For consumers For business
man wearing denim
07 Mar
man wearing denim

Are the Biggest Denim Brands Sustainable? We Rated Them All to Find Out

Denim is a notoriously unsustainable and polluting industry, but are any brands making efforts to change? Here, we examine data from Good On You’s ratings to find out which brands are making more responsible jeans, and which ones still need a nudge in the right direction.

Why is denim unsustainable?

Before we get to which brands are doing the best (and worst), it’s important to understand the biggest sustainability challenges facing the denim world today.

As an industry rooted in making durable garments, denim ought to have some good sustainability credentials, right? Unfortunately, factors such as fast fashion and overconsumption have led to denim having an appalling track record for its impact on the environment, the workers in its supply chain, and on animals, too.

Some of the most common sustainability issues within the modern denim industry are water usage—the exact statistics for this vary depending on the source, but back in 2015, Levi’s noted that 3,781 litres of water were used in the production of a single pair of its 501 jeans. There is also the use and mismanagement of chemical dyes for achieving the fabric’s signature indigo colour (or, for natural indigo dye, the resources involved in growing the plant at scale); challenges in recycling blended yarns used to make denim; and a take-make-waste business model that deprioritises the repairs and garment care that would extend the life of many denim items.

Are denim brands actually doing anything about these issues? We’ve reviewed Good On You’s ratings of the largest denim brands today to find out and, well, the answers aren’t pretty.

The largest denim brands are (mostly) the worst

At the time of writing, most of the world’s largest denim producers—which dominate a significant portion of the industry’s supply chains—are still failing people, the planet, and animals. Our ratings are scored across a five-point scale, ranging from “We Avoid” through to “Great”, and unfortunately almost all of these denim brands received our two lowest ratings. Take a look below:

And when you consider just how many people on the planet wear jeans on a daily basis—and how many of those might’ve been made by the companies listed above—it’s not hard to understand how the industry has ended up in such a sorry state.

The exception to this is Levi’s, which receives our middling “It’s A Start” rating. But is Levi’s sustainable? In our most recent rating review, we found that the brand is taking some positive steps. It has implemented a biodiversity policy, and recycles fabric offcuts, but despite calls, it still hasn’t joined the Pakistan Safety Accord, and it still uses leather and wool in its clothes. This rating signifies a step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.

Levi’s is perhaps the best known denim company in the world, and to see that is moving forward—albeit slowly—could help to encourage other brands to do the same.

What are the best sustainable denim brands?

The reality is that those with the most power to change the denim industry aren’t pulling their weight, and while that might seem a little bleak, there is hope. Below, we’ve listed some of the denim brands rated “Good” and “Great” against our world-leading methodology, that are doing the work to foster a more sustainable denim industry.

E.L.V. Denim

Rated: Great
Someone in upcycled denim jacket and jeans by ELV Denim.

E.L.V. Denim is an industry pioneer, using entirely old and second-hand denim to create new styles after washing and recutting it. The brand manufactures its products local to its east London HQ to reduce the climate impact of shipping, and it offers custom made jeans to fit your exact sizing.

Outland Denim

Rated: Great

Outland Denim believes that “sustainable jeans must enrich the lives of the people who made them… be made in a way that respects and protects our planet, [and] that is economically viable for generations to come.” The brand uses lower impact fabrics, traces all of its supply chain, and visits suppliers regularly.

Nudie Jeans

Rated: Great

Nudie Jeans is on a mission to “create tomorrow’s vintage” by making jeans that last using lower impact materials, and offering repairs when they do need some attention. The brand also has reuse and recycling programs to minimise the amount of garments and materials going to landfill.


Rated: Good

Los Angeles’ SLVRLAKE creates denim inspired by its native city, and some of its final stage of production happens locally, too. The brand uses lower impact materials including GOTS certified cotton.

MUD Jeans

Rated: Great
A man wears navy jeans and a blue top

MUD Jeans has been a leader in sustainable denim for more than a decade, having pioneered a jeans leasing scheme in 2013. Today, the life cycles of all its products have circular principles embedded, it traces most of its supply chain, uses lower impact materials including GOTS certified cotton and also has a repairs program.

Dawn Denim

Rated: Great


Models in Dawn Denim clothing

Dawn Denim – Site-wide (EU)

More sustainably and fairly-made jeans and pants. DAWN jeans come in a variety of fits to suit your unique style and body shape. Exclusive 15% off with code GOODONYOUXDAWN15 (Only available in EU) (Ends: 5 AUG)

Checkout code: GOODONYOUXDAWN15
Shop now

Vegan label DAWN Denim says that the most sustainable jeans are the ones you already own, and that it was founded to offer more ethical pairs when you do need to replace your existing jeans. Its aim is to bridge the gap between consumers and garment workers, and it is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation.

Kings of Indigo

Rated: Good

Combining timeless denim silhouettes with a high level of craftsmanship and transparency, Kings Of Indigo makes jeans you’ll be able to wear for the long term. The first and second stages of its production take place closer to home in order to reduce shipping and its climate impact.


Rated: Great
People in denim jackets and shirts by Non.

UK-based non specialises in raw selvedge denim and is certified by PETA as a vegan brand. It uses lower impact materials, recycles its textile offcuts, and uses recycled packaging that is designed to be easily recycled at home.


Rated: Great

US-based Triarchy creates more sustainable jeans, skirts, shorts, jumpsuits, and jackets. The brand’s production system uses 85% recycled water by consistently reusing the "thick indigo laden sludge" that unmonitored factories dump into water systems.

Find most of the jeans in US sizes 24-32.

See the rating.

Shop Triarchy.

Shop Triarchy @ LVRSustainable.


Rated: Good

Reformation uses lower impact fabrics such as TENCEL Lyocell, organic cotton and regeneratively grown cotton in its denim, alongside other lower impact materials that help limit the chemicals, water, and wastewater in its supply chain. The brand also offers extended sizing across its denim collection.

Editor's note

Feature image via Canva, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world's most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands.

Ethical brand ratings. There’s an app for that.

Wear the change you want to see. Download our app to discover ethical brands and see how your favourites measure up.