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?
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.
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.
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.
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.