When Lily Cole found out about the terrible conditions suffered by children forced to harvest cotton crops in countries like Uzbekistan and India, the 22-year-old set out to make a difference.

The former Playboy model who most recently starred in the film "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," was given the information by the Environmental Justice Foundation. "I had thought the problem was just sweatshops," she said. "I cried when I read it."

Cole immediately launched The North Circular, an ethical knitwear business that donates 5 percent of profits to the Environmental Justice Foundation.

"I set (the brand) up with two friends," she said. "They run it day to day, but I'm still involved, particularly with promoting it. It's only been going a few years, but it's working ... I like (ethical fashion) in the same way that I like to think that my soap and food are properly made. If my hat's knitted by a lovely woman in England, that becomes quite important. It makes me feel better about it."

Cole's company recently won the RSPCA Good Business Awards large company prize for its "stylish designs and its animal-friendly methods of production." One example of this is the company's use of wool from flocks of rescued sheep.

RSPCA Director of Communications David Bowles said: "All these companies were recognized for leading the way in animal welfare in the high street and on the catwalk, and deserve our recognition as they set the standard for others to work towards."

Cole can next be seen in the historical epic, "There Be Dragons," due for release in 2011.

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Lily Cole cried over unethical cotton farming
As a result, model-turned-actress launched ethical fashion brand to raise awareness of environmental issues in the fashion industry.