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Someone modelling a blue polo shirt with the words Ralph Lauren and a sad smiley face overlaid in white text.
18 Oct
Someone modelling a blue polo shirt with the words Ralph Lauren and a sad smiley face overlaid in white text.

How Ethical Is Ralph Lauren?

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Ralph Lauren, the iconic American fashion brand known for its classic and sophisticated designs, has long been a staple in the wardrobes of many fashion-conscious individuals. But it has a long way to go on sustainability and ensuring workers are paid living wages. Here we delve into the brand’s “Not Good Enough” rating, which was published in July 2023 and may not reflect claims the brand has made since then. Our ratings analysts are constantly rerating the thousands of brands you can check on our directory.

‘Quality and timeless elegance’, but how are its ethics?

From mid-range to luxury, American brand Ralph Lauren has been marketing and distributing products across apparel, home, accessories, and fragrances since its founding in 1967.

The popular company is known for its designs rooted in “quality and timeless elegance”, and while there’s no denying the impact the brand has had on fashion across the world, its ethical and sustainable practices leave a lot to be desired.

So how exactly is Ralph Lauren impacting people, the planet, and animals? We ask, how ethical is Ralph Lauren?

Environmental impact

Ralph Lauren starts off with a middling “It’s a Start” score for its environmental impact. This area of the rating considers various aspects of the brand’s environmental footprint and policies throughout its supply chain. While there are areas showing promise, there’s still work to do.

Ralph Lauren uses limited lower-impact materials in its products, and could certainly make some changes there. On a positive note, the brand has set science-based targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, both in its direct operations and within the supply chain, and claims to be on track. However, the effectiveness of these goals in practice remains to be seen.

The brand offers consumers the option of clothing recycling, demonstrating a willingness to engage in circular fashion practices. Unfortunately, there is a lack of clear reporting on the results of these recycling initiatives, leaving room for improvement in transparency.

Ralph Lauren has also set an ambitious target to eliminate hazardous chemicals from its supply chain by 2025. However, as of now, there is limited evidence to suggest that the brand is making significant progress toward achieving this important goal.

Labour conditions

Unfortunately, Ralph Lauren is rated “Not Good Enough” for workers. The brand’s performance here raises significant concerns regarding worker rights, transparency, and wage equality.

One noteworthy issue is the lack of certification for any part of Ralph Lauren’s supply chain by critical labour standards that safeguard worker health, safety, and wages. This lack of certification means the brand can’t ensure decent working conditions throughout its operations.

Ralph Lauren received a score of 51%-60% in the 2023 Fashion Transparency Index, which is a step up from its previous result. But while the brand has introduced a basic policy to support diversity and inclusion within its direct operations and supply chain, there is room for enhancing the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of these initiatives.

Most concerningly, while Ralph Lauren claims to have implemented programs to improve wages, there’s no evidence to confirm that workers receive living wages in most of its supply chain.

Animal welfare

When it comes to animal welfare, Ralph Lauren is also rated “Not Good Enough”. This score centres on the brand’s animal welfare policies and its ability to trace animal-derived products in its supply chain.

The brand doesn’t appear to use fur or angora, two materials often associated with animal welfare concerns. Additionally, Ralph Lauren traces some animal-derived materials to the first production stage, providing a level of transparency in its supply chain. And while it uses wool and down, the wool Ralph Lauren sources is certified by the Responsible Wool Standard, and the down it uses is certified by the Responsible Down Standard.

Ralph Lauren does also have a formal policy aligned with the Five Domains of animal welfare, which is positive. However, the brand’s use of extensive animal-derived materials, including leather, exotic animal skin, shearling, exotic animal hair, decorative feathers, and silk is concerning and not in alignment with a more ethical industry that is moving away from these harmful materials altogether.

Overall rating: ‘Not Good Enough’

Overall, Ralph Lauren receives an overall rating of “Not Good Enough”. While the brand has taken certain steps to address its environmental impact and animal welfare practices, there is ample room for improvement, particularly in labour conditions, transparency, and the use of lower-impact materials.

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.

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Editor's note

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 the directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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