05 Apr

How Ethical is Vans?

When it comes to sneakers one iconic brand has been quietly conquering fans all over the world: Vans.

Founded in 1966 in California by Paul Van Doren, James Van Doren and Gordon C. Lee, Vans (originally called the Van Doren Rubber Company) became a favourite with skaters, who liked the heavy, sticky soles and how comfortable they were.

Today, you don’t have to be a skater to wear Vans, thanks to the current streetwear trend. Vans are worn by the likes of Kanye West, Rihanna and Pharrell Williams, the brand also collaborates with artists such as Led Zeppelin and released four pairs of David Bowie-branded shoes this year. What’s more Vans went viral at the beginning of the year thanks to the “Vans Challenge“.

Vans has over half-a-century under its belt, but how does this legendary brand impact on the people, planet and the environment? We ask, how ethical are Vans?

Environmental Impact:

Vans is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, but it uses few eco-friendly materials in its products. There is also no evidence of a current water target or goal. 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. What’s more, Vans complies with its own Restricted Substances List, but it has not set a target to eliminate hazardous chemicals in its supply chain. For all these reasons, we rated Vans’ environmental impact ‘it’s a start’.

Labour Conditions:

Based on the 2018 Ethical Fashion Report, Vans labour rating is ‘it’s a start’ as well. It has a Code of Conduct that covers all of the ILO Four Fundamental Freedoms principles however very few of its facilities have worker empowerment initiatives such as collective bargaining or rights to make a complaint. The brand also traces most of its supply chain and audits some of its traced facilities. On the downside it has made little progress towards ensuring payment of a living wage in its supply chain.

Animal Welfare:

Vans still uses leather, as well as down that’s accredited by the Responsible Down Standard. It states that it sources wool from non-mulesed sheep and it doesn’t use fur, angora or other exotic animal skin or hair, which is why we gave an ‘It’s a start’ rating for its animal policies.

Overall Rating: It's A Start

Rated: It's A Start

Based on information from own research, we rated Vans ‘It’s A Start’. The brand needs to strengthen its environmental practices, by setting targets and using more environmentally-friendly materials. It also needs to improve its labour conditions by implementing worker empowerment initiatives, but more importantly by making sure workers are paid a decent living wage.

 

Whether you’re a skater or not, the Good On You team has found some ‘Good’ and ‘Great’ alternatives to Vans:

Editor's note: Feature image via Unsplash. All other images via brands mentioned. Good On You has big plans for ethical fashion in 2019! To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offers code or affiliate links.

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