How Ethical Is Reebok? - Good On You
13 Jan

How Ethical Is Reebok?

Known for its innovative athletic apparel and footwear, Adidas-owned global sportswear giant Reebok has been around for over a century.

Reebok is a sportswear pioneer—it developed the first spiked running shoe and the first athletic shoe designed specifically for women, as well as being the official sponsor for the likes of the UFC and CrossFit.

The question is, is the brand as good for the environment, workers, and animals as it is for athletes? Read on to find out how it rates in all three categories so you can decide if it’s time for a Reebok rebound.

Environmental Impact

Reebok’s environment rating is ‘It’s A Start’. It uses some eco-friendly materials including recycled materials, which is a good step, and has conducted research with industry bodies on the impact of microplastics. While it has set an absolute target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations, it does not have a target for its supply chain, where it would generate the majority of its emissions.

The main area for improvement is the use of eco-friendly materials. Improving this would help Reebok receive a better rating. The brand uses a great deal of leather in its products, and while it does come from tanneries that are certified gold or silver by the Leather Working Group, leather is still very damaging to the environment, workers, and animals. Perhaps Adidas can start implementing some of its more sustainable materials into Reebok’s range. This could include recycled polyester, recycled rubber, organic cotton, and recycled ocean plastics.

Labour Conditions

When it comes to workers, Reebok has once again received a rating of ‘It’s A Start’, with a score of 61-70% in the Fashion Transparency Index. Some of its supply chain is certified by FLA Workplace Code of Conduct including all of the final stage of production, and it publishes detailed information about suppliers, their policies, audits, and remediation processes. It also discloses policies to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence Reebok ensures payment of a living wage in most of its supply chain, which brings its score down. With very few worker empowerment initiatives in place, Reebok misses out on a higher rating in this category. By ensuring workers have access to important workplace initiatives like unions and effective grievance mechanisms, and actually paying a living wage across its supply chain, Reebok could see this score improve.

Animal Welfare

Reebok is also rated ‘It’s A Start’ for the animals. It has a general statement about minimising animal suffering but not a formal animal welfare policy. While the brand does not use fur, angora, or other exotic animal skins or hair, it does use wool. It does, however, come from non-mulesed sheep! The main issue here is that it uses leather, and there is no evidence it traces any animal products to the first stage of production. With devastating effects on animals, workers, and the environment, the leather industry is simply not sustainable. Reebok should consider investing in some of the many innovative, eco-friendly leather alternatives out there. This would help the brand do right by our animal friends, while earning the title of a more ethical company.

Overall Rating: It’s A Start

All in all, Reebok is making a start in all three categories, and has achieved an ‘It’s A Start’ rating overall based our own research. With parent company Adidas receiving numerous awards for its sustainability targets and labour conditions, the brands stand out in the often shockingly unethical athletic apparel industry. Note that Good On You ratings consider 100s 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.

Reebok itself has some areas to focus on moving forward. For the environment, it should push to set and achieve more environmental sustainability goals. For people, it can ensure worker empowerment and living wages throughout the supply chain. And for the animals, it can consider ethical alternatives to leather. With these changes, Reebok could see itself shoot to the top in ethical athletic wear.

See the rating.

Good Swaps

Ethical alternatives to Reebok

Flamingos’ Life

Rated: Good

Flamingos' Life creates sneakers for men and women 100% animal-free. The brand uses eco-friendly and PETA vegan approved materials, including upcycled materials. Find the range in sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop Flamingos' Life.

Adidas by Stella McCartney

Rated: Good

In an eco power collaboration we didn’t know we needed but definitely deserve, footwear company Adidas paired with sustainable luxury fashion brand Stella McCartney to create stunning sneakers and activewear that look and feel great. Made from a percentage of recycled Parley Ocean Plastic®, you can walk the walk knowing you helped prevent plastic waste from reaching the ocean.

See the rating.

Shop Adidas by Stella McCartney @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Adidas by Stella McCartney @ Labell-D.

Shop Adidas by Stella McCartney @ Farfetch.

Ecoalf

Rated: Good
A man with a tan-coloured hooded coat looks at the camera.

Thanks to recycled materials like rescued ocean plastic, Ecoalf creates sustainable fashion with the same quality, design, and technical properties as the best non-recycled ones. Find the range in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Ecoalf @ Farfetch.

Shop Ecoalf @ Labell-D.

Shop Ecoalf @ OASEAS.

Shop Ecoalf.

Womsh @ COMOVITA

Rated: Good
womsh sustainable sneaker brand

Fashion and sustainability can go together and Womsh is the footwear brand that proves it. Their sneakers are entirely designed and manufactured in Italy.

See the rating.

Shop Womsh @ COMOVITA.

TALA

Rated: Good
plus size woman of colour wearing baby blue leggings from ethical fashion brand TALA

TALA creates fresh and funky active and athleisure wear. It uses a high proportion of eco-friendly materials including upcycled materials, and promotes body positivity with gorgeous diverse models in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop TALA.

dk active

Rated: Good

dk active is an Australian high-performance brand supporting everybody seeking an authentic edge in life. It uses renewable energy in its supply chain to reduce its climate impact, and reuses all of its offcuts to minimise textile waste. It is also a PETA approved 100% vegan brand! Find the products in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop dk active.

Veja

Rated: Good

Veja is a French brand designing ecological and fair trade footwear, and is also a sustainable fashion pioneer. The brand uses eco-friendly materials, like GOTS certified cotton and vegetable-tanned leather! Veja pays its co-operative cotton growers and rubber tappers between 30% and 100% above the world market price. By not advertising, Veja is able to invest more money into strengthening its ethical practices. You can find Veja shoes in women's EU sizes 35-46, and men's 35-47.

See the rating.

Shop Veja.

Shop Veja @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Veja @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Veja @ Outerknown.

Shop Veja @ Threads 4 Thought.

Shop Veja @ Labell-D.

Shop Veja Kids second hand @ Retykle.

We love these sustainable brands listed above, but they may not meet your specific needs right now. Maybe they’re out of your price range, or don’t stock your size. If you really need something and a product from Reebok is the best option, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about buying it! ‘It’s A Start’ means just that—the brand is making a start. Reebok is already ahead of comparable brands, and if your options are Reebok or a brand that is making little to no effort for people, the planet, and animals, Reebok is a clear winner. Progress over perfection!

You can also reach out to brands who you think need a little nudge in the right direction. If enough customers demand change, brands that truly care about their impact will have no choice but to respond in kind. Check out the ‘Your Voice’ function on the app or slide into their DMs on social media to let them know what you think.

Editor's note

Feature image via Reebok, all other 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 our Directory to search more than 2,500 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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