Activewear has never been more fashionable – people aren’t just wearing it to the gym, they’re wearing it to the shops, to cafes and even to work. But is it ethical?
Sports fashion brands have often come under fire for their unethical manufacturing processes. These sometimes involve sweatshops, child labour and unsustainable manufacturing processes.
So, how can you be sure you’re fave training apparel isn’t hurting workers, children or the environment?
Turn the clock back 20 years and sports giant Nike was considered one of the worst offenders. In fact, by 1998, the company had to lay off staff as its sales plummeted, prompting a major rethink.
But while much has been done to help improve conditions for workers around the world, is it enough?
There is definitely still work to be done. That means consumers need to make informed choices about which brands they choose to support.
Research your brands at a comparison website like guideethical.com.au which grades companies on how socially and environmentally responsible their business practices are.
According to the site, the best rated companies (with a B grade) are Slazenger, Everlast, A League, NFL and NRL. That means that while they have “lesser praises” than they perhaps should, there are “no criticisms”.
No sportswear brands were given an A grade.
More mainstream brands such as Adidas, Nike, Lululemon, Mizuno, New Balance, Converse and Reebok all came in with a C grade meaning “lesser criticisms” but no specific praises.
The worst offenders, according to the report, included Brooks, Asics, Spalding and Champion. Consumers were advised to “boycott” these companies with an F grade.
If you’re concerned, check out the new generation of activewear brands which are committed to inspiring people to make “positive consumer choices”.
For example, Aussie brand Dharma Bums promises that “every person involved with bringing our product to life is treated with respect, works in safe, clean conditions and receives a fair pay”.
Bhumi meanwhile states its position quite clearly.
“We believe the negative effects of conventional cotton farming and what goes on in the textile industry is not acceptable anymore,” it says on its website.
“Everyone involved should be treated fairly with no child labour.”
Then there’s Teeki, the eco-conscious wear brand that turns plastic water bottles into sports clothes.
But watch this space. The big brands are also working hard to play in this ever more popular “sustainable” space.
Nike’s Flyknit range uses only the materials needed to knit the upper of a shoe. It reduces waste using special yarns, knitted together to create one lightweight upper.
The company has also expanded its use of recycled polyester in performance apparel. By using recycled PET plastic bottles, it saves raw materials and reduces energy consumption by an estimated 30% compared to manufacturing virgin polyester.
Meanwhile, Adidas will make one million pairs of shoes using Parley Ocean Plastic in 2017 with its overarching ambition said to be to eliminate virgin plastic from its supply chain.
Do you try to be ethical with your sportswear choices?