A man wearing a white puffer jacket behind the word Nordstrom and a highlighted sad face brand rating graphic.
30 Nov
A man wearing a white puffer jacket behind the word Nordstrom and a highlighted sad face brand rating graphic.

How Ethical Is Nordstrom?

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Nordstrom may be one of the most popular brands among a wide demographic of shoppers, especially in the US, but its house apparel brands and collections rate “Not Good Enough” across the board. This article is based on the Nordstrom rating published in January 2022.

Nordstrom not performing strongly

Nordstrom has ranked highly over the years as a popular brand among a wide demographic of shoppers, particularly in the US where it was founded. An upscale multi-brand retailer that stocks a wide range of products from brands of all price points and rankings, its own house apparel brands and collections aren’t necessarily produced under ethical or environmentally sustainable conditions, price tag aside.

From humble beginnings as a small Seattle shoe shop in 1901, the brand now has 468 locations throughout the US and Canada, selling a range of clothing, shoes, 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, labour rights, and animal welfare. Note our rating refers only to the Nordstrom house apparel brands and does not cover other brands stocked by Nordstrom or other categories of products outside of apparel.

Environmental impact

Nordstrom uses few responsible materials across its products, and it doesn’t appear to minimise textile waste in manufacturing. There is also no evidence it has taken meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals, nor that it implements water reduction initiatives.

Despite having a “Sustainable style” section on its website and claiming it is “committed to a more sustainable future”, the brand isn’t doing enough to achieve a decent score for the planet: “Not Good Enough”.

Labour conditions

Nordstrom’s labour rating is also “Not Good Enough”. None of its supply chain is certified by labour standards which ensure worker health and safety or other labour rights. It received a low score of 21-30% in the 2021 Fashion Transparency Index, and there is no evidence it implements practices to support diversity and inclusion in its supply chain.

Worst of all for such a large brand, it doesn’t appear to ensure payment of a living wage in its supply chain. Nordstrom talks the talk on ethical labour practices but is yet to walk the walk.

Animal welfare

When it comes to animal welfare, Nordstrom is on the right track by banning the use of fur, angora, and exotic animal skin in its products. It also has a basic formal policy to protect animal welfare, but while it says it sources wool from non-muleseld sheep, it doesn’t provide evidence on how it is implemented. It also uses leather, down, and exotic animal hair without stating sources, and doesn’t trace any animal products even to the first stage of production. “Not Good Enough”.

Overall rating: Not Good Enough

Overall, we’ve rated Nordstrom “Not Good Enough” since it has failed to undertake enough meaningful action regarding sustainable practice, labour rights, and animal welfare over the years. It has work to do on all fronts if it wants to improve its score and reduce its impact on people, the planet, and animals. Note that Good On You ratings consider 100s of issues and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.

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

See the rating.

Good swaps

Love the look but hate the score? Read on to discover some “Good” and “Great” more ethical and sustainable alternatives to Nordstrom.

Katharine Hamnett

Rated: Good

Made in Italy, Katharine Hamnett is committed to ethically and sustainably sourced materials and production. The brand’s utilitarian and unisex yet chic pieces are made using eco-friendly materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester. Find most of her pieces in sizes 2XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Katharine Hamnett Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Katharine Hamnett.

Whimsy + Row

Rated: Good

Whimsy + Row is an eco-conscious lifestyle brand born out of a love for quality goods and sustainable practices. Since 2014, its mission has been to provide ease and elegance for the modern, sustainable woman. Whimsy + Row utilises deadstock fabric, and by limiting each garment to short runs, the brand also reduces packaging waste and takes care of precious water resources.

Find most products in XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Whimsy + Row.

Shop Whimsy + Row @ Earthkind.

Mila.Vert

Rated: Great

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Mila.Vert offers timeless, minimal, and chic clothing, adding sophisticated details that give the garments a modern feel. The Slovenia-based brand wants to make desirable clothing, avoiding the ethical and environmental issues that the fashion industry represents. Find the garments in sizes XS-XL, or make a custom fit order free of charge.

See the rating.

Shop Mila.Vert.

Culthread

Rated: Great

Culthread is a UK-based clothing label that offers stylish, practical, and everlasting jackets and accessories from vegan and deadstock materials. Culthread's goal is to make quality coats and lifestyle products that you will want to wear and treasure forever. Find most items in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Culthread.

Shop Culthread @ Immaculate Vegan.

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash, 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. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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