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?
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.
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!
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.
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!