10 sustainable and ethical brands we love that are raising industry standards
The fashion industry is known for creating trends, and now it’s working on its most important trend yet: sustainability. And unlike some questionable fashion decisions, this is a trend all consumers can get behind. We know even Nordstrom is now selling used clothing. Everyone is starting to wake up to the fact that the consumer preference has changed, and she wants more eco-friendly products.
Increasingly, customers want to have a positive impact on the environment. Research shows that 88% of consumers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly. Yet, fashion is notorious for its wasteful practices that are hurting the environment. Fashion production releases 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, more than international flights and maritime shipping combined. The fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all water pollution worldwide. If the fashion industry continues on its current path, it will produce 26% of the world’s carbon footprint by 2050. Clearly, something needs to be done to remedy the situation and disrupt the industry.
Here are 10 fashion companies leading the way in sustainability. These companies, large and small, show the potential for sustainable fashion that looks good and does good.
From their materials to production to the way they treat their employees, Rothy’s has been sustainable since day one. I personally have two pairs of Rothy's I love walking around in, especially speaking on stage at business events. I am pregnant and comfort is everything. Also, as I learned on the Rachel Hollis podcast "Rise," they are made from 100% recycled plastic water bottles and post-consumer recycled materials.
For each item purchased, Tentree lives up to its name and plants 10 trees and even gives customers a code so they can track the growth of their trees. It is on track to plant one billion trees by 2030. Tentree’s clothing is made from ethically sourced and sustainable materials including cork, coconut and recycled polyester and produced in ethical factories.
Everlane mixes sustainability with transparency by sharing with customers the exact breakdown of the cost of each item and showing the factories where garments are made. The company builds strong relationships with factory owners to ensure that the employees and production meet Everlane’s high ethical standards. Everlane also recently released a line of clothing made from recycled plastic bottles and other reused materials.
This Colorado-based company sells certified organic and fair-trade clothing for the entire family. The entire supply chain, from growing and harvesting the non-GMO cotton to creating the final pieces, is as sustainable and clean as possible and includes processes that use significantly less water than traditional cotton. Pact also reuses old clothing and linens to create many of its items.
Patagonia not only uses sustainable materials in its outerwear, but it also helps customers repair their clothing instead of buying new items. Patagonia follows fair-trade practices and closely monitors its supply chain to make it safe for the environment, workers and consumers. Its goal is to find solutions to environmental issues without causing unnecessary harm to the world. Because the products are so durable, customers are encouraged to recycle old Patagonia gear and purchase items second hand.
Denim is notorious for requiring huge amounts of water to create one pair of jeans, but Levi’s new collection, Water<Less, uses up to 96% less water. For this and all of its products, Levi’s is committed to sustainability through the entire design and manufacturing process, including working towards 100% sustainably sourced cotton and recycling old jeans into home insulation.
H&M is moving away from its fast fashion roots with the Conscious collection, made of materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester. By using eco-friendly fabrics and more sustainable production methods, the company hopes to reduce its environmental footprint. Customers can also recycle unwanted garments at H&M stores and get a discount for a future purchase. As a whole, H&M has a goal to use only sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
Each stylish item from Reformation comes with a description and score of its environmental footprint to help customers understand the impact of their clothing. The pieces are made of upcycled and sustainable materials in fair wage environments. Reformation has been carbon neutral since 2015 and helps protect deforested areas to offset its manufacturing. Customers can also sell their old clothing to Reformation to earn credit for new pieces.
This clothing brand makes sustainably sourced garments in smaller batches to avoid the waste of unsold items. Amour Vert partners directly with mills to ensure items are made using non-toxic dyes and the most sustainable fabrics. For every item purchased, Amour Vert plants a tree. The company also follows a zero-waste policy and finds creative solutions to recycle and reuse items.
Every aspect of Eileen Fisher’s design and manufacturing process is built to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible, from the materials used to the ethical treatment of the workers who sew the pieces. The company avoids air shipping and uses creative processes to limit fabric waste. Eileen Fisher buys back used items to recycle into new garments or turn into art if the clothing can’t be resold.
Founded in 1991, People Tree was one of the first sustainable fashion brands. It is the only brand credited by the World Fair Trade Organization and invests heavily in sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, including organic farming. People Tree promotes fair wages and good working conditions and uses sustainable materials like organic cotton, natural fibers and chemical free dyes.
Consumers are looking to move away from fast fashion to more environmentally friendly options that are as stylish as they are responsible. These companies show that even small improvements to the materials and processes can create a major and much-needed change in the fashion industry.