November 24, 2021

Your Essential Guide to Sustainable and Ethical T-Shirts: What to Look For and the Best Australian Brands

Meghan Grech
Your Essential Guide to Sustainable and Ethical T-Shirts: What to Look For and the Best Australian Brands
Find a durable wardrobe staple that doesn’t cost people or the planet.

There are so many ways to wear a humble t-shirt, from throwing them on as baggy loungewear to dressing them up with some jeans and a nice jacket or even layering them under some overalls or a jumper – it’s no wonder t-shirts are a staple for building a sustainable capsule wardrobe!

If you’re going to wear something so frequently, you want to make sure that every time you put it on, you feel confident that the people who made it were treated fairly and that it didn’t cost the Earth to get it to you. The most sustainable shirt is, of course, the one you already own, but if you need to buy a new t-shirt, read on to find out how to identify which shirts are sustainable and ethical as well as which Aussie brands are getting things right.

How can you know if a t-shirt has been made ethically and sustainably?

It’s important to look at what a brand is willing to tell you about how they make their t-shirts. Transparent brands often have a section dedicated to sustainable and ethical practices, usually linked either along the top bar or at the bottom of the webpage under a label like ‘Sustainability’ or ‘Responsibility’. If you’re having trouble finding it, check a brand directory like Good On You that compiles the same sort of information.

However, plenty of brands know how popular sustainable clothing is becoming and will talk vaguely about helping the environment without actually making their clothes more sustainable or ethical; this is a marketing trick known as greenwashing. To make sure you aren’t being fooled, read what the brand says about their manufacturing processes to see if it actually addresses the things you’re concerned about.

If you’re not sure what signs to look for, here are some questions that will help you tell if a brand is serious about being sustainable and ethical:

  • What materials do they use? Many materials that go into t-shirts can harm the environment. For instance, growing cotton often leads to pesticide use and overcultivation, while creating and dying fabric can use a lot of fuel, energy, and water (not to mention pollution!). To avoid these impacts, see if your t-shirt is made from organic or recycled materials, or if the brand opts for more sustainable natural fibres like bamboo or hemp.
  • Are they treating their workers fairly? Many brands outsource their manufacturing to factories in countries with weaker legislation around working conditions. See if your brand is open about their supply chain and whether they support workers’ rights, like a living wage, well-ventilated workspaces, and protection from abuse.
  • What are they doing about carbon emissions? T-shirt manufacturing will almost always involve some carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions, but sustainable brands try to reduce the impact by finding less carbon-intensive manufacturing methods, minimising how far their materials and goods need to be transported between production stages, or by funding carbon offsetting projects.
  • Are they accredited? There are many accreditations that give you a fair third-party assessment of a brand’s practices in a particular area, such as the Worldwide Responsible Accreditation Production, the Responsible Wool Standard, the Global Organic Textile Standard, and the B Corp Certification. Brands will usually display accreditors’ logos on their websites if they meet the standard.

Our favourite brands for sustainable and ethical t-shirts

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into knowing whether a t-shirt has been made sustainably and ethically, so to save you some research, we’ve compiled a list of five Australian brands that we think are doing the right things.


Boody creates a huge range of clothing basics, from t-shirts to socks and underwear, using material woven from naturally anti-bacterial, pesticide-free bamboo. They have a huge list of certifications and require all factories that they work with to sign their Code of Conduct, which emphasises the importance of fair and safe working conditions.

Boody Downtime Lounge Top


Etiko’s t-shirts are produced and manufactured in India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan – countries not typically seen to have strong worker protections – but Etiko ensures that every step in their supply chain meets Australian fair trade standards so that they can help improve living conditions for the people working for them. They have also won several awards in ethical and sustainable production.

Etiko Womens Grey Marle Organic Fairtrade Tee


Afends make their t-shirts from hemp, which grows faster and uses less water than cotton. They provide lots of detail about how each of their materials are made, including identifying the factories that do the work, and have worked carefully with the airlines, shipping lines, and haulage companies that transport their goods so that all their production shipments are now carbon neutral.


Citizen Wolf

Citizen Wolf custom-make their t-shirts to fit everyone perfectly, meaning no excess stock is left for landfill. Their fabric is knitted at one of the few knitting mills left in Melbourne and their garments are made in Sydney, with offcuts turned into scarves, yarn, and even kits for building your own tote bag!



Arnsdorf was the first leading fashion label in Australia to become B Corp Certified. Each item comes with information about the people involved in making them, from the designer to the machinists, and they offer lifetime repairs on all garments to ensure their clothes are as durable as possible.

Arnsdorf Ina Tee


It might seem like just a t-shirt, but even this everyday item invokes a lot of ethical and sustainable issues behind the scenes. Although the fashion industry often puts profits before people and the planet, there are lots of brands we can buy from out there trying to do better with our wardrobe basics, so long as we are willing to ask the right questions to find them.

For more ethical and sustainable clothing recommendations, check out our recently curated lists of Australian swimwear and activewear brands.

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