With so many clothing brands making claims of sustainability, it can be difficult to tell the difference between greenwashing and the real thing.
Luckily, there are ways to suss out the frauds. The website Good On You takes a deep dive into clothing brands and looks at three major categories: labor practices, impact on the environment, and treatment of animals. Each category is scored out of five, and then the three scores are averaged for the final rating (you can see a full break-down of their rating system here).
So, we took a look at some of the most popular so-called “sustainable brands” to see which ones keep their promises and which ones are doing it just for show. Check out our findings below.
Reformation: The Real Deal
Overall, Reformation did very well, getting a rating of 4/5 by Good On You. The brand excels at using recycled materials and renewable energy. And because of their production process, it’s able to minimize textile waste, water usage, and chemical usage.
So, where could Reformation do better? The brand struggles when it comes to animal byproducts, sometimes using leather and animal hair.
Everlane: Fraud Alert!
The brand failed on all levels. According to Good On You, there’s zero evidence that Everlane does anything to optimize its production system and reduce water usage and waste.
On top of that, the company has factories in countries with “extreme risk of labor abuse” and uses leather, wool, and exotic animal hair. Essentially, it’s an epic fail.
People Tree: The Real Deal
People Tree did *amazing,* getting a 5/5 rating from Good On You. According to the analysis, the brand uses mostly eco-friendly textile and non-toxic dyes. It also uses minimal chemicals and water in the production process.
More than that, the brand ensures that nearly all factory workers receive a living wage and it doesn’t use any animal byproducts (with the sole exception of non-mulesed sheep).
The best part: the brand is actually affordable! With many items under $100, it’s one of the few sustainable brands that is at least somewhat within reach for consumers.
Shop People Tree:
Patagonia: The Real Deal
Patagonia has built a reputation for being kind to the planet and thankfully, it lives up to the hype! The brand received a 4/5 rating from Good On You, doing particularly well in its production process.
According to the analysis, it uses eco-friendly materials and takes efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the supply chain.
So, where can it improve? The brand doesn’t have any official animal welfare policy and there is no evidence that workers receive a living wage.
Outdoor Voices: Fraud Alert!
Oh, Outdoor Voices! We hardly knew you!
The brand received a 2/5 rating from Good On You due to its poor production practices and lack of meaningful protections for its workers.
The athletics brand has made little effort to take any meaningful action in the production process, with no evidence that it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, or textile waste.
On top of that, Outdoor Voices uses factories in countries with a “high risk of labor abuse” and there’s no evidence that the brand ensures a living wage.
Allbirds: The Real Deal
The tree-hugging footwear company did pretty well, receiving a 4/5 rating from Good On You.
Allbirds did particularly well when it came to its production process. It uses a decent amount of eco-friendly materials, tries hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and limits water waste.
As for where Allbirds could improve, the brand’s labor practices are not particularly transparent. It has factories in countries with “extreme risks of labor abuse” and there’s no evidence the brand pays a living wage.
Toms: Fraud Alert!
Considering the brand’s commitment to doing good, Toms‘ rating of 2/5 is definitely a shocker.
But, to be fair, the reason for the rating is mostly due to a lack of transparency and availability of information. Toms doesn’t provide the public with any of its environmental policies, which doesn’t exactly emit confidence.
On top of that, Toms uses factories in counties with “extreme risk of labor abuse” and there is no evidence that it ensures a living wage for factory workers.
Stella McCartney: The Real Deal
The famed designer has a reputation for being eco-friendly and for good reason! Stella McCartney scored 4/5 by Good On You, doing particularly well in its production’s impact on the planet and on animals.
According to Good on You’s analysis, the brand uses recycled materials, reduces waste across all production stages, has an active policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and has nearly eliminated all hazardous chemicals from its production line.
On top of that, it avoids *almost* all animal byproducts, with the exception of wool and cashmere.
Need more convincing? Stella is one of Taylor Swift’s favorite designers (and a close friend!). So, if you like Taylor’s looks for folklore and evermore, you have Stella to thank.
Shop Stella McCartney:
Alternative Apparel: Fraud Alert!
Although the brand uses a decent amount of recycled textiles and cotton, it really struggles when it comes to reducing energy usage and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Alternative Apparel also uses leather and wool in some of its products.
Naadam: The Real Deal
Naadam excels in its labor policies by ensuring that all factory workers receive a living wage. It also audits all suppliers to make sure that workers are continually treated well.
As to where it could improve, it doesn’t use particularly eco-friendly materials nor does it minimize its textile waste. It did take other efforts, however, by using renewable energy sources and low-impact non-toxic dyes.
Levi’s: Fraud Alert!
The brand did pretty well in its production process and uses some recycled materials. It also makes an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water usage.
Where the brand fails, however, is in its labor policies and animal byproduct usage. Pretty much none of their suppliers are certified by labor standards that ensure worker safety and worker rights. On top of that, Levi’s uses animal products in the first stage of production.
Free People: Fraud Alert!
Although the brand uses some renewable energy in its operations, the brand makes no apparent attempts to be eco-friendly.
On top of that, zero of their suppliers are certified by labor standards that guarantee worker safety and rights.
Lastly, Free People uses leather, wool, and exotic animal hair.
Overall, the brand is definitely one to avoid.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel and when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her obsessing over her tuxedo cat Tom or hoarding drugstore lipsticks.