Best Socially Conscious Disposable Diapers
By Kelly Black
Best Socially Conscious Diaper Maker Overall -- Seventh Generation
Best Diaper Maker for Environmental Protection 2019 -- Seventh Generation
Best Diaper Maker for Women's Equality 2019 -- Proctor and Gamble (Pampers)
Best Diaper Maker for LGTBQ + Equality 2019 -- Kimberly Clark (Huggies)
Best Diaper Maker for Gun Control 2019 -- Undetermined
Best Diaper Maker for Promoting a Just and Civil Society 2019 -- Bamboo Nature
A Note from Kelly on Her Review
There are a lot of great reviews already out there about the quality of disposable diapers and which ones work best. An online search will give you a list of the “best” disposable diapers as ranked by parents, industry insiders, product testers, etc. If you just want to know which diaper most people think leaks the least or feels the softest, you can easily find that information.
Our review is different. While we know that choosing the right fit and feel is very important, we also want to give you the opportunity to take that information and combine it with a thorough examination of leadership on key social issues. If you’re like me, you care both about whether the diaper will work for you and your baby and about making a socially conscious decision about which diapers to buy. You want to know that your decision will have a positive impact on the protection of the environment, women’s equality, LGTBQ+ equality, gun control and perpetuating a just and civil society – or on some combination of those things.
Here, we list only the diapers I and other reviewers consider to be top quality, and also add recommendations based on social responsibility.
Kelly Black is a writer with a passion for shedding light on important issues. As a mother of two children with special needs, she particularly likes to focus her writing on causes that help promote people who have been marginalized by society. She has been published at adoptionmagazine.com and adoptiveparents.com, among other sites. She is married, and is the mother of four children and one precocious dog. She lives in Pennsylvania.
Best Socially Conscious Disposable Diaper Companies
By Kelly Black
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy once said, “Changing a diaper is a lot like getting a present from your grandmother – you’re not sure what you’ve got, but you’re pretty sure you’re not going to like it.”
We admit that, unlike Jeff Foxworthy, we’ve always loved seeing a good poop or pee in our babies’ diapers.
No matter what you think of what you find inside your diapers, you can and should like the company that makes the diapers you buy. We’ve done extensive research, and in this review you’ll find recommendations for the best overall Socially Conscious diaper company, as well as recommendations for each of the issues SweetScore knows are important to you when you’re making your purchases.
Diapers are an enormous business. Annual sales of disposable diapers worldwide are expected to hit $84.7 billion in 2019. If you’re a parent in the U.S., you can expect to spend around $1,500 on your child’s disposable diapers before you’ve fully potty-trained your child.
That’s a lot of your money that you can use to encourage good social practices by the diaper companies chasing your consumer dollar.
And it’s not just the power of your spending to consider, but also the environmental impact of all of those diapers. An estimated 20 billion disposable diapers go into landfills each year worldwide.
While some parents opt for reusable cloth diapers, cloth diapers too can have huge negative impacts on the environment, and the logistics of managing them mean that they are not a viable option for most parents.
So what do you do? Whether your baby is in disposables full time or part time, the answer is to make the best choice you can to meet your needs while also considering the impact of diapers on our planet.
Best Socially Conscious Diaper Company Overall - Seventh Generation
Seventh Generation started in Vermont in 1988 with the goal of protecting the health of the next seven generations. It set out to do that by challenging the generally poor norms for care of the environment by companies making the kinds of products it made, striving to update them, work on eliminating waste, and also model care on social just issues and transparency in its environmental and social policies. The Seventh Generation Code of Conduct states that the company aspires to transform commerce and build communities by advancing social justice and adhering to transparent policies.
We think Seventh Generation has done an admirable job living up to the goals it set for itself. While there is still a lot for Seventh Generation to do on the environmental front (like maybe use green tech to invent a truly biodegradable diaper that still works! Just saying…..), Seventh Generation has made important incremental environmentally friendly improvements in how disposable its diapers are made. Seventh Generation has also shown meaningful leadership on all the social justice issues that we focus on at SweeetScore, other than Gun Control.
Seventh Generation is also a certified “B Company”, which means that has made commitments on transparency and the consideration of social good alongside profit making (you can read about B Company status here).
Spending your diapering dollars with Seventh Generation will appropriately reward it for its efforts and encourage their competitors to further theirs.
Here’s our view on how Seventh Generation performs on each of the Issues we currently cover.
- Environmental Protection: Seventh Generation is to be commended for having made improvement on a number of important environmental issues related to disposable diapers. Among other things, Seventh Generation says that it’s changed the disinfectant treatments it uses in its diapers to remove all flammable propellants. It also says that it has completely eliminated boric acid from its diapers and uses 100% post-consumer recycled plastic in their packaging. Seventh Generation has also obtained third party certifications come from Clean Well, FSC, USDA (Certified Biobased Product), OTCO, Cotton, and the Rainforest Alliance, among others. They have a policy to avoid using conflict materials, and their Free & Clear diapers are perfume, latex, and chlorine free. Additionally, they don’t use petroleum-based lotions. Their Touch of Cloth diapers have a plant-derived outer layer that includes cotton. That cotton was grown using sustainable practices, and the insides of the diaper are white because of a non-chlorine bleach. Finally, one of their 2020 goals is that all of the energy used to make their products comes from non-fossil fuel sources. So not the bid break-through in disposable diapers we’re looking for, but good stuff, right?
- Women’s Equality and Reproductive Rights: Seventh Generation also has some impressive achievements on Women’s Equality and Reproductive Rights. It reports that by the year 2017, it achieved complete gender balance in its management and on its leadership team and that it closed the pay equity gap. Seventh Generation supports the Whole Planet Foundation, which offers micro-loans to people in 17 countries around the world, 98% of whom are women. These micro-loans help women and their families out of poverty by raising the living standard and promoting social justice.
- LGBTQ Equality: Seventh Generation has strict non-discrimination policies that apply to all parts of their supply chain – manufacturers, distributers, and suppliers. They have committed to fundraisers to support LGBTQ teens and came out against the HB2 law that made it legal for businesses in North Carolina to refuse to serve members of the LGBTQ community and to also fire them without cause. Seventh Generation also offers health care to unmarried couples and same sex couples.
- Gun Control: While we could not find a specific policy that Seventh Generation holds on gun control, they do promote responsible gun laws as a small part of events like their “Evening of Storytelling,” where people share stories of social activism and how it’s changing lives.
- Just & Civil Society:According to Seventh Generation’s Code of Conduct, it is committed to not using any child labor (defined as under 15 or the legal minimum age of employment) or forced labor. They have committed to paying fair wages and have closed the pay equity gap as of 2016. They expect all of their manufacturers, suppliers and distributers to pay workers a fair wage and to limit the number of overtime hours each employee is allowed to work. When they do work overtime, workers are to be fairly compensated.
While they’re not the biggest company on our list, their sales were still over $200 million in 2015. They were purchased in 2016 by Unilever, a large transnational company headquartered in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, for a reported price of between $600-$700 million, yet still remain committed to their impressive list of social justice goals.
Best Diaper Company for the Environment - Seventh Generation
For all of the reasons that we’ve already listed above, we’ve awarded Seventh Generation as the winner for the disposable diaper company that cares the most about the environment. They are setting the bar – and their goals – really high, and believe they can change the world through better policies that protect and preserve our environment through a better disposable diaper and better corporate policies.
We wanted to note one runner-up in this category, however, and that’s Earth’s Best. Their diapers are free of chlorine bleach, latex, dye, and perfume. The absorbent material in them is made from corn and wheat, with no harmful by-products. Their parent company, Hain Celestial has made strides to change the way they treat the environment as well. As a company, they boast the impressive statistics of having increased their volumes of products from 2013-2015, but at the same time, they cut their waste per ton of production by 12% and decreased carbon dioxide emissions per ton of production by 8%. These and other statistics are good and indicate that Earth’s Best is on the right track, but, in our opinion, they haven’t quite met the very high environmental bar set by Seventh Generation.
It’s worth mentioning that the Nature Babycare company based in Sweden produces a disposable diaper marketed under the brand name Naty that is environmentally designed in many respects. They checked off a lot of the boxes we find important in a company that cares about the environment: according to Nature Babycare, their diapers are made of 53% renewable resources with a goal of 100% by 2020, their bags that the diapers come in are made of sugarcane plastic that is plant-based and comes from a renewable resource, and their materials in their diapers actually reduce the production of greenhouse gasses.
That said, as we understand it, Nature Babycare has made a decision to manufacture in China, rather than in the United States as other disposable diaper makers we review here do. Given the deplorable state of environmental protections in China (not to mention an utter lack of freedom of the press, freedom of association, human rights atrocities, etc.), we just can’t recommend a product made in China as a good choice for an environmentally conscious consumer in the United Sates. Additionally, we worry about the impact of all of this transporting on the company’s carbon footprint.
For those reasons, we cannot endorse Naty. Should Nature Babycare reconsider its choice of China as a place of manufacturer and take a good look at their carbon footprint, we would welcome the opportunity to review them again.
In comparison, Seventh Generation both makes its diapers in the United States and pays an internal carbon tax, with money collected under that “tax” donated to environmental causes to offset the impact the company has on the environment. According to their 2017 Corporate Consciousness Report, Seventh Generation’s Social Mission Board “recommended increasing our carbon fee from $6 to $12 per ton. We also expanded the scope of the fee to cover emissions from cradle to distribution to our warehouses. We invested our carbon fund in agroforestry to offset greenhouse gas emissions associated with office energy, employee commuting, business travel, facilities operation, product manufacturing, and product distribution.”
Best Diaper Company for Women's Equality and Reproductive Rights - Procter and Gamble (Pampers)
The largest disposable diaper company to receive recognition on our “best of” list is Procter & Gamble. It’s been around since 1837 and boasted 95,000 employees worldwide as of 2017.
They’ve taken the promotion of women’s rights very seriously. They have numerous awards as a champion for women: three female executives names to Fortune’s Global Most Powerful Women, top ten company for best gender equality practices, Best Company for Working Mothers and Multicultural Women, Glassdoor Best Places to Work, NAFE, Top 50 for Diversity, and participation in the Corporate Equality Index to name just a few.
In 2017, they set some lofty goals for equality across the corporation. They set a goal of 50/50 representation of women at all management levels, although no goal year was given. Right now, one third of the people (4 out of 11) on their board are women. They hosted the first Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit in the Middle East. They set a goal of 100% of their ads and media accurately portraying women, and won an award in 2017 for having one of the most inclusive ads of the year. Finally, in 26 countries around the world, they’ve expanded their parental leave after birth or adoption for both mothers and fathers.
An important note about P&G:Per a report published on March 27, 2019, P&G is the third leading advertiser of Fox News. Given the network’s current extreme right wing views, we considered how that might impact our rating of the company and we encourage you to do the same. In the end, despite that very unfortunate placement of advertising dollars, we are choosing to stand by our assessment of P&G’s strong promotion of women’s rights.
We give our runner-up, Hain Celestial Group (parent company of Earth’s Best diapers) high marks for their global initiative to educate women in developing countries with their the Empower Her Through Education campaign and its various projects designed to fight poverty and promote the concept of leadership to young girls. However, for all of the good work that Hain is doing globally, it is not doing enough to promote women’s rights and equality within its own organization to allow us to name them the leader in this category.
Please also see our note on recycling below noting leadership Procter and Gamble is showing on the environmental front.
Best Diaper Company for LGBTQ+ Equality - Kimberly-Clark
Kimberly-Clark is one of the larger brands we examined in this category. They employ more than 36,000 people in 36 countries around the world. Their product is sold in 175 countries. This is not a small operation. But with great power comes great responsibility. Fortunately in this area, Kimberly-Clark does a great job with their power. They’ve achieved a 100% perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for 2018, which is the national benchmark for LGBTQ equality. They must meet high standards in four areas: non-discrimination policies, equal benefits, promotion of LGBTQ inclusion, and a public commitment to LGBTQ equality.
Furthermore, Kimberly-Clark was #17 on Forbes “Just Companies” Top 100 List, and #42 on their “Best Employers for Diversity” list. They’re also a winner of the 2018 LGBTQ Business Equality Excellence Award, which honors companies and organizations that promote safe work environments for those in the LGBTQ community, including their employees, distributers, suppliers, and consumers.
It’s worth noting that per their company Code of Conduct, all of their policies, including the provision of benefits to same-sex domestic partners, are standard for all 36,000 employees around the world.
Best Diaper Company for Gun Control - Undetermined
While several of the companies we reviewed had policies regarding safe workplaces – i.e. no guns in the workplace – we were unsuccessful in finding a company that had very specific gun control policies or that had taken a public stance calling for reasoned control of assault weapons and other guns.
One might think that companies focusing on care products for the most vulnerable in our society would think to speak up for them on gun control.
If you, our readers, have found any articles or posts on leadership in the Gun Control area by any diaper making companies, please send us the information using our online form for adding information on companies.
Best Diaper Company for Support of Just and Civil Society - Bambo Nature
Bambo Nature has its headquarters in Denmark (U.S. headquarters in California), and has been manufacturing relatively eco-friendly diapers for more than 30 years. As part of their commitment to a just and civil society, they pride themselves on following the stricter social policies of Denmark as well as the policies of the U.S. Minimum wage works differently in Denmark, but it works out to about $20/hour for a 37.5 hour work week. They pride themselves on a diverse staff and strong non-discrimination policies, according to Charles Kete from their marketing department. They remain firmly apolitical in most matters, allowing their employees to choose their own activism opportunities.
In addition to 25 different environmental certificationsheld by Abena, Bambo Nature’s parent company, it also holds two certifications relating to a just society. The first is the CE label, which guarantees that the product complies with European Union safety requirements and has been manufactured by a company that meets the health, safety, and environmental protection standards for all goods sold in the EU. The second certification is Fairtrade. Fairtrade certifications are issued by [add]. Holding a Fairtrade certification means that a company has taken important steps to minimize its environmental footprint as well as contributing financially to the progress of farmers in Central America, South America, Asia, and Africa, and giving those farmers an opportunity to invest back in themselves to help achieve better health care, education, and production conditions.
A Note on Cloth Diapers and Diaper Delivery Services
After reading the intro to this article, you’re probably wondering why we don’t give serious space to cloth diapers instead of disposable, and why diaper services aren’t considered.
First, cloth diapers. In addition to what we mentioned, which was that most parents will find themselves needing disposables at some point no matter how strong their commitment to cloth, the reality is that cloth diapers is a large category to consider its impact on society all on its own.
Additional factors to consider with cloth diapers include but are not limited to:
- Different types of cloth diapers on the market
- Where the diapers are manufactured
- Different inserts that can go into cloth diapers
- A new and different contemplation of environmental impact when you add all of the washing and drying that happens with cloth diapers
- An analysis of whether or not it’s truly safe to compost human waste
In short, there was simply too much to consider without greatly expanding the length and breadth of this article, and risking diluting the important considerations about disposable diapers.
The same was true about diaper services. Factors to consider with diaper delivery services include but are not limited to:
- Added environmental impact from the actual delivery
- Each service offered a different option of diaper – some only disposable, some only cloth, some a variety of each – that would necessitate you as the purchaser having an understanding of those diapers prior to assessing a particular service
- Some offered composting and some did not, which would necessitate an analysis of what is able to be composted in a diaper
Do you have a link to important information, pros, cons, etc. on cloth diapers or diaper delivery services? If so, we’d love to hear it – and we might even mention it in future reviews! We invite you to leave any links or other information in the comment section of this article.
Why Can't Disposable Diapers be Recycled
Recycling disposable diapers has always been a complicated issue because of the added factor of human waste. However, in recent years there have been significant strides made towards creating a process to recycle all parts of the diaper.
In 2017, Italian company Fater Spa piloted a diaper recycling project in northern Italy with the goal of keeping 8,000 tons of diaper waste out of Italy’s landfills. They are working in a carbon negative framework, and the challenge is extensive: The recycling process must include sterilization of the diaper, a drying process, and then a separation procedure so the different components of the diaper are recycled into different end products.
The success of this program has led to another facility being built in Amsterdam that was even more ambitious. This new facility can recycle 10,000 tons of diapers (and other hygiene products) each year. They are partnering with Procter & Gamble and created a goal of building at least ten additional diaper recycling facilities all around the world by the year 2030.
The potential for a positive environmental impact as a result of this effort is tremendous, and we applaud innovative companies like Fater Spa who see a daunting problem and work hard to find an effective solution that helps save our planet.
What are the Green Tech/ Green New Deal Plays?
Given the amount of money spent on diapers and the massive contribution they make to our landfills, there's ample opportunity for Green Tech and Green New Deal innovation.
Here's one example:
Ecovia Renewables is a company begun by University of Michigan faculty with the goal of creating and commercializing bio-based components using sustainable methods. In plain English? They’re helping to develop materials that are recyclable within previously unrecyclable products like diapers.
They’ve secured $1.6 million to work on creating these components, and have so far produced a gel of superabsorbent molecules that can both absorb waste, but also breaks down completely in soil. Additionally, it may even actually help the environment by adding water to it as it breaks down, thus reducing the need to water the soil.
Ecovia estimates that it has two to four more years of product and marketing development before it’s ready to be introduced, but it already has great potential to be a complete game-changer in the reduction of millions of tons of diapers that fill landfills globally each year.
How We Did Our Research
The first step we took in determining our pick for the best diaper companies was determining what we were leaving out of this particular evaluation.
We obviously eliminated cloth diapers and diaper delivery services for the reasons listed above. In the future, we hope to offer reviews for both cloth diapers and diaper services so stay tuned!
The second step was to examine companies that manufacture and distribute disposable diapers. For this review, we looked extensively at ten different manufacturers:
- Amazon (sold as Mama Bear)
- Bambo Nature
- Earth’s Best TenderCare
- First Quality (sold as Cuties)
- Kimberly-Clark (sold as Huggies)
- Procter & Gamble (sold as Pampers)
- Seventh Generation
- The Honest Company
- Walmart (sold as Parent’s Choice)
All were heavily researched online for two reasons: to see their stances on issues of social justice and to see how transparent they were about those issues. As expected, the larger companies (Amazon, First Quality, Kimberly-Clark, Procter & Gamble, Seventh Generation, and Walmart) had detailed Code of Conducts and corporate social justice policies. While we couldn’t always recommend them because of their policies, each is to be commended for being so open, public, and transparent with their company’s stances on these issues.
The other four (Bambo Nature, Earth’s Best, Naty, and The Honest Company) were each contacted via email. The Honest Company was the only one that replied, and interestingly their reply did not address the issue in the email, namely to complete a very brief survey on their social justice stances. Instead, they indicated that they could not partner with us in business at this time, which was not what we had requested. Three companies were then called. (Naty was not as there was no phone number on their website.) Of those three that were called, Bambo Nature was the only one we were able to speak with. The Honest Company returned a message but only referred us back to email communication, and Earth’s Best had missed a promised return-call deadline at press time.
We also want to note that we researched nine additional disposable diaper companies as part of the initial overall market review. We determined that while each was making strides, their corporate standards weren’t as high as the ten that we ultimately decided to review more in depth. Here are those additional companies, along with the main selling point for each.
- Aleva Naturals – Very eco-friendly; touts non-bleaching process in all diapers due to use of bamboo with a natural anti-bacterial agent.
- Andy Pandy – Family-operated company focused on eliminating all chemicals from diapers.
- Attitude – Environmental Working Group (EWG)verified product, which means that the safety of the products is guaranteed and the product is free of all harmful chemicals.
- Babyganics – Real focus on baby’s skin; materials in diapers are plant-based and diapers are designed to protect skin.
- Broody Chick – Per their website, their diapers are 100% natural and fully compostable, but there is no data to back that up and the product is currently unavailable for purchase for unspecified reasons.
- Hello Bello – Premium diapers sold only at Walmart. Goal is to offer eco-friendly diapers at less expensive prices. In the process of getting non-GMO certified and offer ingredient listings for each product. Disposable diaper components are made in the USA and Canada.
- Kirkland Signature Supreme – Kirkland is the name brand for Costco, which requires a yearly membership in order to purchase their products. While the price for the diapers is very competitive, there is no concern for being eco-friendly.
- Parasol – Patented absorption design in an eight-layer diaper; meets some rigorous environmental standards, including that certifying that materials come from responsibly-managed forests.
- Poof – Fully compostable, but only in commercial composting facilities; much pricier than other diapers.
Finally, on a personal level, I (the author) am a mother with four children, all of whom used disposable diapers during their early years. Two of my children have special needs, and have therefore required diapers much longer than the average child. Through all of my years of diapering, I’ve tried many of the diapers on this list. I understand trying to find the tenuous balance of being conscious of the environment (and other social justice issues) and also of a personal budget, yet all the while wanting the best for your child. The diapers listed here were reviewed with all of that in mind.
Put Your Wallet Where Your Heart Is