Athleta Sustainability: The Good & The Bad

On Karma Wallet, we rate Athleta an 11/16. Here’s what they’re doing right and wrong in the world of sustainability!

August 4, 2023


Athleta, the women’s athletic apparel brand, has become synonymous with sustainability in recent years. From charitable giveback programs to ethical materials, Athleta sustainability initiatives stretch far and wide.

But where does Athleta have more work to do in terms of sustainability and social justice? In this blog, we’ll dive into the good and bad of Athleta’s sustainability initiatives. 

On Karma Wallet, we rate Athleta an 11 out of 16, evaluated on 11 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Here’s why:  

The Good

Sustainable Materials 

Better gear, better materials. Athleta lessens their footprint by choosing sustainable materials for their innovative women’s clothing.

From recycled polyester to organic cotton and even Tencel made from wood pulp, their materials are all about reducing impact on the environment and making use of the resources we already have. 

That said, they don’t use sustainable materials in every product, and some products only contain around 30% sustainable fabrics. 

athleta sustainability

Athleta also offers inclusive sizing from XXS to 3X, ensuring that everyone is included in their high-quality sustainable gear. 

Charitable Giveback

Through the USAID Gap Inc. Women + Water Alliance, they give back to charitable initiatives that catalyze women to advance water access solutions in India. 

Athleta has also contributed $1.8M to workers in their Fair Trade Community Development Funds.

Certifications and Progress

Like Karma Wallet, Athleta is a Certified B Corp, meeting third-party standards for social, environmental, and legal standards. 

They’ve also come pretty far with specific sustainability initiatives. Here’s some metrics:

  • 441M+ plastic bottles repurposed into their recycled fabrics
  • 100% of their shopping bags are made from recycled materials
  • 1,662 tons of textile waste diverted from landfills

This is all awesome. But because Athleta is owned by parent company Gap, we also have to look at Gap’s sustainability initiatives. Explore their 2022 ESG Report here!

In short, Gap has some great sustainability and social justice commitments as well. They are less committed to use of sustainable fabrics and fair labor initiatives than Athleta.

But… Gap has come under criticism for abusive labor conditions, greenwashing tactics, unsustainable production, and fast fashion.

athleta sustainability

The Bad

Fast Fashion Model

Athleta’s fast fashion model is at odds with its sustainability initiatives.

The company releases new collections frequently, many of which follow seasonal trends. Critics worry that this model leads to overproduction and excess waste.

Additionally, the company’s emphasis on trends and style may encourage customers to purchase more frequently than they need to.

Sustainability Commitments

Athleta has made some sustainability commitments:

  • By 2030, Athleta will eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastic packaging
  • Athleta plans to reduce its GHG emissions by 90% in Scope 1 and 2 and 30% in scope 3 (in the Purchased Goods category), by 2030 compared to 2017 to achieve net-zero emissions in 2050
  • Athleta will source 100% of cotton from more sustainable sources by 2025

That said, we’d like to see more transparency and commitments from them in terms of their supply chain, specifically labor. 

athleta sustainability on karma wallet

There also isn’t enough traceability in terms of their raw materials. We’d like to see exact suppliers and factories, alongside the conditions of these factories, to get a true picture of their supply chain, raw materials, and labor.

Athleta Sustainability Report on Karma Wallet 

On Karma Wallet, we rate Athleta sustainability and social justice an 11 out of 16, evaluated on 11 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The sector average for Activewear & Outerwear is 2.16, so Athleta is clearly better than conventional activewear brands.

They have some great in-progress sustainability initiatives, and some meaningful commitments as we get towards 2030 and 2050. But, we’d like to see more transparency around supply chain, labor, and materials sourcing.

Want to get the full picture on Athleta’s sustainability? Explore their Company Report Card on Karma Wallet!