overall rating:



Disha Takle
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As the winter weather sets in, layering your clothes to keep warm has become more of a necessity. From the range of thermals and winter wear available on the market, Uniqlo sets itself apart from its other fast fashion competitors by producing quality thermals from their HEATTECH line. Uniqlo focuses on affordable, everyday wear as well as on classic wardrobe staples and neutral colours. Utility and style are central to the HEATTECH collection and is the reason why this line has become a fan favourite staple for the colder days. They are quality focused and priced in the mid-range, with items priced from £10 to £50, with a wide variety of gloves, blankets, tops and sweaters in multiple colours.

But how sustainable is this emerging staple collection by Uniqlo? This review will explore the environmental impact of Uniqlo's HEATTECH line to provide its shoppers with insight into the company's practices, quality and ethos.

What it's made of:


According to their website, most of the thermals are made of polyester, acrylic, viscose and elastane - oil-based fabrics which are essentially plastic. Though the production of oil-based fabrics has a lower impact than naturally produced fabrics in terms of land and water use, they require a lot more energy to produce and contribute to pollution. Since such oil-based fabrics are non-biodegradable, they end up in landfills for several decades and contribute to further wastage. Additionally, when washed, these fabrics shed and enter the waterways which lead to an increase in microplastics in the oceans entering aquatic and human food chains.

Uniqlo, however, is making attempts to incorporate more sustainable fabrics in their clothing such as recycled polyester. However, these efforts need to be accelerated and applied to their utility-focused lines such as HEATTECH as it has a higher consumer base than the one-off 'sustainable' pieces they have launched. Additionally, they should investigate ways to incorporate other cost-effective alternatives to polyester such as recycled wool and cotton in making these thermals.
For the above reasons, I will be giving this 0.5 planets as there is minimal effort seen to incorporate sustainable fabrics in their production.

What UNIQLO could do to improve and deliver on their promises of sustainability is to re-evaluate their current production models and incorporate more sustainable practices in their supply chain. By working with certified suppliers and materials, they can improve on transparency and prove the quality of their clothes to their consumers.

How it's made:


Their website has a list of sustainability pledges and initiatives they are working to take to reduce their environmental impact. Their recycling initiative is a commendable effort as it encourages their shoppers to donate their second-hand clothing to their stores so they can be reused, donated or recycled to make newer fabrics. However, like most of their initiatives, they only provide surface-level information and explain the process, providing no other evidence of the successes or failures of such programs. There is also no mention regarding SDG goals or moving towards carbon neutrality which suggests that the brand is actively greenwashing instead of actually making an effort to change. These initiatives barely touch the surface and so will receive only 1 planet. 

Uniqlo is a fast-fashion company operating on a Take-Make-Waste model which thrives due to overconsumption. Their HEATTECH line is likely to boost sales during winter seasons and due to the short lifespan of the fabrics, consumers may need to repurchase them, contributing to waste Additionally, they could reimagine their recycling program by introducing ways to mend and increase the life of their clothes so the customer could extend the use of their products rather than buying repeatedly new ones.

Who makes it:


Uniqlo's Fashion Transparency Index score is within the range of 31-40%. This means that they have provided surface-level information such as first-tier information about their supply chain and producers. Unfortunately, despite providing supply chain traceability, Uniqlo does not provide a public list of their list of suppliers. This lack of transparency is seen more in its other labour practices where the company provides no information about their employees' wages, working conditions or protection policies. The brand came under recent controversy when investigations in China and Hong Kong exposed the poor treatment of workers where they were overworked and underpaid in sweatshop conditions. Similar investigations in Indonesia caused a workers' rights case where the brand owes the Indonesian garment workers $5.5m worth of severance pay.

Their sustainability and welfare initiatives on the website are, thus, mere examples of corporate greenwashing as their mistreatment of workers does not align with their motto to foster a diverse and empowering workplace. This is why I will be giving them 0 planets because such treatment of workers is unacceptable and Uniqlo definitely needs to revaluate their policies and ethics to actively move towards being a better employer and company.



Overall, Uniqlo gets a rating of 0.5 planets. There need to be more active and driven efforts by this company to incorporate sustainable practices, more transparency and more evidence of the extent to which they apply for their programs. In the short run, the brand should focus on paying and treating their workers fairly while devising better long term profit models, investing in research for more sustainable fibres and revising their policy on recycled and returned clothes to minimise wastage.