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How sustainable is sustainable underwear?




Welcome to my new series called “HOW SUSTAINABLE IS _______.”


One thing I’ve been noticing a lot of in the sustainable space is that when a new brand becomes popular, a lot of people like to hop on the trend without even checking to see if it’s actually sustainable.


So I decided to do some digging & scour brands’ websites in order to provide a detailed analysis that’s easy to understand and people can make their own informed decisions from.


Up first I decided to do underwear, just because I was doing some research for myself bc all the undies I bought from VS and Aerie 5 years ago are on their way out and I wanted to search for a better replacement.


When asking for suggestions, an overwhelming amount of people suggested Parade. And (full disclosure) I have been gifted underwear from them on a few occasions. I love their underwear, but I saw claims that they weren’t as sustainable as they say they are (which most people ignored). AND I noticed that when they released their carbon neutral underwear I saw it EVERYWHERE. Which meant a lot of gifting was going on and they come out with a lot of collections.


So I decided to look into it. And while I was at it I decided to look into a few other sustainable underwear brands while I was at it.


I did my best to look at all aspects of brands with this analysis, but I do want to mention a few things. One thing my analysis does not include is packaging. I simply was running out of space, which is why I also was not able to include every single certification for some brands. All information included was what was made publicly available on their respective websites.


Going forward with this series, I will be analyzing one brand at a time so that I have more space to include more information. So bear with me as I try to maneuver that.


IMPORTANT NOTE: this roundup is not to shame the brands or people who shop at these brands in any way. I’m making this series so that you all can make informed decisions when you decide to shop a brand and you can decide for yourself if they are truly sustainable.


If there is a brand or product category that you would like me to look into, drop it in the comments!


Now, let's get started!


ORGANIC Basics


Where are they made? Portugal, Turkey, Italy, Austria, Scotland


What are they made out of? Recycled nylon, TENCEL, Recycled wool, Recycled cashmere, Organic cotton


Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? Yes. They publish an impact report which is available on their website, which includes analysis of if their goals were met for the previous year and lists initiatives for the following year.


Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? Yes. Each product page has care instructions listed.


Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? Yes. It is probably one of the most detailed factory pages I have ever seen. It not only lists names and locations of factories, but production capacity, what processes occur at the factory, certifications, products made at the factory, and more.


Do they track its scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Yes. These statistics are found in their Impact Report.


Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? Yes. All factories hold a variety of certifications that ensure fair wage and treatment of workers.


Do they have any social impact/environmental impact/give back initiative in place? Yes. Through the Organic Basics Fund, they donate a portion of profits to grassroots activists and organizations that advocate for justice for both the planet and communities.


Other notes: While silver has antimicrobial properties, there is no substantial proof that silver-coated fabrics can keep bacteria at bay or require less washes. Which makes the messaging surrounding their SilverTech collection potentially problematic.


Boody


Where are they made? China


What are they made out of? Rayon and viscose made from bamboo, Spandex, Nylon


Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? Yes. There is a page listing all certifications for their garments on their website. Each product page lists “Positive Impacts of This Item” (energy, emissions, and water saved + land farmed without pesticides). There are no targets or actions listed on their website.


Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? Yes. Each product page has care instructions listed. There is additionally extra care instructions on their FAQ page.


Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? The only supplier listed is the company that produces the bamboo to make the yarn for Boody’s apparel.


Do they track its scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Unknown. Emissions saved per product are listed on their website. However, company wide emissions and impact are not listed, nor is an annual report shared.


Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? Yes. According to its website its factories are WRAP certified, one pillar of which is “pay at least the minimum total compensation required by local law.”


Other notes: Boody’s bamboo yarn is Ecocert certified, but their products are not. Which makes the listing of their Ecocert certification misleading. Although this discrepancy is listed on their website.


knickey


Where are they made? India


What are they made out of? Organic cotton, Elastane


Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? Yes. Targets are listed in their Impact Report, although some are general with no end goal date, actions are vague, or have no measurement of success. The most recent report on their website was for 2019.


Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? Yes. There is also a laundry section on its Our Impact page.


Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? The locations of their factories are listed but not the names of the factories.


Do they track its scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Yes. These statistics are included in their Impact Report.


Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? Yes. Their facilities are Fair Trade certified, which ensure living wages of workers.


Other notes: They offer a recycling program for all old underwear, including those that aren’t Knickey.


Proclaim


Where are they made? Los Angeles, CA


What are they made out of? Tencel, Repreve Recycled Polyester, Spandex


Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? Yes. Although there are no targets or actions to meet targets listed and no annual report is published.


Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? Each product page has basic care instructions listed.


Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? No. Only the location of their factory is listed.


Do they track its scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Unknown. If they do, it is not disclosed on their website.


Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? Yes. According to their website they pay their workers by the hour instead of the piece rate. Although there are no independent certifications to support this claim.


Other notes: They are a size-inclusive brand - their products are available up to a 3X.


underprotection


Where are they made? Latvia, India, China, Italy, France, Greece


What are they made out of? TENCEL, Recycled and virgin wool, Organic cotton, Recycled polyester, Q-NOVA recycled nylon, banana fiber, Roica Eco-Smart recycled elastane, Milk fiber


Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? Yes. Although there are no targets or actions to meet targets listed and no annual report is published.


Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? Yes. Each product page has care instructions listed and there is a special Wash & Care page which details more sustainable laundering processes for each type of fiber.


Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? No. All factory locations are not disclosed and locations of where items are made is only available on product pages.


Do they track its scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Unknown. If they do, it is not disclosed on their website.


Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? Yes. Their factories are BSCI, WRAP, and Sedex certified, which all ensure fair wages.


Other notes: Also a Certified B Corp


Parade


Where are they made? China


What are they made out of? Recycled nylon, Elastane, Organic cotton


Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? Yes. A few targets are listed, but they do not provide actions to meet these targets and no annual report is published.


Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? Their FAQ page mentions special washing needs for reducing microplastics and basic care instructions.


Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? No.


Do they track its scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Unknown. If they do, it is not disclosed on their website.


Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? Yes. Their factories are BSCI and Sedex certified, which ensure fair wages.


Do they have any social impact/environmental impact/give back initiative in place? Donates 1% of ur revenue to Planned Parenthoods across the U.S.


Other notes: They are a size-inclusive brand - their products are available up to a size 3X. They drop new lines and colors every 2 weeks, which is a high-production model. They also gift out hundreds of pairs of underwear with each launch, which is not a sustainable model.


ARQ


Where are they made? U.S.


What are they made out of? Organic cotton, Spandex


Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? No. There is also not an annual report published.


Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? Yes. Each product page and their FAQ page includes basic care instructions.


Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? No. We only know they are made in the U.S. A more specific location has not been identified.


Do they track its scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Unknown. If they do, it is not disclosed on their website.


Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? Yes. According to their website they pay their workers fair wages, although it is not a requirement for the two certifications they hold.


Do they have any social impact/environmental impact/give back initiative in place? No.


Other notes: They are a size-inclusive brand - their products are available up to a size 3X.


tomboyx


Where are they made? Asia and South America - exact locations are undisclosed on their website.


What are they made out of? Oeko-Tex certified Organic cotton, TENCEL, Spandex


Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? Yes. A few targets are listed, but they do not provide actions to meet these targets and no annual report is published.


Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? Yes. Each product page and their FAQ page includes basic care instructions.


Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? No. Countries of origin are not disclosed on their website.


Do they track its scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Unknown. If they do, it is not disclosed on their website.


Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? Yes. Their factories are WRAP, SA8000, ICS, FLA, and Sedex certified, which ensure fair wages.


Do they have any social impact/environmental impact/give back initiative in place? Yes. Every quarter they donate a portion of profits to a few local, national, or global non-profits, including The LGBTQ Freedom Fund, YouthCare, ACLU, and NDRC.


Other notes: They are a gender and size-inclusive brand - their products are available up to a size 6X and fit tested on all bodies, too.


Now let's look at the regular guys, aka Victoria's Secret and Aerie.


Regular Undies


Where are they made? Portugal, Turkey, Italy, Austria, Scotland


What are they made out of? Viscose, Cotton, Nylon, and Polyester. Aerie has its Real Good line, which is made from recycled nylon and polyester. VS also has some styles that are partially made using recycled polyester.


Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? AEO Inc., the parent company of Aerie, has a detailed page with targets and actions to meet these targets. L Brands, the parent company of VS, only has a general paragraph on environmental responsibility with no listed targets or actions.


Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? Aerie - yes. Each product page has basic care instructions. VS - no.


Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? No.


Do they track its scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Unknown. If they do, it is not disclosed on their websites.


Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? No. Both make claims that they adhere to high standards of social responsibility, but have no certifications to back up their claims.


Do they have any social impact/environmental impact/give back initiative in place? VS - no. Aerie - AEO has a companywide volunteering day and the AEO Foundation supports several national and local nonprofits.


Other notes: Both were brands that didn't pay their suppliers for cancelled orders last year due to COVID-19 (and still have not, as of this publication).




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