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.
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.
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!
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.
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.