03 Aug

How Ethical Is American Eagle?

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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 January 2022.

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?

Environmental impact

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 an absolute 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.

There is also no evidence that American Eagle is taking adequate steps to minimise or eliminate hazardous chemicals in its supply chain. This is problematic, not just for the environment, but for the brand’s workers as well! While it does measure and report on its water usage and wastewater management, it has not set any specific targets. American Eagle also lacks adequate policies and initiatives for resource management and disposal, and uses few eco-friendly materials.

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 sustainable! For these reasons we have given the brand a score of “Not Good Enough” for the planet.

Labour conditions

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. Despite this, it received a very low score of 11-20% in the Fashion Transparency Index, as none of its supply chain is certified by labour standards which ensure worker health and safety, living wages, or other labour rights. It also does not disclose any policies or safeguards to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19.

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.

Animal welfare

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 uses leather, down, and exotic animal hair without stating its sources. While it doesn’t use angora, fur, or exotic animal skin, there is no evidence it traces any animal products to the first stage of production. This is problematic as the welfare of the animals and workers can’t be guaranteed.

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 eco-friendly 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.

See the rating.

Luckily there are more ethical and sustainable brands out there with higher quality clothes for you to rock.

Good swaps

“Good” and “Great” alternatives to American Eagle


Rated: Good
two images of people in tops, shirts and trousers


People in tops, bottoms and accessories by Afends.

Afends – Site-wide

Say hi to the new season with 20% off at AFENDS. Born in 2006 in Byron Bay, it leads the way in hemp fashion with 100% sustainable fabrics. Exclusive 20% off off with code AFENDSGOOD20. (Ends: 7 JUN)

Checkout code: AFENDSGOOD20
Shop now

Born in Byron Bay, Afends is a responsible brand leading the way in hemp fashion. Drawing inspiration from the environment, streetwear, and surf culture, Afends’ mission is to create more sustainable clothing through innovation, action, and positive change. As true hemp advocates, they purchased 100 acres of farmland called Sleepy Hollow to grow their own hemp crops and ignite the hemp revolution.

Find most of the range in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Afends.

Kings of Indigo

Rated: Great

Kings of Indigo makes quality denims, tops, and accessories inspired by American classics with a Japanese eye for detail. The brand uses GOTS organic cotton as well as recycled cotton and wool, and avoids all chemicals from the REACH chemical list.

Offered in sizes XS-L.

See the rating.

Shop Kings of Indigo.

Seek Collective

Rated: Good

Seek Collective is a US brand of thoughtfully made items with a dedication to transparency, authenticity, craft, and sustainability. Seek is focused on establishing connections between art, product, consumers, process, and makers. Its items are made in India through partnerships with like-minded communities and people.

Find most products in XS-L, with an extended sizing range up to 4XL.

See the rating.

Shop Seek Collective.


Rated: Good
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Thanks to recycled materials like rescued ocean plastic, Ecoalf creates sustainable fashion with the same quality, design, and technical properties as the best non-recycled ones.

Find the range in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Ecoalf @ Farfetch.

Shop Ecoalf.

Editor's note

Feature image via American Eagle, all other images via the brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world's most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use the directory to search thousands of rated brands. To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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