How Ethical Is The North Face? - Good On You
26 May

How Ethical Is The North Face?

Founded in 1966, American brand The North Face is a leader in outdoor equipment and sportswear. Since the late 1990s, the brand has expanded beyond technical clothes to more fashion forward items, becoming a staple brand for streetwear fans around the world. The North Face has collaborated with other designers in the past, skilfully combining function and style to create a minimalist collection.

On the sustainability front, The North Face has been making some progress with The North Face Renewed line, a collection of refurbished clothing. But is this enough? How does the brand impact on the planet, people, and animals? How ethical is The North Face? Let’s find out.

Environmental Impact

The North Face rates ‘It’s A Start’ for its environmental impact. It uses some eco-friendly materials including recycled materials, and has set an absolute target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations and supply chain. And while the brand is Bluesign certified for 39% of its fabrics, we found no evidence The North Face is on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target or that it minimises packaging.

Labour Conditions

The North Face’s labour rating is also ‘It’s A Start’. Some of the American brand’s supply chain is certified by Bluesign, and it received a score of 51-60% in the Fashion Transparency Index. The brand 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. The North Face has made little progress towards ensuring payment of a living wage in its supply chain, and although it discloses policies to protect suppliers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19, these do not cover workers!

Animal Welfare

The North Face states that it sources wool from non-mulesed sheep, down certified by the Responsible Down Standard, and has a formal animal welfare policy aligned with Five Freedoms. It also doesn’t use fur, angora, or exotic animal skin, but it still uses leather, which presents its own host of issues across the board! This is why its animal rating is also ‘It’s A Start’.

Overall Rating: It’s A Start

The North Face has improved its ethical and sustainable practices over the years and is on the right path. However, it still needs to make some progress: it has made a public commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but it unclear whether it is making progress on its target. In addition to this, it doesn’t ensure payment of a living wage in its supply chain and still uses problematic leather. Based on these facts and on the information from our own research, we rated The North Face ‘It’s A Start’ overall.

To improve its rating, The North Face would need to start using more eco-friendly materials, set water targets or goals, and start ensuring the workers in its supply chain are empowered and paid a living wage.

See the rating.

Good Swaps

Luckily, whether you’re an outdoor fanatic or streetwear addict who wants to have a better impact on people, the planet, and animals, we’ve found some ethical alternatives to The North Face that deserve your support. You can also buy The North Face pre-owned.

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.

Outerknown

Rated: Good

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.

Patagonia

Rated: Good

Patagonia is a brand which truly lives and breathes the great outdoors. It makes clothing for trail running, climbing, mountain biking, surfing, skiing, and snowboarding. Patagonia has strong labour rights and uses recycled, rather than virgin, polyester. It has also committed to reducing its energy use and emissions, and stocks sizes XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Patagonia @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Patagonia @ Labell-D.

Shop Patagonia.

Shop Patagonia Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Patagonia Kids Pre-Owned @ Retykle.

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.

Rapanui

Rated: Great

This award-winning eco-fashion brand from the UK makes surf-inspired clothing in a wind-powered factory (WHAT?). Surf towels, socks, and hoodies—you can find everything you need to get warm after your sesh. Sick! Find the range in UK sizes 8-18.

See the rating.

Shop Rapanui.

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 The North Face 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. The North Face is already ahead of comparable brands, and if your options are The North Face or a brand that is making little to no effort for people, the planet, and animals, The North Face 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 The North Face, 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. We love to recommend some of the best sustainable brands, rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’. We also encourage shopping pre-owned as another great way to reduce the impact of our fashion choices. Use our Directory to search more than 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales with top-rated partners made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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