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Go-to affordable and trendy brand American Eagle may be popular, but its lack of action for people, the planet, and animals has resulted in a score of “Not Good Enough”. This article is based on the American Eagle rating published in September 2023 and may not reflect claims the brand has made since then. Our ratings analysts are constantly rerating the thousands of brands you can check on our directory.
Not quite soaring on sustainability
American Eagle is a go-to destination for affordable and on-trend jeans and casual wear for young people with over 1000 stores worldwide. We take a look at how the brand rates in terms of environmental impact, labour conditions, and animal welfare. We ask—how ethical is American Eagle?
On the surface, American Eagle seems to be dedicated to sustainability. In practice, however, it appears to be doing very little to reduce its environmental impact. While it has set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations and supply chain, there is no evidence it is on track to meet its target.
The brand has taken no meaningful action to reduce water use, and there’s no evidence it’s taking actions to protect biodiversity in its supply chain. This is problematic, not just for the environment, but for workers and animals as well. American Eagle does use some lower-impact materials including recycled materials, but could certainly improve in that area too.
American Eagle outlines a number of sustainability strategies including the recycling of paper in its corporate offices, and the establishment of permanent I:CO recycling centres in over 823 stores across North America. As positive as these initiatives are, there is still a long way for American Eagle to go before it can consider itself more sustainable. For these reasons we have given the brand a score of “Not Good Enough” for the planet.
American Eagle is really lagging behind for people, too, with a score of “Not Good Enough”. There is no evidence that it provides its workers with a crucial living wage. It also sources from countries with high or extreme risk of labour abuse, however it has attempted to address these risks by signing the Bangladesh Building and Fire Safety Accord, and participating in the Business for Social Responsibility network.
The brand received a score of 21-30% in the 2023 Fashion Transparency Index, which, while an improvement on the prior year, is still lower than we would like. None of its supply chain is certified by labour standards which ensure worker health and safety, living wages, or other labour rights. And during the height of the pandemic, it didn’t disclose any policies or safeguards to protect workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19. It also doesn’t appear to support diversity or inclusion in its supply chain.
To make matters worse, in the past American Eagle has been linked to a number of scandals, including an incident in 2015 involving the dangerous use of sandblasting in a Chinese factory, as well as a leaked video in 2011 of a Chinese factory used by a number of American retailers including American Eagle that showed workers being subjected to poor conditions. In response to the sandblasting incident, American Eagle banned the presence of sandblasting equipment in any facility producing its clothing.
American Eagle is “Not Good Enough” for the animals, either. It has a general statement about minimising animal suffering but not a formal animal welfare policy. It states that it sources wool from non-mulesed sheep, which is good, but it doesn’t provide any evidence to verify its claims. Responsible Down Standard certifies the down it uses, but it uses leather and exotic animal hair without stating its sources. And while it doesn’t use angora, fur, or exotic animal skin, and it traces some animal-derived materials to the first production stage, there’s still work to be done for the wellbeing of our animal friends here.
Overall rating: ‘Not Good Enough’
While its greenhouse gas reduction target and recycling programs are a good first step, ultimately American Eagle appears more interested in talking the talk rather than walking the walk. Being more transparent about its environmental policies and labour conditions, paying a living wage to its workers, and using more lower-impact materials in its products would be great places to start. At the end of the day, American Eagle follows a fast fashion model, promoting quantity over quality, which is inherently unsustainable, meaning it rates “Not Good Enough” overall.
Note that Good On You ratings consider hundreds of issues and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.
Luckily there are more ethical and sustainable brands out there with higher quality clothes for you to rock.
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