The Universal Hip Hugger is one of Parade’s newest release and is branded as ‘the world’s first carbon neutral edgeless underwear’. Having a CEO who is Gen-Z and aware of the environmental stakes we hold so closely is super refreshing to see as they’re a company willing to incorporate long term sustainable practices and had intentions to from the start. Their consistency with donating their money to compensate for areas they need improvement on or for things they realistically cannot do sustainably is also another bonus. It is reassuring to know they’re a company being guided by younger individuals wanting to make a cultural impact. Their beginning intentions of wanting to be sustainable is great and puts them in the right direction to only improve from here since they had such a strong and meaningful start.
I'll be honest, I've definitely had my fair share of ignoring the sustainability of essential things I have to buy because there was really never an alternative or one that I could afford. However, because essential needs are something that are always bought without a doubt, this should be a reason for us to care even MORE about its environmental impact as it can make a huge difference. Unfortunately, the items that are essential needs are often times not sustainable and cheaply sourced because almost every industry operates like that, making it difficult for consumers to access or afford sustainable goods. Being on a budget will definitely be difficult to afford sustainable products, which is understandable, but shouldn't be the case. At a whopping $9 for 1 underwear, this product isn't very accessible to a large audience, which Parade can improve on. Parade first sparked my interest when it started to flood my Instagram ads as having a large brand identity around sustainability. It caught my attention because this brand was willing to change the underwear industry to being sustainable and realistic. It makes you rethink like, ‘wait what IS my underwear made of and how is it contributing to climate change just like every other item I own?’. It's easy to neglect the sustainability of our 'must haves' so, we have to take initiative in changing our consumption habits and be willing to consume consciously; we have no choice, for the sake of our planet.
In a social context, Parade does a great job in breaking free from the ‘ideal female body type’ as they are an inclusive company that focuses on embracing this by offering an expansive size range, not photoshopping their photos, while also showcasing diverse models. As someone who is passionate about feminism, I really appreciate how they intentionally focus on being a normal and inclusive brand that wants to support female identifying people. They donate 1% of their revenues to Planned Parenthood and are committed to supporting such a significant cause. I love this project in general as it ensures your purchase means much more than a material gain. I value the efforts Parade makes in trying to compensate for their unsustainable practices by donating their money to organizations that can actually contribute to sustainability or that support female-identifying people. However, making such large claims without providing evidence, like posting their donation receipt, is concerning because consumers are supposed to just trust Parade’s word without much transparency. Overall, Parade does have more opportunities for growth, as do many other sustainable companies, but they do a great job in being one of the first groundbreaking underwear companies that focus on their all around impact on the planet and people.
Universal Hip Huggers are made out of 80% recycled nylon, 20% elastane, and a 100% organic cotton lining. Let’s break it down: nylon is a synthetic fiber, which is never great since it’s man-made from plastic and takes around 30-40 years to break down. However, Parade uses recycled nylon, which is certified by the Global Recycle Standard. This ensures a responsible social, environmental and chemical practice in the production processes. With the difficult disposal of anything synthetic, it’s awesome news that what would just regularly end up in a landfill is actually being put to use and given a new life. Parade even shares how their recycled yarns make a huge impact: they result in ‘8.5% energy savings, 84% waste water savings, and 77% gas generation savings’. From the production process, down to the waste management, this is an incredibly effective product in terms of reducing waste. Additionally, when you wash your clothes made out of synthetic fibers, there are tons of microplastics being released and being flushed into our water ways. Parade acknowledges this issue and brings this often unknown fact to the consumer’s attention by recommending washing their underwear (and other clothes) in a ‘Guppyfriend Washing Bag’ that captures these microplastics. Their cotton is certified by the Organic 100 Content Standard and is more eco-friendly as it is free from harmful chemicals and uses less water. (They verify the authenticity of the organic material). Elastane is a spandex like material, which is also synthetic and known for its stretchiness. This is definitely not very sustainable since it’s not natural nor recycled, but I can understand there has to be some tradeoffs in being realistic about having a sustainable business, especially an underwear one that needs some sort of elastic. The truth is, you can’t really source every single item from a natural and eco-friendly treasure chest, it just unfortunately isn’t realistic in the world we operate in. I give credit where it’s due, and in this case, Parade is already off to a great start in including sustainable fabrics while donating their funds to meaningful organizations to offset that imbalance.
Their packaging is 100% compostable where it can biodegrade in 300 days (in a composting environment) because it’s made out of cornstarch (it can be composted at home as long as the shipping label is removed or dropped off at a local composting center). The postcard included in each order is also printed on recycled paper. They also have biodegradable stickers that are printed with vegetable ink. Parade acknowledges there is much more to a zero waste future and argue they are working on more sustainable materials. However, they don’t reveal where they exactly source their packaging products from and what specific materials they are working on, making it seem quite ambiguous and a blanket statement, but still a huge step forward at least.
Parade uses Oeko-Tex certified fabrics, which are tested for harmful chemicals and deemed safe for humans. This ensures the protection of the planet and individuals, since unnatural foreign substances are usually not the nicest. They produce their products in Chinese based factories that are audited by amfori BSCI, an organization overseeing their supply chain’s social performance (They mention their goals of helping companies work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals by ‘decent work and gender equality’, but this is very vague unless there’s physical evidence). Other than the certifications Parade mentions they have, I could not find any public records of a Corporate Sustainability Report or Code of Conduct that discusses their full business layout in a collective format. Parade seems to work with many third party organizations that verify these certifications, which is reassuring since they have stakeholders to please and must continue making sure their quality is meeting these environmental and social standards.
Parade recognizes the imperfection of never fully being ‘sustainable’ by making huge efforts in carbon neutrality and offsetting. To Parade, carbon offsetting and neutrality basically means donating to meaningful environmental initiatives, in order to balance out their carbon emissions from producing and distributing their products. They are committed to becoming an entirely carbon neutral business by 2022. Specifically, they partner with Native Energy (a certified B Corporation that guides sustainable businesses in carbon offsets, investments, etc.). The Universal Hip Hugger underwear is predicted to emit 1898 metric tons of carbon (estimated by the Quantis Scope 3 evaluator), which is an incredibly large number that is quite alarming. Parade providing an actual number is pretty bold as it isn’t some excellent number, which showcases their willingness to be transparent about their actual carbon footprint. They offset the carbon by ‘investing in the conservation of May Ranch, a native prairie land in Colorado that is home to bird species’. This is important because it helps ‘improve air quality in a state that has lost 48% of its natural grasslands in recent years’. In other words, Parade is deliberate in how they choose to balance their carbon emissions and want you to know about it. However, Parade doesn’t provide much detail in the relationship of much they donate to their carbon footprint. For instance, does a certain amount of tons they emit equate to a certain amount of money that is being dedicated to whichever environmental fund? (They mention they donate 1% of their revenues to Planned Parenthood, but don’t disclose the certain amount regarding their carbon offsets.) This would reveal if they truly were committed to their carbon neutrality goal and whether they were on track, so it was quite concerning that they included all this specific information, except how they calculate how much to donate.
Parade products are made in a Chinese based factory that is Oeko-Tex and Sedex certified. The elimination of harmful chemicals is a win for the environment and for employees since they’re not exposed to dangerous conditions that could be unhealthy. Sedex certification validates and helps improve ethical business practices by auditing the employees’ safety, health, environment, and labor standards. With Parade’s Global Recycled Standard, it includes responsible social practices where it prohibits the use of any kind of forced labor, while providing minimum wage, health and safety, and only allowing hours according to national laws. Personally, I think this is the bare minimum and should always be a requirement for any company, not just ones that are supposed to be ‘making efforts’. It is a basic right to be working in a safe environment and not against one’s will so, this wasn’t very impressive. Parade can do better in being transparent about their workers and whether they are earning a livable wage because the minimum shouldn’t be the starting point. On the other hand, what these certifications may mean to you is pretty subjective since it’s based on the minimum of basic human rights, but if Parade is taking the steps to not adhere to regular industry standards that do allow for human and environmental exploitation, I appreciate the effort and acknowledge these accomplishments. It would have been great to see if Parade had set up its own universal standards for what they want all employees to follow, like a Code of Conduct, rather than having multiple meanings of an ethical social environment being applied. It is great that they implement these certifications, but it may be quite difficult for a consumer to trust these claims when there are no public reports being released to back up these fancy certifications.