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How ethical is PacSun? This teen-oriented American brand may be popular, but its lack of action for people and the planet is worrying. Read the article to learn more about PacSun’s “We Avoid” rating. This article is based on the PacSun rating published in March 2022.
PacSun may be making empty promises
American retail clothing label PacSun has kept up over the years as a popular choice with teens, marketing apparel that maintains the brand’s roots in youth-oriented culture. With over 325 stores across the US and Puerto Rico and almost 3m followers on Instagram, it’s clear the brand’s fans aren’t going anywhere. Yet the brand lacks evidence of providing a living wage to employees and falls short with its environmental policies, so we can’t help but wonder: how ethical is PacSun? Read on to dive deeper into the brand’s rating.
PacSun’s environment rating is “Very Poor”, the lowest score. It uses few eco-friendly materials; there is no evidence it has set a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target; it hasn’t taken meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals, and it doesn’t appear to implement water reduction initiatives.
While the brand does have a “Sustainability Shop” section of its website where it sells a range of clothes apparently made with “more mindful fabrics and processes”, upon closer investigation, the item descriptions provide vague information like “made from 100% sustainably sourced cotton”, and clothes tagged with the “Recycled” label are still made with 40% virgin polyester. This is a prime example of greenwashing by a fast fashion brand cutting corners to appear more sustainable than it actually is. While we appreciate PacSun’s recognition that it’s “the small changes you make today that will result in a better tomorrow”, it has a long way to go before it can be considered “Good” or “Great” for the planet.
Unfortunately, the brand is also rated “Very Poor” for workers. While PacSun traces and audits some of its supply chain, it does not disclose where its final stage of production occurs, nor any policies or safeguards to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19. Most worrying, there is no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain.
For a brand that claims it understands the importance of using its voice and platform to “inspire and bring about positive development in our local and global communities”, it has work to do to ensure the people behind the clothes are valued and treated ethically.
One area where PacSun is making at least some effort is animal welfare, for which it receives our middling score of “It’s A Start”. On the plus side, the brand does not use leather, down, exotic animal hair, angora, fur, or exotic animal skin. However, it uses wool, and it doesn’t appear to have a policy to minimise the suffering of animals, nor does it appear to trace any animal products even to the first production stage.
Overall rating: We Avoid
So, how ethical is PacSun? Overall, the brand receives our lowest possible score of “We Avoid” to reflect its lack of action for people and the planet in its production. PacSun would need to improve its transparency, incorporate more certified eco-friendly materials into its range, pay its workers a living wage, and shift away from the overproduced fast fashion business model to improve its score.
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.
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