The denim industry’s historic abuse of water, energy and chemicals has given it a dirty reputation—one that many ethical brands and supply chain partners are dedicated to cleaning up. More responsible processes in terms of sourcing and manufacturing have helped demonstrate the positive impact that fashion can have on workers, communities and consumers.
Vietnam-based denim factory Saitex and ethical denim brands Mud Jeans and Outland Denim represent the denim industry’s most valuable players, according to B Lab’s latest “Best for the World” list, an annual collection of the top-performing B Corporations creating the greatest impact through their businesses. Certified B Corporations meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability.
The list identifies B Corps with B Impact Assessment (BIA) scores in the top 5 percent of each company size tracked across five impact areas: community, customers, environment, governance and workers.
Saitex made the list for the first time for its contributions to the environment. According to B Lab, companies on this list “consider the impact of their everyday footprint, including energy usage, materials, facilities, supply chain, and more.”
Saitex’s facilities are optimized with sustainable best practices, including water-saving measures that cut the average impact of a single pair of jeans from 80 liters down to just 1.5, and water-recycling technology that allows for the continued use of water in the washing and finishing process. Using an advanced filtration system that removes chemicals and dyes, the company’s closed-loop process cuts out the need for fresh water from surrounding waterways.
In February, it launched Rekut, a social entrepreneurship project and production line that offers training for sustainable jobs with equal, open opportunities and a stable income for differently abled people and those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Dutch brand Mud Jeans also made the list for its contributions to the environment. A certified B corporation since January 2015, Mud was selected for the fourth time for its groundbreaking jeans leasing program, which promotes circularity and helps extend the lifecycle of a jean. Last year, the brand published its second-ever cradle-to-grave life cycle analysis (LCA) report and announced a new initiative, Road to 100, to produce a denim fabric that is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled cotton.
Outland Denim was recognized for its community impact. According to B Lab’s methodology, community impact honorees have contributed to the economic and social well-being of the communities in which they operate and are “building a shared and sustainable prosperity for all.” The Australian denim brand was formed to provide employment opportunities and living wages to vulnerable populations in Cambodia. Employees receive education and life skills training, tools needed to live independently. It uses sustainable processes and recently launched a manufacturing initiative to scale its services to make an even greater impact. It’s been a certified B corporation since April 2018, and previously made the Best for the World list in 2019.
The Best for the World list launched in 2012 and runs annually except for skipping 2020, stating that it “made the decision to postpone [the list], acknowledging that B Corps and the B Global network needed to focus on what was most critical: safety and taking care of their people and their communities.”