10 Nov

How Ethical Is Bonds?

From humble beginnings as a Sydney cotton mill over 100 years ago, Bonds has grown to become the number one underwear brand in Australia. It’s fair to say Aussies love their bonds, but do we love the company’s ethical practices? We take a look at what goes on behind the scenes to see if Bonds truly live up to its good reputation.

Environmental impact

Bonds seems to have an on-again-off-again, love-hate relationship with the planet. Its rating here has gone up and down over the years as it sets but doesn’t follow up on goals, a classic case of greenwashing in the fast fashion industry. Its latest score here is “Not Good Enough”.

It uses some eco-friendly materials including organic cotton and recycled PET plastic, and it has set an absolute target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations. It also reuses some of its offcuts to minimise textile waste. However, it has not set a supply chain target for emissions reduction, and has made no commitment to eliminate hazardous chemicals from its supply chain.

Labour conditions

The rollercoaster continues with labour conditions. Bonds was scoring well on the labour front with a “Good” rating a couple years ago, but it has taken a dive and landed on “Not Good Enough” in the latest review. Despite some signs of decent progress over the years, it only scored 31-40% in the Fashion Transparency Index. The brand was also lauded last year for taking another step towards payment of a living wage in its supply chain, but until it actually implements fair wages its score will likely remain low.

Animal welfare

Bonds makes products that are generally free of animal materials except for silk so it is not applicable to rate its impact on animals. We calculate the overall rating from environment and labour scores only.

Overall rating: Not good enough

Overall, we rate Bonds “Not Good Enough” based on information from our own research. While it is taking some steps towards more earth- and people-friendly conduct, it needs to follow through on its commitments and make real change if it is going to achieve a higher score. Note that Good On You ratings consider 100s of issues, and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information, see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.

See the rating.

Don’t let this bring you down, though. There are plenty of ethical alternatives for underwear, sleepwear, and babywear rated “Good” or “Great” that deserve your support. Here are just some of our faves.

Good swaps

Ethical alternatives to Bonds

nat’v basics

Rated: Good
woman wearing natv basics top and bottom

nat'v basics is an Australian eco-friendly underwear label designed for the everyday woman. Made from recycled and sustainable materials, nat'v basics pieces are designed to be the most comfortable basics you’ll ever wear. No frills or trims or awkward bits—so you can put them on and forget you’re wearing them! Find most items in sizes 8 to 16.

See the rating.

Shop nat'v basics.

Etiko

Rated: Great
basic black trunks organic cotton by Etiko

Etiko is an Australian designer of organic, eco-friendly, and fair trade clothing and shoes. The brand constantly sets the bar for upholding and campaigning the human rights of people working in traditionally exploitative industry supply chains. Find the clothes in AU sizes 8-20, and the shoes in UK sizes 3-13.

See the rating.

Shop Etiko.

Citizen Wolf

Rated: Great

Citizen Wolf uses revolutionary technology to give you high-quality custom fit t-shirts. It's so confident in its t-shirts that it guarantees they’ll be the best you’ve ever worn! After capturing your customisations, the brand hand makes each tee in Sydney from certified sustainable fabrics like cotton, hemp, and Merino wool milled in Melbourne.

See the rating.

Shop Citizen Wolf.

Boody

Rated: Good

Made from organically grown bamboo, Boody is an Australian clothing brand that supports the trend for all things green and ethical. Find the range in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Boody.

NICO

Rated: Good
3 pack of sustainable socks

Established in 2012 by Lis Harvey, NICO celebrates minimalism and understated luxury. The brand brings high quality basics and underwear to the Australian fashion landscape, featuring clean lines, luxe fabrics, and the styles and colours needed for everyday. NICO’s factories are signatories to The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord and are compliant with BSCI and certified with WRAP. Find the range in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop NICO.

Shop NICO @ SlowCo.

Threads 4 Thought

Rated: Good

Threads 4 Thought uses a range of sustainable materials including Lenzing Modal harvested from the limbs of beech trees. This process means that the trees are never cut down and 95% of the production materials to make the yarn are recovered and reused. The brand's manufacturers are a combination of Fair Trade USA certified and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production certified. Find the range in sizes XS-XL, with an extended sizing range up to 3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Threads 4 Thought.

Shop Threads 4 Thought @ Veneka.

Little Emperor (2-8 years)

Rated: Great
girl wearing pink little emperor t-shirt

Little Emperor creates unique, functional, and hard-wearing clothing for children. Its affordable clothing is made from environmentally friendly organic cotton, with every garment designed in Sydney, Australia and made in a Sedex-approved factory ensuring living wages and safe working conditions for workers. From the materials and packaging, right down to the energy supplier and banking, Little Emperor is dedicated to environmentally friendly practice. Named in honour of the adorable Emperor Penguin, Little Emperor is a member of 1% for the Planet, meaning 1% of sales are donated to environmental non-profits, helping protect the penguins’ home.

See the rating.

Shop Little Emperor.

Editor's note

Feature image via Bonds, 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 more than 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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