Is Cotton On Ethical?

Nowadays, more than ever, consumers are concerned about which products and brands they use, and whether they are ethical.

If you are trying to lead a sustainable and ethical lifestyle, then you’ll need to know which brands to love and which ones to leave alone!

One of the brands beloved by the world, and is only getting more popular is Cotton On.

This company is well known for its affordable and fashionable clothes.

Cotton On is always running new campaigns and offering products that contribute to charities and foundations. 

You’re always asked to contribute to welfare funds and give donations when checking out your items, which begs the question; how ethical really is Cotton On?

That’s what we’re here to find out. So, if you’ve never heard of the brand, let’s take a look at what Cotton On is.   

What Is Cotton On?

Cotton On is part of the Cotton On Group, which is Australia’s largest global retailer.

The group is known for its affordable fashion clothing and stationary brands. Founded in 1991, Cotton On has gone on to spread into multiple countries and brands.

The company itself owns 7 different brands; Cotton On, Cotton On Body, Cotton On Kids, Typo, Supre and Factorie. 

Cotton On is at its heart a fashion brand that is highly popular for young people in Australia and across the globe today.

The brand prides itself on its ethical practices and sustainability.

In the Cotton On Manifesto, the group states that this is ‘incredibly important’ to them:

At the Cotton On Group, the environments in which our products are made, the people who make them and the materials used are incredibly important to us, and form a critical part of our commitment to operate ethically. We know that our responsibility goes far beyond selling clothes and we endeavour to use our size and scale of operations to have a positive impact on people, communities and the planet.’ 

This statement seems to say all of the right things, but there is a serious lack of information about such practices, and it only seems that they ‘endeavour’ to have a positive impact, rather than stating that they are committed to being an ethical brand. 

Cotton On is one of the biggest and top performing brands in all of Australia, and prides itself in its manifesto on affordable, interesting, on trend and ethical fashion, but is this really the case? Is Cotton On truly ethical?

Is Cotton On Ethical?

Cotton On claims that it is an ethical and sustainable brand in all of its online materials and manifesto.

However, there is little to no evidence that such policies and practices are actually in place and being acted upon. 

At the heart of the company, it is a fast fashion brand, which produces a lot of cheaply made products, the majority of which are made from unsustainable and non-recycled materials such as viscose, polyester and conventional cotton. 

The manufacturing of such garments and products consumes a lot of energy, water and hazardous chemicals that have a detrimental effect on the environment and the planet.

In addition, there is no evidence to suggest that Cotton On actively tries to reduce its carbon footprint or other greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing and supply process.

Whilst the company does not use fur, down, angora or other animal skin and hair products, it still implements and uses leather and wool in their garments.

There is no information regarding the welfare of the animals used in these products. 

Is Cotton On Sustainable?

Cotton On has a lot of information on its website regarding sustainability: The company aims to become carbon neutral by 2030, and switch to 100% renewable energy by 2030.

In addition, they claim that they are committed to their packaging becoming 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025, and 100% of plastics, polyester and synthetic materials being made by certified recycled materials by 2025. 

They also make a lot of promises to save water and source products responsibly by 2025 and 2030, but what this all boils down to is that it is not a fully sustainable brand currently. 

Yes, they are working towards implementing new practices, but at this moment in time, Cotton On needs to do more, and continue changing their practices and processes in order to become a 100% sustainable and ethical brand.

Is Cotton On Socially Responsible?

The Cotton On Group has a page called The Good We Do: which describes at length all of the positive changes they make to ensure that the brand is ethical and sustainable.

They state that making a positive difference in people’s lives is their sole purpose. 

Cotton On also pledged that they are socially responsible through the work of the Cotton On Foundation.

This foundation is about protecting the environment through sourcing recycled  and sustainable materials, and improving the livelihoods of everyone that is part of the supply chain. 

Cotton On also states that they empower the communities where they live and work, to create a better world for everyone.

In addition to this, the company states that it is committed to social responsibility and actively maintains acceptable working conditions and trade practices.

The brand does use Chinese factories, and requires all such suppliers to comply with the Vendor Ethical Code of Conduct, to ensure the conditions for workers are safe and compliant with ethical practices. 

Despite this, Cotton On does not release information about its policies or workers, regarding safe practices or whether the company offers a living wage in its supply chains or not. 


Cotton On seems committed to becoming an ethical and sustainable brand. Whilst they claim to be ethical, there are a lot of gray areas and blank spaces within the actual details of their practices, so it is unknown whether their plans are actually implemented.

In addition, they are committed to becoming sustainable and using more recycled materials in the coming years, but are not yet at this point.