Kathmandu Brand Ethics

Kathmandu is a well known adventure clothing brand, originating from New Zealand and with many stores in Australia. It has an outdoors, adventure and environmental aesthetic. But how does this aesthetic match up with the ethics of the brand?


According to the 2016 Australian Fashion Report (a great source in itself, and used by the app Good On You), Kathmandu rates as a B+. It gets an A+ for its policies, a B+ for knowing its suppliers, a C for auditing and supplier relationships and a D+ for worker empowerment. Its policies are a great start, and you can read all about them on their website as they are very forthcoming, but their implementation is the issue for this brand. For example there is a section on Worker’s Rights on their website which claims that workers’ rights is their number one priority. They screen suppliers with their Code of Conduct and have an auditing program but still identify issues with workers’ hours and workers’ pay without outlining a specific goal or plan of action to address these issues. This lack of implementation is seen in their D+ rating for worker empowerment. The brand also fell from “Good” to “It’s a Start” on the Good on You App primarily because it is not keeping pace with the industry in relation to auditing even though it has other good qualities.

In Kathmandu’s Sustainability Report it highlighted their key achievements for 2016 which included achieving 100% RDS (Responsible Down Standard) Certification for their Winter 2016 insulation range, ranking number 4 in the Textile Exchange Report’s top global users of certified down, upcycling 1.2million plastic bottles into their repreve range and increasing the amount of sustainable cotton used from 38% to 59%. These are all great achievements for the brand and shouldn’t be downplayed. It should perhaps just be questioned how far these achievements go in the broad scheme of things.

They have outlined four goals in their Sustainability Report which are to use 2.5 million plastic bottles for 2017, have zero waste to landfill by 2018, use 100% sustainable cotton by 2020 and reduce their carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. These are all admirable goals and perhaps reflect better the broader range and higher level sustainability goals the brand should be achieving. It is a well known and well placed brand that arguably can afford to set its goals at this higher level and it is great to see it set them.  We will now have to wait and see whether they are achieved! The only other goal I would have loved to have seen would be to set a higher wage for its workers.

There is a lot more information out there, but I hope this gives a good overview of the ethics of the brand, what they are doing well and where they can improve. You can find more information in the links below.

2016 Australian Fashion Report

Good on You Kathmandu Rating Update

Kathmandu Sustainability Report

Kathmandu Corporate Responsibility Page

What are your thoughts on Kathmandu and its ethics? I would love to get a conversation started.

Thanks for reading, Christina xo

One thought on “Kathmandu Brand Ethics

  1. Hi Christina, thanks for this really interesting post. Kathmandu is a great brand and I buy lots of their products. Its good to see all their great initiatives around sustainability. As you say, workers’ rights is an area to watch. Hopefully Kathmandu can do as well in this area as they are doing in others. Are you going to do any similar analysis of other brands in the same space such as Anaconda, North Face, etc?

    Liked by 1 person

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