• Fashion

Believe the hype, these are the big brands making good on sustainability

Much positive change is ahead for these mainstream retailers

By Valentina Zarew

If you’re reading this, ‘sustainability’ has probably been something that has interested you for quite some time, or maybe not, perhaps you’re reading this and dipping your toe in, either way – you’re curious, because thankfully it’s becoming more and more of a mainstream conversation.

From the bushfires to the ever changing effects of Covid-19, now more than ever we’ve had to question the way we live, and take stock of what is happening in the world and the part that we play. 

When it comes to shopping sustainably, for fashion in particular, it’s natural to think of small, niche, locally produced labels. However, just as sustainable lifestyles are being adopted by more of us globally, mainstream brands have also been working to incorporate responsible business practices into their business operations and production. 

Below are the mainstream Australian brands and retailers putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to sustainability. 

Country Road

Country Road brings with it a long history of Australian heritage and is known for its diverse product range, and mid-range prices. Its sustainability program is diverse, wool and cotton feature highly in their collections, and a substantial amount of work has been put into ensuring that these two fibres are responsibly sourced and backed by industry standards such as The Responsible Wool Standard and the Better Cotton Initiative.

They’ve even enlisted the help of a company called Oritain to provide scientific evidence they’re sourcing from Australia – that’s a pretty significant investment when it comes to transparency!

They’ve partnered with Red Cross to offer customers a take-back scheme and are trialling small scale collaborations with a circular design focus; for example homewares made from recycled bread clips.

One of our favourite pieces of work is their diversity and inclusion program and reconciliation work. This year they signed on as the main industry partner at the inaugural 2020 National Indigenous Fashion Awards and launched a partnership with the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation. To invite you on their journey, they’ve also launched Our World, an online platform where you can take a poke around and see for yourself. 

Country Road home page

Country Road’s inclusive and sustainability initiatives are the real deal. Image Country Road

P.E Nation

As a category, activewear has been thriving, and one of my absolute favourite labels is P.E Nation. Founded by two strong Australian women Claire Tregoning and Pip Edwards – activewear has never looked more empowering. Our Conscious Nation is the brands’ commitment to responsible business practices with a focus on reducing impact across the entire business operations.

By introducing 100 per cent certified organic cotton into their ranges, as well as adopting innovations within the space of regenerated nylon made of pre and post-consumer waste, the team is also embarking on their packaging journey, incorporating recycled cardboards and post-consumer waste plastics for all swing tags.

A robust ethical sourcing program has been developed and implemented and they’ve also committed to giving back through I=Change, donating $1 from every sale to your choice of three different charities. Well on its way to reaching great heights.

PE Nation's Conscious Nation

The fast break legging is part of P.E Nation’s ongoing sustainability edit. Image P.E Nation


As one of the only retailers deemed as an essential service during lock-down, we all became accustomed with KMART. One of Australia’s biggest retailers has had a makeover and has armed itself with a robust sustainable development program – Better Together.

Addressing everything from human rights, to energy and climate and materials, they’re doing the work. In fact, just recently, it was announced that Kmart Group has a net zero emissions target to reach by 2030.

All cotton for their own brand clothing and towels is 100 per cent sustainably sourced and by July 2023 they have pledged that 100 per cent of wood and cellulose material used in their own branded products will be independently accredited, traceable and made using recycled materials.

And, as the festive season fast approaches they will be launching their Wishing Tree appeal in partnership with the Salvation Army to provide much needed support to those in need. 

By January 2025, 50 per cent of the polyester and nylon used in K Mart's own brand clothing* and bedding ranges will be from recycled material

By January 2025, 50 per cent of the polyester and nylon used in K Mart’s own brand clothing and bedding ranges will be from recycled material. Image K Mart

The Iconic

It’s great value. There’s so much choice, and it arrives quickly. The online retailer also gives you the opportunity to be ‘considered’ in your choices by developing an edit made up of curated pieces with sustainability principles at their heart.

You can shop by values from sustainable materials, animal friendly choices, fair production, eco-production and community engagement – brands that are benefitting the communities around them – making it easy for you to make choices that sit well with you.

As a business, the company has set some big targets and is undergoing important work through its ethical sourcing, environmental and community focussed work. By 2025, you can expect 90 per cent of private label items to be made from more sustainable materials and 50 per cent of the entire product assortment to meet at least one ‘Considered’ credential.

By 2022 80 per cent of energy is to come from green sources, 100 per cent of its own operations and deliveries will be offset and 100 per cent of shipping and packaging will be made of recycled content. 

The Iconic Considered Edit

The Iconic’s Considered Edit allows you to shop by your priorities. Image The Iconic




Valentina is a sustainability expert, with among other accreditations a certificate of sustainability from the University of Bath. She is focussed on working with the brands of the future to help shape their strategy, sustainability framework, stories and partnerships. You can connect with her at [email protected], or follow her on Instagram.  @valya___z. 


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