The Fashion Industry Has a Sustainability Problem. These Brands Are Addressing It.
From H&M to Uniqlo, the biggest brands are trying to solve a growing problem
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The exact negative environmental impact of the fashion industry remains largely unknown despite the facts and figures you’ve seen online, but one thing’s for sure: it’s a big problem. The problem is so widespread that fashion brands are quickly developing strategies to shrink their footprints, from the use of bio-based materials to recycling initiatives to “rent-the-runway” concepts. In fact, we’ve spotlighted brands in the outdoor industry with similar initiatives, but the fashion industry is quickly gaining ground.
While it’s true that consumers and brands could always do more on behalf of the planet, we need to start small if we’re to create serious, lasting change. As we look to support brands that help us be more environmentally friendly, consider shopping the following big names demonstrating the potential for sustainable fashion that’s as good for the planet as it looks.
Wondering how sustainable your favorite fashion label is? Find out by using Good On You, a world-leading source of trusted brand ratings on ethical and sustainable fashion that we referred to for this roundup.
Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo’s recently launched Re.Uniqlo program aims to collect branded garments from around the world for reuse in new products. Pieces dropped off at collection bins found in stores worldwide are classified into 18 detailed categories to fulfill recipient needs while other items are recycled for use as alternative fuel in an effort to reduce CO2 emissions. What’s more, the brand also works with NGOs and partners to distribute used clothing to underserved communities worldwide.
For every item purchased, Tentree plants 10 trees in the ground and provides customers with a unique code to track the growth of their trees over time. The brand’s latest predictions suggest it will plant one billion trees by 2030, and apparel is currently made from a blend of ethically sourced and sustainable materials such as coconut, cork, recycled polyester and organic cotton. Its packaging uses some sustainable materials to limit the use of chemicals and water, decreasing the number of fluorinated chemicals that enter the environment during manufacturing.
Women’s fashion label Reformation has benefited from its transparent sustainable practices for years. For instance, each item comes with a description and score of its environmental footprint to help consumers better understand the impact of their purchase, and countless pieces are made with upcycled or sustainable materials in fair-wage environments. Carbon neutral since 2015, the label also helps protect deforested environments to offset its impact and customers can resell their apparel to Reformation for store credit.
This surf-inspired label, founded by pro-surfer Kelly Slater, sells a roster of organic and fair-trade clothing that we’ve worn around the office for years. From heavyweight button-downs to hard-wearing pants, Outerknown is committed to using 90% organic, recycled or regenerated materials while investing in the lives of over 5,000 workers through Fair Trade USA. Equally impressive is its in-depth sustainability roadmap featuring initiatives through 2030, as well as its flexibility that places an emphasis on constant evolution.
The Colorado-based brand, which describes itself as Earth’s Favorite Clothing, receives solid marks from Good On You, which notes its high proportion of eco-friendly materials and manufacturing facilities that are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified. Its soft, colorful apparel also shares space with bed and bath linens, so consider this a one-stop shop for most everything you need to look and feel good without harming the planet.
There may be no fashion label on this list more transparent and sustainably-driven than UK-based People Tree. Receiving incredibly high marks for its labor and planetary standards, every single garment is made from environmentally friendly materials including Fairtrade certified organic cotton and natural dyes. As a member of the WFTO Guarantee System, it adheres to a strict set of environmental guidelines while promoting fair wages and safe working conditions. Founded in 1991, it’s considered one of the first sustainable fashion labels to open shop before sustainability was cool.
In spite of its size, H&M has slowly moved away from its fast-fashion roots in recent years. The company now publishes detailed information about its suppliers and supply chain policies and sets science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations. The celebrated Conscious Collection is made of materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester, and customers can recycle old H&M apparel at stores nationwide for credit towards a future purchase. While the brand has plenty of room for improvement in the sustainability space, it’s not as negatively impactful as you might assume.
Developed by engineers and backed by data, the brand produces zero emissions, zero waste, is climate-neutral certified, and captures carbon in bio-based fabrics. Its water-repellent fabrics are PFOA-free and mills have environmentally responsible production certifications through BlueSign and/or Oeko-Tex 100. Truth be told, we could detail the brand’s sustainability efforts for quite some time, so consider reading more about its accomplishments here.
Falling in love with quality denim has always been easy, but it’s made even easier by Nudie Jeans’ commitment to sustainable practices that include using a high proportion of eco-friendly materials such as Global Organic Textile Standard cotton, scraps from old apparel and offcuts from textile waste. It’s also a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to improve conditions for workers in garment factories and ensures a living wage (with plans to further improve wages in the coming years). Receiving a top score from Good On You, make this your go-to source for all things denim.
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