19 Feb

How Ethical is Everlane?

How Ethical is Everlane? Does it live up to its claims of ‘radical transparency’ or is it merely radical marketing? We take a look at how the US retailer rates in terms of their environmental impact, labor rights and animal welfare.

Californian online retailer Everlane is synonymous with timeless styles at affordable prices. Everlane has built its brand with the tagline ‘radical transparency’ and positioned itself as a leader in ethical practice. It says it is committed to revealing the true costs behind all of its products — from materials, to labor, to transportation. But behind the sleek advertising campaigns and celebrity endorsements, how do Everlane’s claims stack up?

Environmental Impact: Not Good Enough

When it comes to the environment, despite its claim to ‘radical transparency’, there are big gaps in the information Everlane provides to the public — and on some issues, there is no information provided at all. That’s why we gave Everlane a rating of ‘Not Good Enough’ for environment when we last rated it in August 2017. As a shopper you have the right to know how a brand’s products impact our planet.
On the plus side, Everlane does reject passing trends — instead emphasising classic, well-made designs that are more likely to be worn for longer, a key characteristic of ethical fashion. And we were pleased to see that in September 2017 Everlane introduced a new denim line that addresses many of the serious environmental impacts of denim production.
While over 80% of Everlane’s line is made from biodegradable materials like leather, wool, cashmere, cotton and silk, most of these materials — particularly leather, wool and cotton — require a lot of energy and water to produce including the resources used to look after the animals.

We’d score Everlane higher if they were more transparent around their impact on the planet, and incorporated more eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton and recycled wool across the full range of their products.

Labor Rights: Not Good Enough

When taken at face value, Everlane appears to do right by its workers.  The Everlane website includes a ‘Factories’ section which identifies many of the brand’s suppliers around the world, as well as providing pictures of the factories, short descriptions of how Everlane found the factory, the materials produced there, and information about the factory owner. Though publicly sharing a list of suppliers is a great step towards ‘radical transparency’, Everlane doesn’t state whether this is a complete list of suppliers. The list does not include any suppliers at the raw material stage.

What’s more, although the images provided depict good working conditions, it is difficult to confirm that they are truly representative of Everlane’s suppliers, as they were not provided (or audited) by an independent third party. It’s also unclear which part of the supply chain is audited and how often those audits occur. And finally, though Everlane states it has a ‘Vendor Code of Conduct’, unusually it does not disclose what it says — even many fast fashion brands manage to do that! As long as Everlane’s Code of Conduct is kept from public view, there is no guarantee that workers are being paid a decent wage, have a safe workplace, or benefit from empowerment initiatives.
To move towards actually delivering ‘radical transparency’, Everlane should make its Code of Conduct available to the public, provide a full list of suppliers and give more detail about its auditing processes.

Animal Welfare: Not Good Enough

Everlane does not use fur, angora, or exotic animal skin or hair in any of their products, but its score in this area suffers from its use of leather, wool and cashmere without stating the sources. The welfare of both animals and workers cannot be guaranteed when a brand does not list the source of animal-derived materials. Currently Everlane can only trace its Luxe Wool collection. Everlane needs to improve its transparency and the traceability of its materials, or even better, eliminate animal-derived materials in its products altogether.

Overall Rating: Not Good Enough

Rated: Not Good Enough

We’ve given Everlane an overall rating of ‘Not Good Enough’ based on our own research. To its credit, Everlane focuses on timeless designs over short-lived trends and emphasises the high quality and craftsmanship of its products, and they acknowledges that brands ought to be transparent. But there are important ways in which Everlane fails to live up to its own hype. Ultimately, Everlane’s claims of ‘radical transparency’ just don’t stack up against its inability to trace most of its materials and its unwillingness to provide information on its environmental impact, auditing processes and its Code of Conduct.  As Lizzie Widdicombe rightly put it in The New Yorker, “In some ways, the most radical thing about Everlane is its marketing.

So for the conscious consumer Everlane is out, but luckily there are a number of other ethical brands offering timeless, well-made designs that do right by their workers, animals and the planet. Check out these alternative brands rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’ on the free Good On You app!

Editor's note: Ratings are correct at the time of publication. Feature image via Everlane. Additional images via Everlane and brands mentioned.

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