Sustainable Development: Get To Know Uniqlo’s Story

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On January 14, 2021, Uniqlo and the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation went to Guizhou province to donate 50,000 pieces of new clothing worth 8 million yuan.

Uniqlo once again donated 50,000 pieces of Heattech warm underwear valued at more than 7.15 million yuan to Wuhan and Shanghai on January 20. All were made possible through Wuhan Charity Federation and Shanghai Medical Union.

In the previous year, Uniqlo donated more than 100,000 pieces of practical wear to the staff of more than 80 agencies in Hubei and Shanghai, and other places. These pieces have a total value of 10.45 million yuan.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Uniqlo has been practicing social responsibility.
Indeed, a garment that warms the body also warms the heart.
Uniqlo not only shows us that clothing can keep us warm, but one can also become the carrier of philosophy and values in the corporate world.

What seems to be a simple piece of clothing is Uniqlo’s biggest secret on running a business right.
Indeed, for Uniqlo’s Tadashi Yanai, doing the right thing is the same as doing sustainable business. That is, doing what is right for the planet and people.

How can Uniqlo and its parent company, Fast Retailing Group, achieve an efficient and organized sustainable development strategy? And why is it important for the future of the company and society?
Can Uniqlo prove the significance of the company through sustainable development in society? Can they inspire other companies to consider the consumers?

Inquiry: Under the uncertain social tide, how to establish a sustainable development strategy

The year 2020 was difficult. And after that, more people began engaging in sustainable consumption.
Companies understand that sustainable development is no longer dispensable. They have also acknowledged its advantages.

With changing society, sustainable development will become necessary.
Companies will soon learn to adapt to these changes and needs.
In the fashion industry, sustainable development has now become a top priority.

But the sustainable development strategy of these companies is not simply a slogan or based on a whim.
They should also follow its standard operation and other systems. To achieve a long-term and effective sustainable development method, it must conform to internal logic.

First, Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, has made it clear the goals they want to achieve.
In 2015, the United Nations issued the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The goals set out the vision and priority for the sustainable development of human society.
Indeed, people can see Uniqlo’s corporate sustainability goals everywhere.

A commitment to sustainable development

Fast Retailing has put it in their sustainability report. Their goal is to offer customers “the ultimate in everyday clothing.” First in the form of merchandise.
With customers as the starting point, they will reduce the redundant links in the whole process. This is from production to logistics and sales. While effectively utilizing resources, they will also eliminate unnecessary output and labor.

In addition, Fast Retailing will set targets under the Paris Agreement as they continue its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its stores and throughout its supply chain.
To realize the recycling agreement, it began to sell and use PET plastic bottles. It can produce polyester fiber recycled goods.
They go beyond national frameworks and corporations. They do this action with every person and every business in the world.
It is to finally achieve their vision of “changing clothing, changing common sense, changing the world.”

Secondly, Uniqlo has also established relevant institutions to ensure the implementation of the resolutions.
Fast Retailing has had a Social Contribution Room since 2001.
In the beginning, CSR or corporate social responsibility and business are different. But with the subsequent development, sustainable development has become an important issue in the development of enterprises.
In 2005, Fast Retailing established its CSR division. They later renamed it to Sustainable Development Department.
It’s a sign that Fast Retailing has built it into its strategy.
Even within the company, business units are starting to set business goals in terms of sustainability.

Practice: by exploring the essential needs of society, internal and external linkage, to achieve a balance between commercialization and sustainability

To make the sustainable development goal of the enterprise succeed, we must find a completely sustainable development path. It is to realize the achievement of the sustainable concept finally. Taking the current internal and external linkage of Uniqlo as an example, this essay analyzes how to balance commercialization and sustainable development.

Based on long-term practice and experience, Uniqlo divides sustainable development strategy into three important points.

Talent Development:

Talend development is the foundation of sustainable and healthy growth for Uniqlo.

On January 25, 2021, the Top Employers Institute announced they awarded Uniqlo as the “Top Employers in China” certification. They have been given this title for six consecutive years due to their outstanding performance in talent development.


The Uniqlo Scholarship Program has been in operation since 2012.
At present, Uniqlo has cooperated with Peking University, Fudan University, Zhejiang University, and other well-known domestic universities to cultivate more than 300 outstanding students.

Uniqlo has always practiced the strategy of diversified talent development by respecting and giving full play to each employee’s creativity and work value.

Earth and the environment:

Through commodity planning, raw materials, production, logistics, sales, recycling, and reusing, Uniqlo reduces the load on the earth’s environment. This process achieves sustainable development of society and develops commodities with new value through technological innovation.

First, they undertook responsible sourcing of raw materials. Then they joined the Good Cotton Development Association to ensure traceability of cellulosic fibers such as rayon made from plants and wood.

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For recycled materials, Uniqlo offers polo shirts made from polyester derived from plastic bottles.
According to Uniqlo, the polo shirts are only a tiny fraction of the polyester used in its production.
More efforts will be made to expand the use of recycled polyester fiber raw materials in the future. At the same time, they are ensuring quality, functionality, and price.

Meanwhile, Uniqlo’s innovative water-saving technology for jeans can significantly reduce the amount of water needed to wash it.
Thus, reducing water and energy use.

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In addition, Uniqlo commits itself to the recycling of down jackets. From September 2019 to March 2010, it has collected 620,000 pieces of down jackets in Japan alone in six months. Then they used technology to make the down and feathers in light down jackets separate automatically. And they reuse them in creating new product lines.

Regional Society:

From 2012 to September 2020, Uniqlo’s “Whole Goods Recycling” program in China has extended the use of 3.9 million pieces of clothing.
Around the world, Uniqlo reuses clothes through recycling, benefiting more people in need.

Uniqlo is committed to working with partners and customers to solve local social problems. In July 2019, Uniqlo and China Soong Ching Ling Foundation launched the Miao embroidery project of “Inheriting the New and Transpassing the Power of ‘Excellent Embroidery.” This program helped to inherit and rebirth traditional culture and provided employment opportunities. Hence, it increases the income of more than 400 woman embroiderers at Xiangxi, Hunan, by 1,300 yuan per person.

All in all, Uniqlo and its parent company, Fast Retailing Group, have consolidated the whole link from production to recycling through the emphasis on talent development internally. They have achieved a high level of sustainable development goals across countries and regions through humanistic care externally.
This kind of internal and external linkage, which is based on the essential needs of the society, is worthy of reference for other companies.

The head of Uniqlo once said, “this is not to say that commodity losses do not matter. If the measures themselves are not sustainable, it is meaningless.”

Through improvement and innovation of production technology, Uniqlo finally achieves the integration of business and sustainable goals.
For example, during the implementation of the eiderdown jacket recycling program, Uniqlo is studying how to establish a complete recycling system. They are working with the world’s leading partners to improve recycling technology.
As a result, Uniqlo has managed to remain profitable at a normal price range.
Such a sustainable approach that does not harm the development interests of the company and achieves sustainable development at the same time is truly effective.

Concept: When sustainable development becomes the DNA of the enterprise, the right way to operate can be realized

As Yanai said in the Fast Retailing Group’s 2020 Sustainability Report, the most important thing for entrepreneurs is to have a mindset of “using your own business to make society better.”
Raising profits, creating jobs, and paying taxes properly are admirable social contributions.
But that is not all that the coming generation will ask from companies.

Do the goods we sell and the services we provide help society?
Does the way the business is run add to the burden on society?
The current generation expects companies to consider these issues and take concrete actions to reduce the burden on the environment in our daily business activities.

Under the guidance of this idea, Uniqlo adheres to the concept of sustainable development and even integrates it into its brand positioning.

Consumers in the new era can understand more things from the products. The choice between the brand and consumers is a two-way street.
When choosing a brand, consumers pay more attention to the brand features presented by the brand and the quality, which is more in line with consumers’ self-identity.

Uniqlo can attract more than 200 million customers because its brand attributes are also important in addition to its high-cost performance.

Uniqlo has always been studying how to improve the quality of a product and make it last longer. This indicates that Uniqlo has incorporated sustainable development into its product concept.

They do not produce, ship, sell or throw away unwanted clothes.

Sustainable development – key to success and popularity

Uniqlo wants to produce products that consumers want from their hearts. And at the same time, relying on current technological means make the materials and production process of clothing as sustainable as possible.
In addition, Uniqlo is committed to making clothes that can be worn in various situations so that its products can be worn sustainably.

From another perspective, this is also an important reason why consumers are willing to choose Uniqlo.
There is a kind of unspoken understanding between Uniqlo and its customers.
That is to enjoy high-quality, recyclable products while carrying out sustainable practices.

Sustainability, in general, is not a simple strategy in the philosophy of Uniqlo and its parent company, Fast Retailing.
It is realized through internal and external linkage. The combination of the current social demand and brand positioning permeates all aspects of the group.

As sustainable development becomes a common goal of society and even the whole world, the value of Uniqlo’s current approach is also demonstrated.
In the future, sustainable development will become a powerful driving force for competition among companies. And the practices of Uniqlo and Fast Retailing Group are worth learning and considering.


Business Director at Shanghai Fumao Clothing Co.,LTD

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