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Sustainability is sexy, but is sexy also sustainable?

Sustainability is long past the image of tree huggers and hippies. Sustainability is hip and sexy. But is sexy also sustainable? Rank a Brand’s latest research on 24 underwear and lingerie brands shows that sometimes it is, but definitely not always. Four brands that make such products show that sustainability and sexy can go hand in hand. Nevertheless, as with most clothing sectors, the majority of brands making underwear and lingerie perform badly when it comes to climate, environment and labour conditions.

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The frontrunners
One label received the highest label on our performance list, which runs from A label (best score) to E label (worst score): the Dutch brand Saint Basics. With this score, consumers can be sure that they are purchasing a top performing brand with respect to sustainability and labour conditions. Two other brands, Pants to Poverty and the German brand Minga Berlin, receive the second best label, the B label. The brands respectively score 24, 22, and 19 points out of a maximum of 31. While Saint Basics and Minga Berlin are local brands, they are available through online shopping and ship to many countries outside of their home country as well. Another German brand that is also available online, von Jungfeld, shows a reasonable performance. With 15 points, the brand receives a C label (reasonable performance, but could still do better).

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The first three brands all perform well in the areas of environmentally certified materials and labour conditions. Saint Basics and Pants to Poverty both use only organic cotton, while Minga Berlin almost reached that point (around 70-80%). Furthermore, all products from all three brands are GOTS certified. Besides guaranteeing better environmental performance, this certification also means that labour conditions during production are monitored and improved. Pants to Poverty and Saint Basics are also working to increase the wages of their employees in low wage countries. Pants to Poverty is even working on a project for a living wage (a wage that a labourer can live well of and is often much higher than the minimum wage). However, the results of this project are not yet published.

The remaining brands
Apart from the four brands mentioned above, only one brand shows a bit more attention to sustainability: Hunkemöller. This brand scores 5 points, thereby receiving a D label. This label means that Hunkemöller has set its first steps on the path toward more sustainability in its production, but still has a long way to go. Just like in most sectors, in the underwear and lingerie sector, the large majority of brands fall behind. Of the 24 brands we examined, 19 fall in the lowest category, the E label. Brands in this category include Björn Borg, Triumph, Sloggi, Victoria’s Secret, and Jockey. We recommend consumers not to buy these brands until they show more readiness to incorporate sustainability in their production processes.

Help make sustainability even sexier
The list of examined brands can be found on the overview page of lingerie and underwear brands. By clicking on a brand, you can find more information about our criteria. Furthermore, you can use this page to send a message to the brand to stimulate it to sell more sustainable and fairer clothes.

To keep doing our research, we could really use your support. Besides contributing as a responsible consumer that purchases more sustainable alternatives through our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. Do you want to be kept up date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Or subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

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