How Ethical is Uniqlo?

By May 14, 2017Fashion
Uniqlo USA FB 4

When it gets cold those cashmere cardigans at Uniqlo can look pretty compelling! But…is there more to the story?

Uniqlo’s founder, Tadashi Yanai, was ranked Japan’s richest man in 2015. The multi-national retailer first opened in 1984 and emphasises low-cost, everyday fashion that doesn’t go out of style. And it seems he has picked a winning formula. But let’s be honest, how sustainable is low-cost fast fashion? We take a look at the story behind that super cheap cashmere sweater you bought in three different colours!

Environmental Impact: It’s a Start

Uniqlo USA FBWhen it comes to the environment, Uniqlo has taken some steps in the right direction. For example, they have a repair and reuse program in place and report on their direct and indirect carbon emissions. Uniqlo has also made a public commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by 10% by 2020. That being said, this is still a brand built on a fast fashion model. Uniqlo features constantly changing styles and more or less disposable clothing, which is inherently harmful to the environment. They are also not as transparent about their environmental impact as they could be – we hope there aren’t any skeletons hiding in Uniqlo’s closet!

Labour Conditions: It’s a Start

Uniqlo USA FB 3Uniqlo’s labour rating is ‘it’s a start’ based on the 2016 Ethical Fashion Report which looks at criteria including payment of a living wage, worker empowerment and transparency. Uniqlo received praise for their Supplier Code of Conduct. They also trace most of their supply chain including all of its final stage, however, they don’t publically list their suppliers. Uniqlo audits most of its traced facilities over a two-year period, but they have minimal working empowerment initiatives and have been criticised for not implementing a living wage. Why the mismatch? A report released in October 2016 by the organisation War on Want, accuses Uniqlo of hiding human rights abuses behind ethical claims.


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Animal Welfare: It’s a Start

Uniqlo Down Slider2Uniqlo is on the right track with animal welfare, but again there is still room for improvement. They get a big thumbs up for banning the use of fur, angora, shearling and karakul. However, they do use down feather, wool and leather without specifying their sources. Uniqlo also uses hair from exotic species such as cashmere and mohair.

Overall Rating: It’s a Start GoY-Ratings_3

Uniqlo has been rated ‘It’s a Start’ based on information from the Ethical Fashion Report, Behind the Barcode and research from our team at Good On You. Uniqlo has set some good environmental policies in place but there’s no evidence they’re providing fair wages for their workers.

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What do you think about Uniqlo? Are you a fan of their style? Let us know in the comments!


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Images via Uniqlo Australia and Uniqlo USA

Yvette Hymann

Author Yvette Hymann

Yvette likes writing, reading and long walks on the beach. She has been described as a crazy cat lady more than once in her time, and is actually quite okay with that.

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • naomi raiselle says:

    It saddens me that a company that has reached across generations with a good quality, simple line of “lifestyle” clothing hasn’t yet raised its workers standards of living. I have no issue with smart businesspeople getting wealthy. I do have an issue with them getting extraordinarily wealthy while their workers are mistreated and underpaid. S/he who holds the power is always obligated to help those who don’t. Raising the standards for its workers would be an exciting and necessary step toward brand consistency.

  • I stood in Uniqlo for hours once trying to make sense of their ethical claims. SO pleased to have this rating from GoY! I do love their cashmere jumpers though, which I don’t treat as fast fashion. But most of the rest is so disposable is hurts.

  • Mo says:

    Don’t touch Uniqlo clothes if you care about human rights or the environment. Support real companies.

    • sarah says:

      I agree. Why not support labels that have ethics as an important part of their business not just token efforts.

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