 14 percent of global cotton production.


B Corp, or Benefit Corporation, is a company legally-bound to do good by people and the planet. B Lab has certified over 4,000 B Corps in more than 70 countries. Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, Allbirds, Outerknown, Fashionphile and Chloé are just a few examples.


C– C2C, or Cradle to Cradle, is a design framework for creating products with positive environmental and social impacts. Over 500 brands and thousands of products bear the framework’s intent.


CAFTA, or the Central America Free Trade Agreement, is a trade agreement between the United States and several countries in Central America supporting economic benefit.


CDP, or Carbon Disclosure Project, is a global platform enabling companies to disclose their carbon emissions to relevant stakeholders including investors, customers and policymakers. Over 10,000 companies, globally, have disclosed their environmental impacts through CDP.


CSRD, or the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, is part of the European Union’s Green Deal and has been in effect since Jan. 5, 2023, though the timeline for reporting under the new rules is in effect for fiscal year 2024 (for reports published in 2025). Its emphasis is on modernizing environmental, social and corporate governance reporting with common standards. It applies to all large companies and all listed companies (except listed micro-enterprises). Major new rules include a “double materiality” perspective meaning companies have to report both on their impacts on people and the environment, showcasing how the risks materialize for investors.


D – DWR, or Durable Water Repellent, is a term for water-proofing textiles and clothing. These coatings enable performance quality and extend product life spans but can put products at risk for unnecessary toxins.


A sunset image of the Eiffel Tower, with a cloud-filled blue sky and cobbled street.

France, an early leader on EPR laws.


– EPR, or Extended Producer Responsibility, is a policy approach where manufacturers take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products, including disposal and recycling. Its popularity is surging in recent years, with France as one early actor.


ESG is shorthand for Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance. ESG is essentially synonymous with Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR efforts) for how corporations dictate their sustainability reporting and objectives. ESG finance is that which is guided by ESG investing principles.


ESRS, or the European Sustainability Reporting Standards, are the protocol by which companies will annually report on their progress under the CSRD. Its top-line requirements span 12 ESRS standards including: general requirements, general disclosures, climate, pollution, water and marine resources, biodiversity and ecosystems, resource use and circular economy, own workforce, workers in the value chain, affected communities, consumers and end users and business conduct.


– Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action is a voluntary initiative under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It aims to address the environmental and climate impacts of the fashion sector.


FSC, or the Forest Stewardship Council, is becoming more well-known in fashion, with many signatories signing on to more responsible procurement practices. FSC certification is relevant for clothing items made from wood pulp-based fabrics such as rayon or viscose.


G – GHG, or the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, is the standard-setting organization for measuring and managing greenhouse gas emissions. As the most widely-used reporting standard, GHG Protocol commands both the public and private sector in accounting principles. Though a cross-sector framework, the nonprofit is built on a 20-year partnership between World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).


GOTS, or the Global Organic Textile Standard, was founded in 2006. GOTs is a leading textile processing standard for organic fibers, ensuring ecological and social criteria are met throughout the supply chain.


H – Higg Index is the set of tools designed to enhance sustainability pathways for the apparel, footwear and consumer goods sectors. The Higg index suite of tools span the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM), Higg Facility Social & Labor Module (FSLM), Higg Brand & Retail Module (BRM), Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) and Higg Product Module (PM).  The most recent launch was in Nov. 2023 for the Higg FEM 4.0 which includes improved data precision, industry alignment and compliance, expanded scope, user-centric design and audit efficiency.


I – ILO, or the International Labor Organization, is dedicated to advancing social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights.

ISO, or the International Organization for Standardization, is a global organization that develops and publishes international standards, including those related to sustainability and quality management.


J – JOC, or the Journal of Sustainable Fashion, is a peer-reviewed academic journal that focuses specifically on research and developments in sustainable fashion.


K – KPI, or Key Performance Indicators, in sustainable fashion involve carbon footprinting, water usage, waste diversion, material sourcing, fair labor practices, supply chain transparency, social impact, chemical management, racial and gender equity, product circularity and more. These topics trace various aspects of sustainability, often in line with the definitions touted by the United Nations.


L – LCA, or Life Cycle Assessment, is a systematic analysis of the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire lifecycle, from raw material extraction to disposal.


A look at a spinning mill in greyscale.

The value chain is suspect to closer inspection amid growing sustainability aims.


M – MRSL, or Manufacturing Restricted Substances List, includes banned or restricted chemicals in textile and apparel production to ensure safety and environmental compliance across the value chain.

MVO, or Multi-Stakeholder Initiative, is a catch-all term for the framework for responsible and sustainable business practices, including in fashion.


– NGO, or non-governmental organization, is a voluntary group or institution with a social mission operating independently from the government. Some examples in sustainable fashion include the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Fair Wear Foundation, Fashion Revolution, Global Fashion Agenda, Labour Behind the Label, Redress, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Textile Exchange and Canopy.


– Oeko-Tex, or Oeko-Tex Association, is a global textile testing and certification system bent on reducing harmful substances and ensuring safety for consumers. Oeko-Tex-Standard 100 is a rigorous textile testing method ensuring every component of a product, from fabric to thread, has been rigorously tested against a list of up to 350 toxic chemicals.


P – PEF, or Product Environmental Footprint, is one method of measuring textile and apparel product footprints recently considered by lawmakers. In Dec. 2021, the European Commission adopted a revised recommendation on the use of environmental footprint methods in hopes to help companies calculate their environmental performance based on “reliable, verifiable and comparable” information, per the Commission’s website. In Sept. 2023, the Commission added a measure relevant to microplastics under the EU chemical legislation Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals, abbreviated as REACH. The latter also applies to clothing imports.


PFAs and PFCs are Per- and Polyfluorinated Chemicals which are also known as “forever chemicals” for their proven lingering effects in the environment and human endocrine systems. In the apparel industry, legislators from New York to Calif. have limited the substances. Common use cases are in waterproof coatings in performance gear, as well as most recently period underwear.


PFMR, or the Preferred Fiber And Materials Market Report, is produced by Textile Exchange as a benchmark report for fiber uptake across the textile, apparel and footwear industries.


Q – QEP, or Quality Environmental Planning, is a framework by which sourcing and design leaders can equip environmental considerations into product quality and design.


QR Code, or Quick Response Codes, can be used to communicate sustainability information about a product to consumers, thus enhancing end-to-end transparency. QR codes are one avenue being explored to achieve a Digital Product Passport, or DPP, among regulators.


R – RSL, or Restricted Substances List, is a list of chemicals and substances that are restricted or prohibited in textiles to ensure product safety and environmental protection.


S – SAC, or the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, is a nonprofit in the apparel, footwear, and textile industry, with now 300 members across the value chain. Initially formed to create standardized sustainability metrics, the SAC has sharpened its focus to driving pre-competitive, collective action across three foundational pillars (combat climate change, ensure decent work and contribute to a nature-positive future).


SASB, or the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, is a reputable standard for financial reporting with priority on sustainable business practices. SASB principles group reporting activities into five dimensions including the environment, human capital, social capital, business model and innovation and leadership and governance. Sustainability accounting refers to the measurement, management and reporting of these activities.


A maritime depiction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions are a focal point for companies today.


SBTI, or the Science Based Targets Initiative, is a standard-setting body for best practice in emissions reductions and net-zero targets in line with climate science. Companies report on Scope 1, 2 (direct) and 3 (or indirect) carbon emissions, with net-zero goals also growing in popularity. There are over 2,000 organizations setting SBTi targets today. In the apparel, textiles and footwear sectors, there are over 400 organizations working with SBTi to align decarbonization goals.


SDGs, or the Sustainable Development Goals, are a set of 17 guiding global goals produced by the United Nations to address pressing social, economic and environmental challenges by 2030.


SLCP, or the Social and Labor Convergence Program, is an assessment framework which aims to improve working conditions in global supply chains. The Higg Index FSLM fully integrates the SLCP Converged Assessment Framework.


T – TCFD, or the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, were designed to improve and increase reporting of climate-related financial information in the business world. Thousands of companies endorse use of the disclosures in lieu of financial mandates.


TE, or Textile Exchange, is a global nonprofit organization that works to accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices, specific to fibers, in the textile industry. Its main work revolves around The Preferred Fiber and Material Matrix (PFMM), which assesses the trade-offs of different sustainability certifications, initiatives and branded materials.


– UNEP, or the United Nations Environment Programme, is the leading global environmental authority within the United Nations system. In the context of the fashion industry, UNEP plays a collaborative role in promoting sustainability and environmental awareness, including the 2023 Sustainable Fashion Communications Playbook.


UNFCCC, or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is a voluntary international treaty aimed at addressing climate change and its impacts through signatory negotiations and agreements. There are 198 member countries.


UFLPA, or the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, is the law enacted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency in 2021 to prevent the importation of goods into the U.S. made “wholly or in part with forced labor,” per the agency, in the People’s Republic of China (namely Xinjiang).


V – vFEM, or Verification for the Higg FEM, is the process by which facilities can receive credible third-party verification for their Higg FEM assessment. These assessments provide credibility and accuracy before facilities are permitted to share their results publicly.


W – WTO, or the World Trade Organization, is an international organization dealing with the global rules of trade between nations, including those affecting textiles and apparel.


X – XRF, or X-Ray Fluorescence, is a type of textile testing technique used to identify and measure the presence of hazardous substances and chemicals in textiles and clothing.


Y – YMRP, or Yarn Manufacturing Responsibility Program, is an initiative or program focused on sustainable practices within the yarn manufacturing stage.


– ZDHC, or Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, is a nonprofit organization committed to phasing out hazardous chemicals from the textile, apparel, leather and footwear value chains. Its flagship program “Roadmap to Zero” includes phaseout of hazardous substances per ZDHC’s Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL). Today, more than 320 organizations have committed to the program.

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