09 Jun

How Ethical is Nordstrom?

NOTE: As of July 2020 this brand has an updated rating in the Directory which you can check here for the latest info. This article will be updated soon to reflect any changes in scoring.

Nordstrom is currently the second most popular fashion brand among US millennials aged 18-34. Though the brand is classed as ‘luxury’ and has a number of designer collections, a high price tag doesn’t necessarily guarantee the products were produced under ethical or environmentally sustainable conditions.

From humble beginnings as a small Seattle shoe shop in 1901, the brand now has 349 locations throughout the US, Puerto Rico and Canada, selling a range of clothing and accessories for men, women and children. When the brand isn’t being badmouthed by Donald Trump on Twitter or selling actual rocks for $85, the fashion retailer is doing pretty well for itself. But there are some things we believe it could be doing better.

Let’s take a look at Nordstrom’s track record when it comes to environmental sustainability, labor rights and animal welfare.

Environmental Impact: Not Good Enough

Nordstrom has committed to a number of sustainable alliances but is yet to prove they’ve made meaningful changes. Nordstrom is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which measures sustainability performance and addresses systemic challenges in the textile industry. They’re also members of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which motivates companies to disclose their environmental impacts.

Nordstrom has made a public commitment to reduce its direct and indirect carbon emissions but has not yet set a clear target. They’ve also adopted the American Apparel and Footwear Association’s Restricted Substance List. However, Nordstrom has made no commitment to eliminate hazardous chemicals from its supply chain.

Labor Conditions: Not Good Enough

Nordstrom has a Supplier Code of Conduct based on the International Labor Organization Conventions, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. They’re also part of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and Business for Social Responsibility (BSR).

However, Nordstrom still sources from countries with high or extreme risk of labor abuse and only traces their suppliers in part of their supply chain. There is also no evidence that they provide a living wage for their workers. Nordstrom talks the talk on ethical labor practices but they’re yet to walk the walk.

Animal Welfare: Not Good Enough

When it comes to animal welfare, Nordstrom is on the right track by banning the use of angora, down feather, and exotic animal skin or hair in their products. Though they’ve pledged not to use Asiatic Racoon (‘raccoon dog’) fur, they do have products with fur from other animals, which is really problematic. Nordstrom also uses leather, wool and cashmere without stating where they come from.

Overall Rating: Not Good Enough

Rated: Not Good Enough

Based on our research, we've rated Nordstrom as ‘Not Good Enough’. Despite their association with a number of ethical clothing alliances, it seems that Nordstrom are all talk. They have failed to undertake enough meaningful action regarding sustainable practice, labor rights and animal welfare.

While Nordstrom does offer an Eco-Conscious range, we recommend that you avoid Nordstrom altogether and support ethical brands by buying from their own websites.

Editor's note

Ratings correct at time of publication. Good On You did not receive compensation for mentioning the brands listed in this article. Article updated in June 2018. Images via brands mentioned.

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