17 Nov

How Ethical Is Balenciaga?

NOTE: This brand’s rating is under review and subject to change. The article will be updated soon to reflect any changes in scoring.

Luxury fashion house Balenciaga was founded in 1919 by Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in San Sebastián. Based in Paris since 1937, Balenciaga rose to fame for its revolutionary silhouettes and modernisation of women’s fashion. These days, it is most well known for its motorcycle-inspired handbags but features a wide range of luxury clothes, shoes, and accessories for men and women. The Kering-owned brand has been making some efforts to reduce its environmental impact, but how is it doing for workers and animals? All in all, how ethical is Balenciaga?

Environmental impact

Care for the planet is where Balenciaga stands out, earning a “Good” rating, our second-highest score. Not only has it set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its operations and supply chain, unlike many other large brands, it is actually on track to meet said target.

It has a policy approved by CanopyStyle to prevent deforestation of ancient and endangered forests in its supply chain and uses a few eco-friendly materials. It also reduces chromium and other hazardous chemicals from the leather tanning processes. You can find these applaudable efforts across the entire Kering family of luxury brands.

Labour conditions

Unfortunately, we can’t see the brand making similar efforts for its workers—it is “Not Good Enough” for people. Most of its final production stage is undertaken in Italy, a medium risk country for labour abuse, where there is no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage. It received a middling score of 41-50% in the Fashion Transparency Index, as it publishes some information about its supply chain and labour policies.

While it does disclose policies to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19, overall, Balenciaga has some serious work to do to achieve a higher rating for those who make the clothes they are so famous for.

Animal welfare

Balenciaga’s animal rating is once again “Not Good Enough”. On the one hand, it has a robust policy to ensure animal welfare in its supply chain, traces most animal products to the first stage of production, and states that it sources wool from non-mulesed sheep. It also recently stopped using fur and exotic animal skins in its range, which marks good progress for animals. However, its use of leather, down, angora, and exotic animal hair brings the score down.

It’s one thing to have an animal welfare policy, but that doesn’t discount the death of countless animals for handbags and coats that could be spared by incorporating things like sustainable vegan leather alternatives. We hope to see the brand continue to phase out animal-based materials to improve in this area.

Overall rating: It’s a start

So, how ethical is Balenciaga? Overall, we gave it a rating of “It’s A Start”. Similarly to its Kering siblings, Balenciaga needs to work on its labour and animal welfare practices to improve its score. It could start by implementing living wages in its supply chain and phasing out some or all animal materials. We would also like to see a transition to a higher percentage of eco-friendly materials in the range.

Note that Good On You ratings consider 100s 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.

If Balenciaga’s rating isn’t quite there for you yet, but you love the style, why not look into pre-loved Balenciaga? Otherwise, we’ve found some other “Good” and “Great” alternatives to meet your needs.

Good swaps

Sustainable alternatives to Balenciaga

Balenciaga (Pre-Owned)

Rated: It's A Start

Balenciaga is a luxury fashion house founded in 1919 by Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in San Sebastián. The Kering-owned brand has been making some efforts to reduce its environmental impact, setting targets to reduce its direct and indirect emissions, and implementing initiatives to reduce water use.

See the rating.

Shop Balenciaga Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

O My Bag

Rated: Good

O My Bag merges style and a responsible approach, creating vintage inspired, rugged-chic bags made from eco-friendly, high quality materials. The Dutch label also uses low impact and non-toxic dyes in its products.

See the rating.

Shop O My Bag.

Shop O My Bag @ thegreenlabels.

Malaika New York

Rated: Good

Malaika New York is a minimalistic sustainable clothing brand with a focus on zero waste clothing and accessories. The US-based brand aims to eliminate fashion’s harmful environmental effects by utilizing minimal or zero waste patterns, while maximizing wearability by producing luxe-quality, contemporary garments that make a statement now and into the future. Find most garments in S-XL with some items going up to 2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Mailaika New York.

Culthread

Rated: Great

Offers

Culthread – Accessories

Sustainably made, functional bags and accessories. Durable enough to be worn and loved for years and years. Exclusive 20% off full priced bags and accessories with code COP20. (Ends: 24 NOV)

Checkout code: COP20
Shop now

Culthread – Jackets

Made of the highest quality recycled materials, these are jackets and coats you will want to wear and treasure forever. Exclusive 20% off full priced jackets and coats with code COP20. (Ends: 24 NOV)

Checkout code: COP20
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Culthread is a UK-based clothing label that offers stylish, practical, and everlasting jackets and accessories from vegan and deadstock materials. Culthread's goal is to make quality coats and lifestyle products that you will want to wear and treasure forever. Find most items in sizes XS to XL.

See the rating.

Shop Culthread.

Shop Culthread @ Immaculate Vegan.

Adidas

Rated: Good
The feet of a man wearing green, red and black trainers.

Adidas is one of the largest sportswear makers in the world. The company has set some good environmental and labour standards, including an absolute target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations.

See the rating.

Shop Adidas @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Adidas @ Labell-D.

Shop Adidas Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Adidas.

E.L.V. Denim

Rated: Good

E.L.V. Denim transforms old discarded denim into modern, sophisticated, and even 'made to measure' jean jackets, pants, and accessories. Find most jeans in UK sizes 24-32.

See the rating.

Shop E.L.V. Denim @ Rêve en Vert.

Shop E.L.V. Denim.

ARTICLE22

Rated: Good

Offers

Person wearing white top and gold ethically made jewellery by ARTICLE22.

ARTICLE22 – USA and Canada

The more ARTICLE22 jewellery you wear, the more land you make safe and clear from bombs in Laos. Exclusive 10% off new gold anodised pieces with code GOODONYOU10. (Ends: 24 NOV)

Checkout code: GOODONYOU10
Shop now
Person wearing white top and gold ethically made jewellery by ARTICLE22.

ARTICLE22 – Australia and New Zealand

Gold anodised jewellery that supports traditional Laotian artisan livelihoods, village development, community endeavours, and de-mining efforts. Exclusive 20% off new gold anodised pieces with code GOODONYOU20. (Ends: 24 NOV)

Checkout code: GOODONYOU20
Shop now
Person wearing white top and gold ethically made jewellery by ARTICLE22.

ARTICLE22 – Europe and the UK

Ethically crafted gold anodised pieces that are durable, corrosion-resistant, and and will remain sparkling for a long time. Exclusive 10% off new gold anodised pieces with code GOODONYOU10. (Ends: 24 NOV)

Checkout code: GOODONYOU10
Shop now

Every piece of ARTICLE22 jewellery is locally handcrafted in Laos using recycled materials from Vietnam War bombs, plane parts, military hardware, and other aluminium scraps. The brand embodies the innovation that the fashion industry needs more of—using recycled materials to produce beautiful globally-marketable products, while equipping local artisans with new skill sets and providing them with a sustainable source of income. ARTICLE22 gives back to clear more unexploded bombs in Laos, supports traditional artisans, and donates a proportion of profit to community development for workers. The range is available in sizes S-XL.

See the rating.

Shop ARTICLE22.

ZEROBARRACENTO

Rated: Good

ZEROBARRACENTO is an Italian brand that creates zero-waste silhouettes that celebrate the personality of those who wear it. You can find most pieces in sizes S to L.

See the rating.

Shop ZEROBARRACENTO.

Editor's note

Feature image via Balenciaga, all other images via 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 more than 3,000 brands. To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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