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26 May

How Ethical Is The North Face?

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NOTE: This brand’s rating is under review and subject to change. The article will be updated soon to reflect any changes in scoring.

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 and for your little ones, The North Face Kids pre-owned.


Rated: Good
sustainable fashion brand groundtruth


Someone wearing the RIKR backpack in a city landscape by Groundtruth.


The award-winning 24L RIKR Backpack is designed for contemporary travel and tailored as an everyday backpack for city life and the great outdoors. Get 30% off the RIKR 24L Backpack. (Ends: 4 MAY)

Shop now

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.



Rated: Good

Founded by surf champion Kelly Slater, Outerknown is a more responsible 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.

Shop Outerknown @ Wearwell.


Rated: Good

Patagonia is a brand that truly lives and breathes the great outdoors. It makes clothing for trail running, climbing, mountain biking, surfing, skiing, and snowboarding. Patagonia has "Good" labour practices, and uses recycled, rather than virgin, polyester. It has also committed to reducing its energy use and emissions.

The brand stocks sizes 2XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Patagonia @ LVRSustainable.

Shop Patagonia Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Patagonia.


Rated: Good
back views of person in red knit sweater and blue jeans, person in checked shirt and white jeans, and person in cream and striped long cardigan and skinny blue jeans by Toad&Co walking with linked arms

Toad&Co is a US brand that creates more socially and environmentally-committed womenswear and menswear that is equally suited for the rigours of the trail or the tavern.

Most items are available in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Toad&Co.

Shop Toad&Co @ Wearwell.


Rated: Good

This award-winning more responsible 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.

Jack Wolfskin (Pre-Owned)

Rated: Good

Founded in 1941, Jack Wolfskin is a German brand on a mission to motivate people to go outside and connect with nature, experience new things, and enjoy (life outdoors) with family and friends. The brand has good policies to audit suppliers in its supply chain and it uses a few eco-friendly materials.

See the rating.

Shop Jack Wolfskin Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

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 thousands of rated brands. We may earn a commission on sales with top-rated partners made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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