Fast fashion brands funding war in Ukraine

November 3, 2022
International NGOs report on the link between Russian oil and fast fashion manufacturing

SAN FRANCISCO – Today the Changing Markets Foundation, in partnership with and Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine, released a report investigating the link between Russian oil and major fast fashion brands in the United States and Europe. The investigation shows major companies are both exacerbating the climate crisis and undermining efforts by the West to cut funding from Putin’s illegal war by taking advantage of Russian oil’s discounted prices. 

The report ‘Dressed to Kill – Fashion brands’ hidden links to Russian oil in a time of war’ lists 39 global brands that are buying polyester, made from the oil, deriving from two of the world’s largest polyester manufacturers: India’s Reliance Industries and China’s Hengli Group. Several brands are linked to Reliance and Hengli through their supply chains like Nike, Columbia Sportswear, GAP, Gildan, Costco, Levi Strauss & Co., Oakley, PVH, Target, VF Corporation, North Face, Walmart, Wrangler, meanwhile, all of these brands have pulled out of Russia.

Changing Markets Foundation calls for complete transparency from fashion brands with regard to the use of synthetic fibres, and commitment to phase them out with a 20% reduction set to a 2021 baseline in the use of fossil fuel-based materials by 2025 and a 50% reduction by 2030.

“At a time where the fate of Ukraine hangs in the balance, I would urge these brands to stop using tainted polyester to help cut Putin’s purse strings. Fast fashion is founded on cheap fossil-fuel derived materials fueling plastic pollution and the climate crisis,” George Harding-Rolls, Campaign Manager at Changing Markets Foundations, said. “Now for the first time we see another human cost of this dependence – buying synthetic clothing made from Russian oil is bolstering their economy during the heinous invasion of Ukraine.”

Even though over 25 of the 39 (64 percent) of these brands have suspended or withdrawn their Russian operations after the invasion of Ukraine, through their reliance on synthetics they continue to contribute to the Russian economy and are, indirectly, funding the war. Not to mention, dozens of fashion brands continue sourcing polyester from the two producers, which stands in contrast to their high-profile sustainability claims.

“This report shines a spotlight on how deeply entrenched fossil fuels are in the fashion industry, and how that connection threatens both people and planet,” said Rachel Kitchin, Corporate Climate Campaigner at “Wherever their oil comes from, brands that rely on fossil fuels for fibres, fuel or power are fueling conflict and hurting communities by contributing to climate-wrecking emissions and deadly air pollution. Brands should commit to phase out fossil fuel-derived materials, and strive for 100% clean renewable energy across their supply chains by 2030.”

Reliance is one of the world’s largest integrated producers of polyester fibre and yarn due to owning the world’s largest oil refining hub in Gujarat, northern India. The company has faced numerous allegations of corruption and environmental and human rights abuses with many workers being paid just a few dollars a day. There is evidence that another key polyester supplier, the Chinese Hengli Group, is also purchasing Russian oil to make its polyester-based products. By May 2022 Hengli’s imports of Russian oil had soared by 55% compared with a year earlier, and the company is known to have been purchasing discounted crude oil from Russia in recent months. 

Cheap synthetic fibres, made from fossil fuels such as oil and gas, now make up 69% of all textiles and are to blame for the rapid rise in fast fashion which is ramping up the global waste crisis and microplastic pollution, according to the report. This figure is expected to skyrocket to nearly three quarters by 2030, of which 85% percent will be polyester.

Brands, directly and indirectly, buying synthetic fabric made by Reliance Industries and Hengli Group include a combination of luxury, high-street, fast fashion, sports, and low-cost brands and retailers, including Adidas, Asics, Boohoo, Gap, Hugo Boss, Inditex, Levi’s, Nike, North Face and Uniqlo.

“Brands must reveal their supply chains and immediately end the use of Russian or anybody else’s fossil fuels and switch to safe, natural, sustainable materials and business models,” Anastasiia Martynenko, Head of NGO Zero Waste Society (Ukraine) said. “The full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia made clear a cynical and naive dependency on fossil fuels. Using Russian oil and gas for the production of clothing is effectively supporting Putin’s bloody war.” 



Media contact:

Rebecca Hesketh, Changing Markets,

Emily Pomilio, Corporate Campaigns,


Changing Markets Foundation:

The Changing Markets Foundation was formed to accelerate and scale up solutions to sustainability challenges by leveraging the power of markets. Working in partnership with NGOs, other foundations and research organizations, we create and support campaigns that shift market share away from unsustainable products and companies and towards environmentally and socially beneficial solutions. 


Stand is an advocacy organization that brings people together to demand that corporations and governments put people and the environment first.

About Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine

Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine is a public association that unites Ukrainian zero waste initiatives, created by Zero Waste Lviv, Zero Waste Kharkiv and Zero Waste Society (Kyiv) in 2019.