20 Jul

How Ethical Is PacSun?

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.

Environmental impact

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.

Labour conditions

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.

Animal welfare

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.

See the rating.

Good swaps

Our favourite “Good” and “Great” alternatives to PacSun

Afends

Rated: Good

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Afends is an Australia-based fashion brand leading the way in organic hemp fashion, using renewable energy in its supply chain to reduce its climate impact. You can find the full range in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Afends.

Franc

Rated: Good

Franc is a Canadian brand that makes basics so you can enjoy a complete wardrobe built on timeless essentials. The brand ranks 'Good' on all fronts: it uses eco-friendly materials, pays a living wage and uses no animal products. Find most products in sizes XS to 3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Franc.

Kotn

Rated: Good

Certified B Corp Kotn is based in Canada and works with local NGOs on the ground at the Nile Delta to provide every child in their farming communities with quality education, and to help close the gap of low literacy rates amongst communities. With every purchase, not only will you adorn a beautifully made shirt, but also help fund school infrastructure, materials, and salaries for teachers. Find Kotn in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

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Organic Basics

Rated: Great
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Organic Basics offers high-quality sustainable fashion basics for men and women in organic materials. It also recently launched its first sustainable denim collection! The Denmark-based brand puts sustainable thinking at the centre of everything—it only chooses fabrics that care for our environment, and only ever partners with factories that care about their impact. Organic Basics clothes are available in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Organic Basics @ Rêve en Vert.

Shop Organic Basics.

Boyish

Rated: Great
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Love the & Other Stories vibe, but hate their fast fashion business model? Boyish has all the quality, fit, and authentic washes that you could want without the harmful practices. Find sizes 2XS-XL.

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Shop Boyish @ Wearwell.

Shop Boyish @ Reve en Vert.

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Elle Evans

Rated: Great

Founded in 2013, Elle Evans Swimwear creates beautiful, sustainable, swimwear and activewear for people who care about fashion and the future. The brand uses post-consumer waste fabrics and traces all of its supply chain. The range is stocked in sizes XS-3XL.

See the rating.

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Näz

Rated: Good
sustainable navy jumpsuit by Naz

Näz is a Portuguese fashion brand that aims to make fashion look good, not only on you, but on the planet too. It uses a high proportion of eco-friendly materials including GOTS certified organic cotton, and traces most of its supply chain. Most garments available in sizes S-L.

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Check out our guide to navigating sustainable fashion as a teen

Editor's note

Feature image via Afends, 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 thousands of rated brands. We may earn a commission on sales with top-rated partners made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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