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. In fact, The North Face has recently launched a collaboration with HYKE for Fall/Winter 2019, skillfully combining function and style to create a minimalist collection.
On the sustainability front, The North Face has been making some progress with the 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.
The North Face rates ‘It’s a Start’ for its environmental impact. It’s a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and uses some eco-friendly materials, including recycled polyester. Although the brand has set a target to consume 100% renewable energy in its own operations by 2025, it has not set a supply chain target. It complies with its own Restricted Substances List but it has not set a target to eliminate hazardous chemicals in its supply chain. There is also no evidence of a current water target or goal.
Based on the 2018 Ethical Fashion Report, The North Face’s labour rating is ‘It’s a Start’. The American brand has a Code of Conduct that covers all of the ILO Four Fundamental Freedoms principles, but very few of its facilities have worker empowerment initiatives such as collective bargaining or rights to make a complaint. It traces most of its supply chain and audits some of its traced facilities, but has made little progress towards ensuring payment of a living wage in its supply chain.
The North Face states that it sources wool from non-mulesed sheep and uses down certified by the Responsible Down Standard. On the plus side, it doesn’t use fur, angora, or exotic animal skin, but it still uses leather and cashmere, which present their own host of issues across the board! This is why its animal rating is also ‘It’s a Start’.