23 Feb

How Ethical Is Patagonia?

During last year’s COP26, Patagonia announced that it no longer wants to call itself a “sustainable brand”, recognising that despite its efforts, it’s still very much part of the problem. The brand now aims to reduce its footprint further, by cutting emissions throughout its supply chain. So what is Patagonia doing for people, the planet, and animals exactly? How ethical is Patagonia? This article is based on the Patagonia rating published in February 2022.

Is Patagonia a sustainable and ethical brand?

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. A high proportion of its materials are made from recycled fabrics, including its polyester, nylon, and wool. Most importantly, Patagonia’s business model is different: it rejects fast fashion by creating high-quality, long-lasting products, and offers a repair and reuse program. Patagonia has also conducted research with industry bodies on the impact of microplastics.

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 the brand has implemented greenhouse gas emissions reduction activities throughout its supply chain to reduce its climate impact, we found 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 “Good” efforts for workers with good policies to audit suppliers in its supply chain.

Patagonia received a score of 51-60% in the 2021 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.

Patagonia was previously rated “It’s a Start” for labour, due to the lack of evidence it ensured payment of a living wage. We knew the brand could do better for the workers that make its sustainable clothing, which is why we were happy that Patagonia is now ensuring payment of a living wage in some of the final stage of production.

Animal welfare

Patagonia has also improved its animal welfare policies, going from “It’s a Start” to “Good” in this category. It now has a formal animal welfare policy aligned with Five Freedoms and has clear mechanisms to implement. 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. We’re glad to see the brand improve over the years. To build on that great work we recommend that Patagonia looks at preventing deforestation, paying a living wage across all of its supply chain, and keep reducing the amount of animal-derived materials it uses. Patagonia is certainly a brand worth giving your support to.

See the rating.

Shop Patagonia @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Patagonia @ Labell-D.

Shop Patagonia Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Patagonia Kids Pre-Owned @ Retykle.

Shop Patagonia.

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.

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.

Alder

Rated: Good

Alder is a Canadian brand that offers inclusive sizing, community-informed design, sustainable and ethical production. This playful brand starkly contrasts with the performance-driven, hard-core athletic brands that currently dominate the outdoor space. The brand believes that outdoor recreation = happiness and the outdoor industry should be focused on fun, not exclusively performance and be a real leader in inclusivity, diversity and sustainability. Find most items in sizes XS to 6XL.

See the rating.

Shop Alder.

PACT

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

PACT is a U-based 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.

See the rating.

Shop GROUNDTRUTH.

Shop GROUNDTRUTH @ Staiy.

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.

Thesus (Alice + Whittles)

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

Thesus favours transparency, ethical manufacturing practices and sustainable materials as a means of creating long-lasting, positive change. Find the boots in EU sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop Thesus.

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.

See the rating.

Shop NIKIN.

Wuxly Movement

Rated: Good
Two people outside wearing a mint green and a bright orange technical raincoat ethically made by Wuxly Movement.

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Two people outside wearing a mint green and a bright orange technical raincoat ethically made by Wuxly Movement.

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Wuxly Movement is a Canadian brand that produces outerwear designed to be a unique combination of tech-based and recycled materials for elite performance. Drawing on Canada's heritage in quality manufacturing, the founder saw an opportunity to innovate using sustainable materials all while peacefully leaving animals out of the equation! Find the range in 2XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Wuxly Movement.

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.

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.

Shop The North Face Kids Pre-Owned @ Retykle.

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 outdoorwear brands

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash, additional images via the brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world's most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use the directory to search thousands of rated brands. To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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