How Ethical Is Patagonia? - Good On You
25 Nov

How Ethical Is Patagonia?

Patagonia is widely known as an outdoor and adventure-wear brand that leads the way on taking care of our earth. With a mission statement to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”, Patagonia has set a high bar. Let’s take a look at how well it is met! Just how ethical is Patagonia? And are there any brands like Patagonia that might better meet your needs?

Environmental Impact

Patagonia is taking impressive action to reduce its environmental impact. All of its cotton is certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and it is bluesign® certified for some of its fabrics. A high proportion of its materials are made from recycled fabrics, including its polyester, nylon, and wool. Patagonia belongs to both the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and 1% For The Planet. It rejects fast fashion by creating high-quality, long-lasting products, and offers a repair and reuse program.

It even goes so far as to discourage customers from purchasing too many of its products. The brand’s “Don’t buy this jacket” campaign was designed to tackle the issues of consumerism head on. Patagonia recognises that buying less is one of the major steps shoppers can take to reduce their own eco footprint, saying “It would be hypocritical for us to work for environmental change without encouraging customers to think before they buy.” That’s a message we can get behind!

Patagonia is rated ‘Good’ for the environment due to these fantastic initiatives, but there is more it can do to achieve the top environment rating. While it has taken meaningful action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in its direct operations, Patagonia has not yet set a clear time-bound greenhouse gas reduction target. There is also no evidence it has a policy to prevent deforestation in its supply chain. We don’t know whether Patagonia is addressing this issue, but strongly recommend that it puts its commitments and actions on the public record for that final push in this category.

Labour Conditions

Patagonia is making decent efforts for workers with good policies to audit suppliers in its supply chain, and has been rated ‘It’s A Start’ for labour conditions.

Patagonia received a score of 51-60% in the Fashion Transparency Index. Some of its supply chain is certified by FLA Workplace Code of Conduct and Fair Trade USA in the final stage of production. The brand also 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. Patagonia also discloses policies to protect suppliers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19, but not workers.

While Patagonia has a project to improve wages in its supply chain, there is no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage at this stage. We know the brand can do better for the workers that make its sustainable clothing!

Animal Welfare

Patagonia has decent animal welfare policies, and scores ‘It’s A Start’ in this category. It has a general statement about minimising animal suffering and traces most animal products to the first stage of production, but does not have a formal animal welfare policy. Patagonia uses leather and exotic animal hair and states that it sources wool from non-mulesed sheep. Patagonia’s down is accredited by the Responsible Down Standard and the brand does not use angora, fur, or exotic animal skin.

Global animal welfare organisation Four Paws called out Patagonia for its inhumane treatment of birds in the past, but the label was quick to respond. It now works side by side with the organisation to encourage humane practices industry-wide.

Overall Rating: Good

We’ve given Patagonia an overall rating of ‘Good’, based on our own research. This brand lives up to the standards it set itself by pushing for sustainability across the board. To build on that great work we recommend that Patagonia looks at setting and publishing more concrete water, carbon emission, and deforestation targets, and keeps pushing to implement its plans to pay all workers in the supply chain a living wage. Patagonia is certainly a brand worth giving your support to.

See the rating.

Shop Patagonia @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Patagonia @ Labell-D.

Shop Patagonia.

Shop Patagonia Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Patagonia Kids Pre-Owned @ Retykle.

Similar brands to Patagonia

While Patagonia is certainly a leader in its field, it has some improvements to make and may not be exactly what you are looking for. Here are some brands like Patagonia for all your ethical outdoor clothing needs!

Outerknown

Rated: Good
kelly slater wearing outerknown trunks

Founded by surf champion Kelly Slater, Outerknown is a sustainable brand that aims to blend style and function with the protection of natural resources. The brand is Bluesign certified and has partnered with the Fair Labour Association. Find the range in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Outerknown.

Shop Outerknown @ Curate.

PACT

Rated: Great
woman of colour wearing organic cotton hoodie by brand PACT

PACT is a brand that is passionate about being part of a movement transforming the way apparel is made. All of its clothing is sweatshop-free and child-labour-free, and its activewear range is almost entirely made from certified organic cotton, with more than 50% also certified as Fair Trade. Find PACT in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop PACT.

GROUNDTRUTH

Rated: Good
sustainable fashion brand groundtruth

UK-based GROUNDTRUTH grew from 3 sisters’ shared belief in the power of collaboration, and their drive to protect people and nurture the planet. Together, they saw the opportunity to design problem-solving travel goods that drive positive change: reducing plastic pollution and improving people’s lives.

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Shop GROUNDTRUTH.

éclipse

Rated: Good

éclipse creates climate control UPF 50+ clothing essentials and accessories to help keep the whole family sunsafe. It manufactures locally to reduce its carbon footprint, and its entire product range is vegan-friendly! Products are stocked in sizes S-XL.

See the rating.

Shop éclipse.

Alice + Whittles

Rated: Great
sustainable weekender boot from fashion brand Alice + Whittles

Alice + Whittles favours transparency, ethical manufacturing practices and sustainable materials as a means of creating long-lasting, positive change. Find the boots in EU sizes 36-42.

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Shop Alice + Whittles.

NIKIN

Rated: Good
Sustainable socks in navy

If you’re the kind of person who likes to wear their morals, look no further. Not only is a tree planted every time you purchase a NIKIN product, you also get to show your tree pride! Products are available in sizes XS-XL.

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Shop NIKIN.

Howies

Rated: Good

Howies believes in making higher quality, lower impact products for our sports and day-to-day lives. The label uses a high proportion of eco-friendly materials including GOTS certified organic cotton. It also addresses the risks of labour abuse by adopting the GOTS Code of Conduct.

See the rating.

Shop Howies.

Picture

Rated: Good

France-based Picture designs eco-friendly, organic, and recycled apparel and products for snowboarding, skiing, outdoors, and surfing. The brand reuses all its offcuts to minimise textile waste and is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, working to ensure good working conditions for its workers. The range is generally available in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Picture.

Finisterre

Rated: Good

Born from the needs of hardy British surfers, Finisterre is a pioneering, sustainable outdoor brand, built to inspire a love of the sea and anchored in exceptional products.

See the rating.

Shop Finisterre.

Yuki Threads

Rated: Good

Yuki Threads is a premium Australian snowboarding apparel brand.

See the rating.

Shop Yuki Threads.

The North Face (Pre-Owned)

Rated: It's A Start

For more than 50 years, The North Face has made activewear and outdoor sports gear that exceeds expectations. The brand has good policies to eliminate hazardous chemicals in its supply chain and uses some eco-friendly materials, including recycled materials.

See the rating.

Shop The North Face Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Jack Wolfskin (Pre-Owned)

Rated: Good

Founded in 1941, Jack Wolfskin is a German brand on a mission to motivate people to go outside and connect with nature, experience new things, and enjoy (life outdoors) with family and friends. The brand has good policies to audit suppliers in its supply chain and it uses a few eco-friendly materials.

See the rating.

Shop Jack Wolfskin Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Discover more ethical and sustainable activewear brands.

Editor's note

Article updated in November 2020. Feature image via Patagonia. 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 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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