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Why The Cheapest Athleisure Brands Are Not Sustainable


Your favorite cheapest activewear brand may not be as sustainable as you think.

As more and more consumers demand eco-friendly products, large brands and retailers are trying to meet customers' expectations without ever reaching them.

Key players in the sportswear market include Hanesbrands, Adidas, Columbia Sportswear, VF Corporation, Under Armor, Mizuno Corporation, ASICS, NIKE, PUMA and Gap.

These market leaders have adopted various market strategies such as cheap product launches and collaboration, as well as partnerships to keep their strong position on the market.

Yoga pants and leggings are the flagship products of the athleisure trend. The leading brands for yoga pants and leggings are Victoria's Secret, Aeropostale, and ALO.

Other prominent market players include 2XU, Patagonia, Vie Active, Fila, Ralph Lauren, Jockey, Beyond Yoga and Lululemon.

On the other hand, some smaller fashion brands already offer affordable eco-friendly athleisure apparel in the United States: Yoga Democracy, VYAYAMA, Satva, Groceries Apparel, Boody, PACT, Outdoor Voices, and Alternative Apparel.

But sustainability isn't a trend. It's a revolution. The textile and apparel industry is one of the largest polluting industries in the world. Change needs to happen a lot faster.

If you are new to the concept of sustainability, learn more about what sustainable fashion is in our article.


What we should be expecting from athleisure brands and retailers is local production and sales, as well as resource-efficient manufacturing, respecting animal and human rights, economic and social sustainability.

Many cheap athleisure brands provide insufficient relevant information on how they might reduce their impact on humans, the planet and animals.

Customers have the right to know how the products they buy affect these issues.

Here are the major issues the industry is facing and what should be done instead.

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Hanesbrands

The problem

Consumption reductions of only 22% energy and 31% water since 2007. Only 40% renewable energy from sustainable sources.

What they should be doing

100% renewable energy. CO2-neutral, organic, low in water, pollution-free and transparent supply chain.



Adidas

The problem

Only a 20% reduction in waste production, energy consumption and water consumption by 2020. Very low proportion of organic and recycled materials.

What they should be doing

Zero waste production. 100% of waste is recycled. All products made from organic and recycled materials.



Columbia Sportswear

The problem

Only 50% of the supply chain follow textile standards for environmentally friendly and safe production.

What they should be doing

100% of their partners certified for environmentally friendly and safe production.



VF Corporation

The problem

Target for 2025: only 50% of nylon and polyester comes from recycled materials.

What they should be doing

100% of nylon and polyester comes from recycled materials.



Under Armour

The problem

The weakest values ​​in all aspects of environmental protection. No land and species protection. Slave labor in Uzbekistan.

What they should be doing

No forest destruction, human rights violations or pollution.



Mizuno Corporation

The problem

Reduction of CO2 emissions by only 30% by 2030. Percentage of sales with certified products: 92%

What they should be doing

All products are certified. Climate-neutral production and shipping.



ASICS

The problem

Only 15% renewable energy, 91% recycled waste. Low proportion of recycled materials.

What they should be doing

100% renewable energy. Zero-waste manufacturing. All products made from organic and recycled materials.



NIKE

The problem

Only 73% of products made from recycled materials. No transparency in the supply chain. Dangerous chemicals.

What they should be doing

All products made from organic and recycled materials. Total openness. Manufacturing without harmful chemicals.



PUMA

The problem

Only 50% of all cotton used in PUMA clothing and 66% of all polyester come from more sustainable sources.

What they should be doing

100% of all cotton and polyester comes from more sustainable sources.



Gap

The problem

Very few initiatives to protect workers. No welfare concerning animals or workers. Only a few factories checked.

What they should be doing

100% of all clothing without animal products or by-products. Eco-friendly and fair products. Compliance with social labor standards.


Victoria's Secret

The problem

No environmentally friendly materials at all. Not paying a living wage in the entire supply chain.

What they should be doing

Exclusively environmentally friendly materials and living wages in the supply chain.


Aeropostale

The problem

Connected to sweatshop factories in Asia, China, Vietnam. No environmentally friendly products.

What they should be doing

Exclusively environmentally friendly products and compliance with all human rights.



ALO

The problem

Mediocre materials, no environmentally friendly products, no transparency of the supply chain, poor customer service.

What they should be doing

High-quality fabrics, 100% ecological products, high transparency, excellent service.



2XU

The problem

No ecological sustainability and insufficient relevant information.

What they should be doing

Total openness, clear statement, goals, and values.




Patagonia

The problem

No objective to reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions. Dangerous chemicals. Only 56% of the products with certification.

What they should be doing

All products with certification. Clear targets. Only harmless chemicals.



Vie Active

The problem

No environmentally friendly products and insufficient relevant information.

What they should be doing

All products are environmentally friendly. Clear communication.


Fila

The problem

No ecological sustainability and insufficient relevant information.

What they should be doing

Total openness, clear statement, goals, and values.



Jockey

The problem

No guidelines for the environment, carbon emissions or labor conditions.

What they should be doing

Exclusively environmentally friendly products and a transparent supply chain.



Beyond Yoga

The problem

Very few products made from organic and recycled materials. No improvement goals.

What they should be doing

All products are environmentally friendly. Clear communication.


Lululemon

The problem

Very few products made from organic and recycled materials. No objective to reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions. Only 60% of the products with certification.

What they should be doing

Certification for all products. Clear targets. All products made from organic and recycled materials.



Yoga Democracy

The problem

Very few products made from organic and recycled materials. No objective to reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions. Only 60% of the products with certification.

What they should be doing

100% renewable energy. All products made from organic and recycled materials. Clear targets.



VYAYAMA

The problem

No renewable energy. No improvement goals. No climate-neutral shipping.

What they should be doing

100% renewable energy. Clear targets. Climate-neutral shipping.



Satva

The problem

No renewable energy. No certification. No objective to reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions.

What they should be doing

100% renewable energy. Certification for all products. Climate-neutral, low-water and transparent supply chain.



Groceries Apparel

The problem

No renewable energy. No improvement goals. No climate-neutral shipping.

What they should be doing

100% renewable energy. Clear targets. Climate-neutral shipping.



Boody

The problem

Harmful chemicals. No objective to reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions.

What they should be doing

Clear targets. Climate-neutral production and shipping. Only harmless chemicals.



PACT

The problem

No renewable energy. No objective to reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions.

What they should be doing

100% renewable energy. Climate-neutral, low-water and transparent supply chain.



Outdoor Voices

The problem

Uses animal products and by-products. No improvement goals. Very few products made from organic and recycled materials.

What they should be doing

All products without animal materials and ecological. Clear targets.



Alternative Apparel

The problem

No renewable energy. No certification. Very few products made from organic and recycled materials. No improvement goals.

What they should be doing

100% renewable energy. Certification for all products. All products made from organic and recycled materials.




Some athleisure brands and retailers are making an effort to better their environmental impact. Others aren't.

Change needs to happen faster in the fashion industry, especially in the cheapest market segment.

Now is the time to work toward greater social and environmental integrity. The troubling issues of the whole fashion system have to be addressed.

Consumers have their role to play as well. Understanding what sustainable fashion really is and what it means to you is crucial.

You have the power to decide who to support with your money. To make better purchasing decisions, read up our guide How to check if a fashion brand is ethical.


Is there any athleisure brand that we missed?

 

About the Author: Alex Assoune

Alex Assoune Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks four languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.


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