Three companies get positive marks for their overall company ethos, be it having a charitable structure (Monkee Genes) or only using environmentally responsible materials in their products (Kuyichi, MUD Jeans). Add these to their excellent animal rights policies and you have an almost clean bill of ethical health in the top third of the table.
High Street shops also sell their own makes of jeans but none of them score anywhere near as high as our Best Buys in this guide to jeans specialists.
Poorer performances soon creep back in, though, especially in our core ratings on environmental reporting and supply chain management, along with some negative marks for poor pollution and toxics policies, and for using animal products.
Negative marks under our ‘controversial technologies’ rating are from the companies’ cotton sourcing policies, which we expect to include stipulations against using GM cotton.
A poor cotton policy also picks up extra negative marks under pollution and toxics, and workers’ rights due to issues of pesticides, and forced labour in Uzbekistan cotton plantations. Nine companies received our worst rating on this, including Guess, G-Star and Howies.
Most companies lost half a mark under workers’ rights for having no sandblasting policy. Many clothes companies use sandblasting to give denim a worn or ‘distressed’ look.
The process involves firing abrasive sand onto denim under high pressure, whether in a machine booth or simply via an air gun attached to a hose. Often performed without proper ventilation, safety equipment or training, the practice exposes workers to serious risk of silicosis, the deadly lung disease caused by inhalation of silica dust.