With more people working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, the athletic apparel industry is booming. And why shouldn’t it? Stretching out on the sofa in running shorts and a soft workout shirt in-between Zoom meetings is far comfier than sitting upright in a stiff button-down or a tight blazer. The Wall Street Journal found that 24% of people surveyed included activewear in the top three ways they’d spend their stimulus checks. But not all clothing brands were created equal, and, according to WBUR, the global fashion industry releases more than 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year—more emissions than international flights and shipping. However, San Francisco-based athletic apparel company, Athleta, is committed to aggressive sustainability practices and ethical working conditions, and the empowerment of women.
Athleta is proud to meet the highest criteria of verified social and economic performance, public transparency, and clarity. Its values are based on a balance of purpose and profit, and you don’t need to look much further than Athleta’s progress on their 2017 sustainability goals to see how hard they work to make the world a better place.
By 2020, they committed to making their clothes with 80% sustainable fibers, and they are extremely close to meeting their goal with a whopping 76% coming from recycled plastic bottles, fabric scraps, nylon fishing nets, and sustainably grown trees. Their use of recycled polyester saved the plastic equivalent of more than 38 million water bottles from entering landfills. Athleta is also helping consumers track their sustainability progress as part of the “Sustainable Apparel Coalition.” The site www.apparellcoalition.org gives participating companies the platform to share their journey towards total sustainability.
Athleta is extremely close to achieving its goal of diverting 80% of the waste from their shipping and packing from landfills, as they currently stand at the 72% marker. It’s important to remember how ambitious these goals are and how they are continuing to push for sustainability. The brand is currently investing in a renewable energy partnership that will offset the energy usage of all their US stores. Athleta is constantly looking for new ways to support the planet and the people who live there, and they don’t let roadblocks discourage them from making progress. If they need a fabric that doesn’t exist, they just invent their own.
This determination and ingenuity produced textile revolutions like the H2Eco and ECONYL® for their 2019 swimwear styles. These two fabrics alone saved 72,264 kilograms of waste from ending up in landfills in 2019 — the same weight as six and a half full-sized school buses. Their innovative ECONYL® fabric is made entirely from regenerated salvaged nylon from abandoned fishing nets and other discarded material. It’s industry inventions like these that allowed their 2019 spring/summer swim styles to be composed of 85% sustainable fabrics. And Athleta is continuing to innovate. Their new Ultimate Stash Pocket Tight uses a new signature SuperSonic fabric to reduce the carbon footprint of this new pocketed pair of leggings, with a massive range of sizes designed with a deep understanding of women’s bodies.
One of the goals the company set in 2017 involved empowering 10,000 women with their P.A.C.E. program and Fair-Trade factories. The majority-female workforce has now empowered 16,555 individuals, well over their goal. P.A.C.E. is about educating and empowering women, breaking boundaries, inspiring girls, building strong families, and moving women forward with curriculum opportunities including communication, problem-solving, time and stress management, wellness, financial literacy, and more. In cooperation with this program, their Fair-Trade Certification ensures more of their female-dominated workforce earns a living wage and gains access to tools that can improve their lives.
Athleta offers thousands of free fitness and wellness events every year, which supported an estimate of 10,000 hours of employee volunteering in the community last year. The company’s “Power of She” empowerment campaign, aimed to remove stereotypes and provide insights into strength and wellness while celebrating the power of the female collective to make an impact, according to President Nancy Green. The “Power of She” campaign includes a collection of stories that highlights women of all backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities. Athleta is constantly creating new campaigns to spread health awareness and champion female authority, most recently donating 100,000 masks to a major health organization to support the brave people working on the front lines of the epidemic.
Studies show that girls between the ages of 8-14 years old lose confidence by 30%, so Athleta decided to take action to improve young girls’ self-esteem. Their new program Code of Confidence is aimed at changing the conversation about girls’ appearances. Athleta hopes to encourage young women to look inwards for validation and inspire them to focus on how they feel about themselves, instead of seeking approval from others. Code of Confidence stems from Athleta’s Girl’s Fit Room Guide which educates store associates in methods of providing positive feedback to girls in store. Athleta Girl partnered with Girls Leadership on Code of Confidence, to bring the conversation of promoting leadership and self-esteem in young women out into the entire world.