The term ‘ecocide’ was first established in 1964 by a group of scientists looking to condemn the use of herbicides, particularly Agent Orange, as a tactical tool during the Vietnam war. Agent Orange was created by mixing 2,4-D (2, 4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and 2,4,5-T ( 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid) in a 50:50 proportion, and it was utilized to clear heavy vegetated areas in order to reveal the location of their counterparts (Zierler, 2011). This practice led to the loss of approximately five million acres of Vietnamese forests – the foundation to whole ecosystems supporting human and non-human life – along with possible health consequences for people and animals resulting from the chemicals (Zierler, 2011). The argument these academics made was that this relentless deforestation would not only harm plants, but other consequences would soon follow as the loss of vegetation would affect all the interactions that make up an ecosystem. The battle scientists fought crossed national borders and went beyond any one species in particular. It introduced environmental ethics into the field of international law, bridging ecological matters and international relations.  

The environmental crisis thus did not only concern scientists, but it reached the legal field as well. In 1990, these conversations were framed under the emerging field of “Green Criminology”, described as the aggregation of environmentalism, radicalism, and humanism (Lynch, 1990). The premise of this discipline mainly consists of safeguarding the Earth from the destruction derived from human activity, specifically: production and consumption behaviours, widespread corporatization and industrialization, in combination with weak regulations. Green Criminology creates a common space for the discussion of environmental crime while still maintaining the theoretical framework of traditional criminology (Brisman & South, 2014). Academics in the field have argued in favour of the incorporation of a 5th Crime against Peace: the law of ecocide. Thus, Green Criminology represents the bastion against ecocide (Higgins et al., 2013).  

As stated by Riezu (2022), “the health of humans and the health of the Earth do not walk parallel roads: they are the same thing. The cost of uncontrolled greed is our own existence”. Ecocide can then be understood as all careless and reckless activities that continue being perpetrated, in full awareness of the long-term, extensive, and grave harm they pose to the environment (Riezu, 2022). Ecocide can often be traced back to corporate crime, as this sector fosters an economic model of continuous growth at the expense of workers and natural resources.   


The fashion industry embodies similar patterns of corporatization and industrialization that lead to environmental destruction, thus it represents one of the main perpetrators of ecocide. For its broad audience, it delivers beautiful collections on runways worldwide each season. It also delivers the culture of overconsumption has pressured the industry into showcasing more collections in less time, ultimately giving rise to fast fashion. An exquisite craft turned into mass production as the turnover rate rapidly increased from one collection every seven to ten days.  

As these processes became automated, the use of cheap synthetic dyes to achieve bright and beautiful shades became more prevalent. With an annual production of 1 million tonnes, azo dyes represent 60-70% of the synthetic dye output (Carliell et al., 1998). But these wonderful hues come at a high cost, as several azo dyes have been found to release toxic and carcinogenic aromatic amines (IARC, 2010). Indeed, humans and animals alike can suffer from the genotoxic effects of having these substances in their environment (Carmen & Daniel, 2012). Additionally, the dyeing process generates 20% of the world’s wastewater (World Bank Group, 2019). The effluent produced at the different dyeing stages has been found to contain various inorganic salts, heavy metals (chrome, copper, and zinc, among others), dioxin, formaldehyde, in addition to azo groups (Malik et al., 2016; Verma et al., 2012). Once again, the health of humans and that of the environment intertwine: these compounds can be linked with several diseases, as well as causing lake eutrophication – the ample presence of chemicals changes the penetrance of light affecting the biodiversity of lakes (Malik et al., 2016). In summary, the use of dyes creates effluents that contaminate freshwater, it poses a health hazard to animals as well as humans, and—because of its antimicrobial activity—it can remain in the environment for extremely long periods of time.  

Further, the textile industry is responsible for 35% of microplastic in oceans due to the release of microfibres from synthetic fabrics that takes place with each washing cycle (de Falco et al., 2019). Synthetic fibres travel from our washing machines to sewages, squeeze through wastewater treatment plants, and make their way to beaches, deep sea sediments, and can be found even in commercially sold fish (de Falco et al., 2019).  

Additional ways through which the fashion industry infringes upon environmental wellbeing is through its astronomic consumption of water (93 billion cubic meters yearly), the release of 10% of the world’s annual carbon emissions, and the incineration or landfill-destined waste of 87% of the fiber production (World Bank Group, 2019). 

  • The use of azo dyes to colour both food and fabrics 
  • The ample us of PET (plastic and polyester) for packaging in both industries 
  • Microplastic pollution from synthetic fibres 
  • Food and textile waste 
  • Water consumption and contamination by these industries 
  • Habitat destruction for the harvest of raw materials  
  • Biodiversity loss/shifts in food networks as a consequence of pesticide use for crops 

a) Academic/peer reviewed 

Bédat, Maxine Unraveled. The Life and Death of a Garment. New York: Penguin, 2021.  

Brisman, A., & South, N. (2014). Green Cultural Criminology: Constructions of Environmental Harm, Consumerism, and Resistance to Ecocide (New Directions in Critical Criminology) (1st ed.). Routledge. 

Carliell, C. M., Barclay, S. J., Shaw, C., Wheatley, A. D., & Buckley, C. A. (1998). The Effect of Salts Used in Textile Dyeing on Microbial Decolourisation of a Reactive Azo Dye. Environmental Technology, 19(11), 1133–1137. 

Carmen, Z., & Daniel, S. (2012). Textile Organic Dyes – Characteristics, Polluting Effects and Separation/Elimination Procedures from Industrial Effluents – A Critical Overview. Organic Pollutants Ten Years After the Stockholm Convention - Environmental and Analytical Update. 

de Falco, F., di Pace, E., Cocca, M., & Avella, M. (2019). The contribution of washing processes of synthetic clothes to microplastic pollution. Scientific Reports, 9(1). 

Freinkel, Susan, Plastic. A Toxic Love Story. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011 

Gabrys, Jennifer, Gay Hawkins, and Mike Michael, eds. Accumulation: The Material Politics of Plastic. Routledge, 2013. 

Hawkins, Gay, Emily Potter, and Kane Race. Plastic Water: The Social and Material Life of Bottled Water. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2015. 

Higgins, P., Short, D., & South, N. (2013). Protecting the planet: a proposal for a law of ecocide. Crime, Law and Social Change, 59(3), 251–266. 

IARC. (2010). Some Aromatic Amines, Organic Dyes, and Related Exposures (IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Volume 99). Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer. 

Lynch, Michael J. (1990). The Greening of Criminology: A Perspective on the 1990s 2. Critical Criminologist 3–4:11–2. 

Malik, A., Grohmann, E., & Akhtar, R. (2016). Environmental Deterioration and Human Health: Natural and anthropogenic determinants (Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 2014 ed.). Springer. 

Meikle, Jeffrey L. American Plastic: a Cultural History. Rutgers University Press, 1995. 

Riezu, D. M. (2022). La moda justa: Una invitación a vestir con ética (Spanish Edition) (1st ed.). Editorial Anagrama. 

Verma, A. K., Dash, R. R., & Bhunia, P. (2012). A review on chemical coagulation/flocculation technologies for removal of colour from textile wastewaters. Journal of Environmental Management, 93(1), 154–168. 

World Bank Group. (2019, October 8). How Much Do Our Wardrobes Cost to the Environment? World Bank. 

Zierler, D. (2011). The Invention of Ecocide: Agent Orange, Vietnam, and the Scientists Who Changed the Way We Think About the Environment (Illustrated ed.). University of Georgia Press.