How does one of the world’s most iconic sneaker brands rate? “It’s a Start” overall, and here’s why. This article is based on the Converse rating published in February 2022.
Iconic sneaker brand is making a start
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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 and “Great” alternatives to Converse