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Surf, beach & swimwear: going against the sustainable current

When you’re out catching a wave or swimming laps in a pool, you may not realize that the clothes you’re wearing have an impact on the environment, and especially, on our global oceans and waterways, due to the chemicals required to manufacture surf, beach and swimwear. In order for future generations to be able to enjoy the same oceans, lakes, and rivers that we do today, we must be more conscious of sustainability initiatives in the surf, beach, and swimwear sector, and therefore, we should keep this in mind during our purchasing of such brands.


As a whole, the surf, beach, and swimwear sector has a great deal of room for improvement. Of the 11 brands in this sector, none received a score higher than D-label. This score means a brand reached its “first milestones, but should be perform better.” Two brands (Speedo and Reef) receive a D-label, while the remainder receives an E-label, meaning “don’t buy.” The highest scoring brand is Speedo, scoring 6 out of a maximum of 31 points. Reef (or its brand owner VFC) comes in second with 5 points. Speedo received the majority of its points from its Labor Conditions Policy while Reef excelled in its climate and chemical management and  reduction initiatives. Brunotti, Oxbow, Quiksilver, Roxy, O’Neill, and Rip Curl all scored some points, but not enough to score better than an E-label. The lowest performing brands for the sector are Billabong, Protest, and Rhino Surf, receiving zero points.


Use of Hazardous Chemicals

In “high risk” production countries that have fewer or weaker wastewater treatment regulation, wastewater containing hazardous chemicals from the washing, bleaching, and dying of fabrics in online casino factories is not or inattentively treated before its eventual discharge. This can result in impacts to water quality, entire ecosystems, and the well-being of those people that rely on these water resources. According to the World Bank, almost 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles. Given the surf, beach, and swimwear sector’s reliance on the sustainability of our global ocean’s and waterways for the success of its brands, it is imperative that this sector focus much more heavily on improving its sustainability initiatives as they pertain to phasing out hazardous chemicals and polluting waterways.

Of all 11 brands in the sector, only Reef clearly communicated a policy to eliminate hazardous chemicals from the whole lifecycle and all production procedures for its products. None of the brands however have clearly reported results of having a policy to phase out at least one suspect chemical group, such as phthalates or perfluorinated chemicals, from their entire production.

Climate Change

Sea level rise and coral bleaching due to ocean acidification as ocean temperatures rise are just two of the potential effects of climate change. As a sector, half of the brands (Speedo, Reef, Brunotti, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, and Roxy), have reported a first step towards reducing their impacts to climate change by implementing a policy to minimize or compensate carbon emissions. However, no brand clearly reports that it has actually reduced or compensated their emissions by 10% in the last 5 years. Therefore, it is imperative that the surf, beach, and swimwear sector implement more initiatives to reduce the effects of climate change, and report on clear results already realized.

Labor Conditions

About half of the brands (Speedo, Reef, Oxbow, Roxy, and Quiksilver) report to have implemented a Code of Conduct to improve labor conditions at the factories where their clothes are made. Speedo is a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), which demonstrates that Speedo is part of an alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers” rights around the globe. However, none of the brands annually report on clear enough results of theirs labor conditions policy. Similarly, none of the brands clearly annually report on the labor conditions policy for their fabric manufacturing phases.

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You can see all the results of the ranking here. Please note that you will only see brands that are available in your country. If you select a brand you can see their score on each of our criteria, and a short explanation on how we have assessed this.

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