Uniqlo has enlisted Doraemon, a fictional cat, as its Global Sustainability Ambassador. Doraemon activates its "sustainability mode" by turning green — a cute little marketing gimmick that is the perfect tool for further distracting Uniqlo's customers from the actual impact the brand has on the planet. (See also: greenwashing.)
Fast Retailing's Koji Yanai said in a statement that the group is "delighted" by the partnership and that Uniqlo is doing its most to "contribute to a better, more sustainable world." By the very nature of "fast retailing," this is, at best, a lie.
When you check on Good On You (a very handy app for rating brands based on environmental impact, labor conditions, and animal welfare), it doesn't take long before you realize that the brand has a very long way to go before it be considered to be making any real effort on the sustainability front. As far as we can surmise, Uniqlo also doesn't report its supply chain progress so...it's pretty impossible to know what's going on behind the surface-level cats.
What we do know, however, is that the $9.2 billion brand has been embroiled in an ongoing worker's rights case for years, leaving thousands of garment workers in Indonesia fighting for $5.5 million worth of severance pay. And while the entire fashion industry could be complicit in the Uyghur human rights scandal, ABC reported on a clear connection to Uniqlo in 2019 — the words "Made from Xinjiang Cotton famous for its superb quality" were advertised on its men's button-down shirts.
(However, last year, a Uniqlo spokesperson told The Guardian that "no Uniqlo product is manufactured in the region and insists that all production partners in its supply chain uphold their codes of conduct on human and workers rights.")
This isn't to say that using a mascot to explain sustainability is fundamentally a bad thing. Understanding all of the terminologies that fall under "sustainable" is a complicated and convoluted journey, one that requires us to do actual work in order to get our minds around what the terms mean, what their impact is, and how we can unite to offset them. But it would be great if the company spearheading such an endeavor would be doing so from a transparent place.
So if any other fast fashion giants are thinking of painting an animated character green in a bid to make it seem like they care about the planet and those on it, please, please, spare us.