Japanese global apparel brand



How sustainable is Uniqlo?


Uniqlo is a fast-fashion brand. The company is owned by Fast Retailing Inc., which is the mother company for a number of Japanese brands, like Uniqlo, GU, PLST and Helmut Lang. The company reports as a mother company, so the public information about Uniqlo in particular is the same for its eight sister brands. While the fast fashion company announced change with the introduction of a Human Rights and an Environmental Policy in 2018, it’s still at a very early stage. Uniqlo’s 2018 Environmental Policy stated that it’s going to adopt the use of more sustainable materials including the banning of fur. It also announced recycling and water reduction. There’s a target for 100% more sustainable cotton by 2025, for which it has joined the Better Cotton Initiative. The fashion brand is also implementing water reduction techniques in jeans manufacturing and committing to recycling with its repair and reuse program. But while these are great developments, it’s still baby steps compared to what is possible. The company’s supply chain is not being monitored and improved with the help of environmental management tools, like the Higg Index, which can track data on important topics like energy consumption and chemicals. Because the company is either not in possession of the data or chooses not to publish it, these environmental performance factors remain largely unknown. Without the proper tracking of these elements of its supply chain, a calculation of its carbon footprint is impossible, which is why a supply chain footprint is missing and the company has no targets in place to reduce them either. Besides that, Uniqlo’s material policy is not good, with currently no sustainable fibers at all. From a big company like Fast Retailing with global presence, more is to be expected. The Japanese retailer doesn’t offer much transparency concerning its operations. The company has a Human Rights Policy and it conducts third-party audits through its membership with the Fair Labor Association. All of the factories that the company works with are required to sign Fast Retailing’s Code of Conduct and agree to be assessed by third-party audits like the Fair Labor Association, who report on its findings and indicate whether Fast Retailing Inc remediates the faults. These are mostly related to fire safety, safety at the workplace and overtime. There is also no proof that the company takes action towards payment of a living wage. It shows that, out of the 617 factories Fast Retailing works with, the FLA conducted sixty assessments between 2016 and 2018 in mainly China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. The company is improving labor conditions, but can improve reporting by increasing transparency and including data of labor violations.

Publication date: March 31st 2020
Show sources

Best alternatives


Sustainable shopping made easy