5 Fashion Companies Leading the Sustainability Movement

Published: Sep 22, 2016

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Although the fashion industry is glamorous, its business practices sometimes aren’t. With New York and London Fashion Week wrapping up, environmental experts are examining the sustainability of the fashion industry. Environmentally harmful practices—such as using toxic chemicals in tanneries and polluting water with textile dye—are commonplace and contribute to the fashion industry’s damaging footprint. With this in mind, those fashion companies that surmount environmental obstacles inherent to the industry in order to create sustainable looks deserve attention. Here are five companies that are engaging in socially responsible behavior and leading the sustainability movement.

Stella McCartney

A force in the green fashion movement, Stella McCartney has made CSR an integral component of her brand by incorporating sustainable practices into every aspect of her company’s operations. A distinguishing factor of her clothing line is that it does not use animal products, including both fur and leather—two mainstays of the luxury fashion industry. A lifelong vegetarian, Stella cites livestock production as a major contributor to environmental issues such as land degradation, global warming, and pollution. Her Autumn/Winter 2015 collection featured show-stopping faux-fur coats, making a statement about the fact that high fashion and sustainability do not need to be mutually exclusive.


Adidas is another company currently at the forefront of sustainable fashion. In fact, the brand partnered with Stella McCartney to create the sportswear line “Adidas by Stella McCartney,” which focuses on minimizing waste and repurposing leftover fabrics. Adidas emphasizes sustainability throughout its business model, from creating eco-friendly products, to making its supply chain greener, to having a positive human-rights impact. Herbert Hainer, Adidas Group CEO, reveals that he is particularly proud of Adidas’ partnership with Parley for the Oceans, an organization that raises awareness to stop ocean pollution. This collaboration resulted in Adidas releasing the first shoe in the world made from plastic waste from the ocean—it features a 3D-printed midsole of plastic debris.


Ranked No. 20 on Forbes’ “The World’s Most Sustainable Companies 2016,” H&M strives to offer customers fashionable items that are not only high quality and affordable but also sustainable. The company’s Conscious Exclusive Collection features modern and stylish pieces that are made from sustainably sourced materials. These include fabrics such as Denimite—made of recycled denim—and embellishment materials such as recycled glass and rhinestones. H&M also increased its use of organic and recycled cotton in clothing, to account for 31 percent of the company’s total cotton use. In addition to reducing the environmental impact of its products, H&M’s Conscious line emphasizes establishing better working conditions and respecting human rights across the value chain.


From its nascence, TOMS Shoes has built CSR into its business model. Sustainability plays a key role in the company’s social responsibility, as TOMS crafts shoes from sustainable and vegan materials such as hemp and organic cotton. All TOMS shoe boxes are comprised of 80 percent recycled post-consumer waste, and they are printed with soy ink. While environmental impact is an important consideration at TOMS, having a positive social impact is fundamental to the company’s mission. TOMS’ business hinges on its “One for One Movement,” in which the company matches every pair of shoes purchased by a customer with a new pair of shoes for a child in need.

Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein recently collaborated with Eco-Age, a brand sustainability consultancy, for the 2016 Met Life Gala. Embracing the Eco-Age Green Carpet Challenge, the designer created three sustainable looks that Emma Watson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Margot Robbie wore to the event. Calvin Klein created Emma Watson’s five-piece gown from three different fabrics, all woven from yarn engineered from recycled plastic bottles. The dress marries repurposed waste with high fashion, proving that sustainability and fashion can have a powerful aesthetic and ethical impact when working in tandem.