20 Jan

How Ethical Is Converse?

Converse is one of America’s most iconic footwear companies. Providing people around the world with sneakers for over 100 years, the brand is considered cool and classic—but do the ethics match the image? How ethical is Converse? Read on to find out if you should keep repping connies or find more ethical alternatives.

Environmental Impact

Converse, owned by Nike, has set some ambitious environmental goals in recent years. Currently, the brand uses some eco-friendly materials including organic and recycled cotton and polyester. It minimises off-cuts in parts of the manufacturing process and has a waste reduction strategy for most of its supply chain.

Parent company Nike has set an ambitious Greenhouse Gas (GHG) target, that includes Converse, to procure 100% renewable for its strategic assets. It predicts this will reduce its operational emissions by more than 50% by 2025. Whilst Nike leads the way with its GHG target, there is no evidence it is on track to meet its target. It also lags behind on minimising water impact despite moderate improvements in tracing its supply chain to identify whether it operates in water-stressed basins.

In addition to this, we found no evidence of a policy to prevent deforestation in the supply chain. Despite some progress, Converse and Nike have a long way to go to reduce their environmental impact, which we rated ‘It’s A Start’.

Labour Conditions

We rated Converse’s labour conditions ‘It’s A Start’ as well. While some of its supply chain is certified by FLA Workplace Code of Conduct, including all of the final stage of production, the fine print says members “shall pay at least minimum wage or the appropriate prevailing wage” to their workers. But minimum wage does not equal a living wage, especially in high-risk countries where fast fashion brands outsource their production. What’s more, Converse’s COVID-19 policies protect suppliers in its supply chain from the impacts of the crisis, but not workers.

Converse also received a score of 51-60% in the Fashion Transparency Index: it likely publishes detailed information about its supplier policies, audits, and remediation processes. Converse publishes a detailed list of suppliers in the final stage of production and some information about the findings of supplier audits, as well as some information about forced labour, gender equality, or freedom of association.

Animal Welfare

Converse uses leather and wool, but does not use down, fur, exotic animal skin, exotic animal hair, or angora. The brand has a general statement about minimising animal suffering but not a formal animal welfare policy. Plus, we found no evidence it traces any animal product to the first stage of production.

For these reasons we rated Converse’s impact on animals ‘Not Good Enough’.

Overall Rating: It’s A Start

We have given Converse the overall rating of ‘It’s A Start’ based our own research. 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. While the brand has made a start in each category, it has a way to go before achieving a higher score. For such a profitable company, there really is no excuse not to implement a living wage or pay more attention to the treatment of animals in the supply chain.

See the rating.

You don’t have to go barefoot while waiting for Converse to catch up, though! There are ethical alternatives out there that will really put a spring in your step, with Australian brand Etiko taking the lead for sneakers.

Good Swaps

Ethical alternatives to Converse

Etiko

Rated: Great
white low cut etiko sneakers

Etiko is an Australian designer of organic, eco-friendly, and fair trade clothing and shoes. The brand constantly sets the bar for upholding and campaigning the human rights of people working in traditionally exploitative industry supply chains. Find the clothes in AU sizes 8-20, and the shoes in UK sizes 3-13.

See the rating.

Shop Etiko.

Veja

Rated: Good

Veja is a French brand designing ecological and fair trade footwear, and is also a sustainable fashion pioneer. The brand uses eco-friendly materials, like GOTS certified cotton and vegetable-tanned leather! Veja pays its co-operative cotton growers and rubber tappers between 30% and 100% above the world market price. By not advertising, Veja is able to invest more money into strengthening its ethical practices. You can find Veja shoes in women's EU sizes 35-46, and men's 35-47.

See the rating.

Shop Veja.

Shop Veja @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Veja @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Veja @ Outerknown.

Shop Veja @ Threads 4 Thought.

Shop Veja @ Labell-D.

Shop Veja Kids second hand @ Retykle.

CARIUMA

Rated: Good

CARIUMA is a sustainable Brazilian sneaker brand that wants you to feel super comfortable while providing effortless style in organic canvas, leather, and suede styles. Find CARIUMA's shoes in US sizes 5-13.

See the rating.

Shop CARIUMA.

Ethletic

Rated: Good

Ethletic make fair trade casual shoes and sneakers from organic cotton and natural rubber.

See the rating.

Shop Ethletic.

Flamingos’ Life

Rated: Good

Flamingos' Life creates sneakers for men and women 100% animal-free. The brand uses eco-friendly and PETA vegan approved materials, including upcycled materials. Find the range in sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop Flamingos' Life.

We love these sustainable brands listed above, but they may not meet your specific needs right now. Maybe they’re out of your price range, or don’t stock your size. If you really need something and a product from Converse is the best option, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about buying it! ‘It’s A Start’ means just that—the brand is making a start. If your options are Converse or a brand that is making little to no effort for people, the planet, and animals, Converse is a clear winner. Progress over perfection!

You can also reach out to brands who you think need a little nudge in the right direction. If enough customers demand change, brands that truly care about their impact will have no choice but to respond in kind. Check out the ‘Your Voice’ function on the app or slide into their DMs on social media to let them know what you think.

Editor's note

Feature image via Converse, 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 our Directory to search more than 2,500 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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