Fair Jeans Guide

Sustainable jeans tested by the Austrian Chamber of Labour

Jeans are the most popular piece of clothing in the world. On average, every Austrian owns at least 5 pair – that sums up to 40 million pair of jeans only in Austria. Nevertheless, only very few consumers are aware of the terrible eco- and social balance of conventional jeans production. 11.000 litre of water are needed for cotton-growing and colouring of only one pair. And every year 2 billion pairs of jeans are sold worldwide. Only one percent of those are produced in an eco- and social sustainable manner. But which sustainable jeans-brands are available in Austria? And how fair and ecologically sustainable those really are? Those questions have now been evaluated by the Upper Austrian Chamber of Labour.

Laser technology instead of chlorine bleaching. Ecological processes instead of toxic chemicals. Fair working conditions instead of modern forms of slavery. And the ban of the deadly sandblasting technic – in the jeans industry more and more innovative alternatives to conventional forms of production are being created. Those new attempts are affecting the industry from within. Increasingly more brands producing non-toxic jeans and under fair working conditions, but still don’t go without high demands on trendy looks. But are there any sustainable brands in Austria?

The market evaluation showed 15 sustainable brands are available on the Austrian market. The ecological and social aspects of the production of those brands have now been evaluated by the Upper Austrian Chamber of Labour. Therefore the latest jeans collection of each brand was assessed on basis of 40 criteria. As a result, the sustainably of each brand has been marked with school grades.    

Two thirds are good or very good

The results showed, that three collections got an A grade (Gebrüder Stitch, Armedangels, Nudie Jeans), seven a B grade (Sey, Patagonia, Naturfaser Fölser, Bleed, Grüne Erde, Wunderwerk, Good Society) and only three where marked with C (Mud Jeans, Freitag, Kings of Indigo). The latter had either only an average eco balance performance on their fibers, shown insufficient progress in implementing social management system or weaknesses in labelling there products.

No reply on the request of the Chamber of Labour came from the Dutch brand Kuyichi and the British brand Monkee genes.

(Eco-)shopping recommendations

  • Dark blue, untreated jeans are ecologically more sustainable.

  • The labels GOTS (global organic textile standard) and FAIRTRADE Certified Cotton are highly recommended and help consumer to find sustainable jeans. Same goes for a membership of the producer in the Fair Wear Foundation.

  • Really sustainable consumption is less consumption!

  • Do it yourself! Repair your own clothes. So called Repair-Cafés or YouTube-Videos will help you to do so.

The entire Fair Jeans Guide including details on each brand can be found here (only in German): http://ooe.arbeiterkammer.at/beratung/konsumentenschutz/fairkonsumieren/Jeans_Guide.html